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Updated for 2021. It’s time for the fourth, and final, installment of the “Best Bang for Your Buck” blog series. This time around, I’m highlighting the grinders I believe offer the best value for your money. I’ll sort our grinders into three categories: drip, espresso, and universal.
Judging criteria will include: price, ease of use, build quality, overall durability, and access to after-sale parts and service. I know you’ve probably read this elsewhere, but remember not to short change your grinder. It is actually half of the equation to brewing a solid shot of espresso. Even for drip coffee, you’ll need to spend more than $20 for a blade grinder. Blade grinders, as you may have read, simply spin around two blades at high speed and chop the beans into smaller pieces. Chopping the beans can burn and actually change the flavor structure of the coffee, which is why we tend to recommend burr grinders here at Whole Latte Love. Burr grinders produce more consistent grinds and help eliminate heat transfer to preserve the flavor of your beans. With that in mind, let’s get right into it…
For drip-coffee drinkers, I'm going to go with the Jura Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder. It’s under $100, unless you go for the stainless steel body, and is a solid little grinder. Sporting a pair of conical burrs, 16 grind settings, a gear-reduction system, and running at a low RPM rate of 420, the Infinity is a great companion for drip coffee makers. While it won’t deliver grounds exact enough for commercial portafilter baskets, you could argue that this grinder can produce results good enough for espresso machines with pressurized portafilter systems. Overall, the Jura Capresso Infinity is an excellent grinder for under $100.
For espresso lovers, once you factor in price, the Baratza Virtuoso and Virtuoso Preciso are incredible grinders that can cater to almost any espresso machine, all the way up to Prosumer-level units. The Virtuoso has a hardened burr set, a beefy, 480-watt motor, a metal retaining collar on the top burr (to eliminate the flex that results in different-sized coffee particles) and 40 grind settings. This grinder can accommodate any of the Gaggia semi-autos, with their exacting commercial portafilters, and deliver the grinds needed to produce great shots. The Virtuoso Preciso is basically the Virtuoso evolved. It is $100 more but has an additional 11 micro adjustments per grinder setting, giving you a total of 440 grind settings. You’ll be able to fine-tune your espresso grind to accommodate machines as finicky as the Rancilio Silvia. The Silvia is one of the most demanding semi-automatic machines we carry. It’s a great feat for any grinder to keep up with Miss Silvia.
Lastly, the Baratza Vario gets my vote as the “Best Bang for your Buck” in the combo or all-purpose grinder category. If you brew multiple types of coffee, there is nothing else that compares or even comes close to the Vario. Other grinders may have more settings, bigger motors and hoppers, but none pulls it all together like the Vario. Within its compact frame lies a pair of Mahlkonig 54mm ceramic burrs, 230 grinder settings, and a digital timer for hands-free operation. The ceramic burrs last twice as long as their steel counterparts and Mahlkonig is the leading ceramic-burr manufacturer. There are two dials on each side of the grinder, one with 10 macro and 23 micro settings. Switching between the settings is as easy as sliding the dials up or down and, unlike infinite grinders, you can duplicate the grind setting every time. Regardless of whether you’re using an espresso machine, French press, stovetop or drip coffee maker, the versatile Vario can keep up with all your needs.