Grinding coffee for espresso can be tricky. As a brew method, espresso tends to be somewhat all or nothing, owing to the fact that its pressurized preparation can bring out the best or worst of your coffee beans depending on how they’re ground.
When you add a budget to the mix, it can be tough to find a grinder that suits your machine, and your tastes. For the budding home baristas out there looking for their first grinder, we’ve put together a list of five fantastic picks for espresso grinders under $500.
Please note that this list is organized by price and that ultimately the “best” grinder will be the one that best suits your needs and preferences.
Bezzera BB005 TM
The Bezzera BB005 TM is an Italian-made, semi-professional conical burr grinder that comes in a compact design and is sturdy, simple to use and easy to clean.
- All Steel Housing
- Micrometric Stepless Adjustment
- Conical Burrs
- Programmable Timed Grinding
- Made in Italy
A relative newcomer to us at the time of writing this list, the BB005 TM by Bezzera is fairly unassuming at first glance. Sporting a rather retro-minimalist design, there’s actually a lot to love about both its construction and its performance. For starters, the grinder is produced in Italy by Bezzera, designed as a companion to the full spectrum of their home machines. Uncommon for a grinder at this price point is the BB005’s full AISI 304 stainless steel housing. Also uncommon are its 48mm conical steel burrs and its stepless micrometric grind adjustment.
Taking a step back from the jargon, let’s break down what that actually means and how it benefits you. Conical burr grinders have a pair of asymmetrical burrs. Unlike their counterparts in flat burr grinders which have two (often identical) flat grinding discs, conical burr grinders have one cone shaped burr and one ring shaped burr that encompasses it. The benefit to this design is a general reduction in retained coffee (ground coffee that remains in the grinding chamber) and in heat produced (the motor generally doesn’t have to work as hard). As for stepless micrometric grind adjustment, that’s actually two topics.
When a grinder’s burrs have stepless adjustment, it means that there isn’t a fixed amount of distance that they move (AKA a step) when you change your grind size. Micrometric on the other hand refers to the adjustment itself and how it is achieved mechanically. On the BB005, rather than directly adjusting the top burr, rotating it left or right to change grind size, you instead use a small knob on the top-right of the grinder to make your changes. By twisting the knob, the motion is translated into the rotation of the top burr, causing it to move closer or farther away from the bottom burr. By adjusting this way, you can make incredibly precise and minute adjustments to your grind. The downside is that precision comes at the cost of being more time consuming than if you were directly adjusting the burrs.
With the technology lesson out of the way, let’s go over basic operation. As an automatic grinder, pressing the switch on the front panel with your portafilter will activate the motor to begin grinding. The BB005 TM is specifically a timed grinder, meaning that you can set your desired grinding time and the motor will operate for that long. Taking a more analog approach, time is set via a dial, marked to denote “0,” single, double, and triple shots (notated by one, two, or three dots, respectively). In total, grinding time can be adjusted between 2 and 28 seconds with the three shot indicators signifying approximately 6/8g for a single, 12/14g for a double, and 18/20g for a triple based on your grind. It’s important to note that if you want to stop the motor once it’s begun grinding, you’ll need to either adjust the timer knob to “0” or flip the power switch off.
So, why do we like this grinder? One of the key reasons is just how precise its adjustment is. When we first got our hands on the BB005, we tested it alongside the BZ13 which had also just arrived in the studio. Even paired with a prosumer grade machine, we were able to dial in delicious shots without difficulty. Thanks to micrometric adjustment, maintaining consistency in our extractions was also never an issue. It’s also worth noting that Bezzera rates it as capable of grinding 4kg (that’s 8.8 lbs) of coffee an hour. Not without its flaws, stopping a grind cycle mid-grind does take a bit of getting used to, and the motor is a bit noisy without a ton of insulation. All that said, the BB005 TM is a fantastic grinder for the money and a great choice for anyone starting out on their espresso journey.
Baratza Sette 270
- Zero Retention Grinding
- Incredibly Fast
- Conical Burrs
- Programmable Timed Grinding
The Baratza Sette 270 has slowly, but steadily become emblematic of the shift towards low retention, single-dosing espresso grinders that have become increasingly popular among home baristas. Introduced initially under the pretenses that it would be positioned for all-purpose use, it’s hard to deny that the Sette is an incredibly successful espresso grinder. Another Baratza grinder, and an entry on this list, the Baratza Vario is better suited for the designation of “all-purpose coffee grinder.”
What exactly makes the Sette 270 so good at espresso grinding? For starters, the Sette is designed in such a way that it retains almost no coffee at all. In fact, it was this grinder that inspired Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek to coin the term “zero retention” grinders, referring to grinders that retain less than 0.5g of coffee after grinding. Baratza achieved this in part by directly positioning the Sette’s conical burrs and dispensing chute directly above the convertible device holder (hereafter referred to as the portafilter catch). The other half of the equation is the revolutionary design in which the outer ring burr rotates while the cone remains stationary. Coffee simply falls straight through the burrs with nothing but static preventing them from landing in your portafilter (and we can do something about that).
In my introduction to the Sette 270, I used the term “single-dosing” to describe the types of grinders that have become popular in modern times. Fortunately, there’s nothing complicated about this concept. The dry coffee used to pull a shot of espresso is sometimes referred to as a dose. So, when you single-dose, that simply means that you’re only grinding enough coffee for a single preparation.
The benefit to single dosing is that you greatly reduce coffee waste, especially when weighing your beans ahead of time with a precision scale. Additionally, as opposed to storing your beans in the hopper, which isn’t airtight and exposes them to light, you can store them more efficiently and only take them out when you need them. When it comes to grinding this way, static electricity isn’t your friend. Fortunately, lightly misting your beans with water via a process called the Ross Droplet Technique, AKA RDT Spraying will eliminate static generated by grinding.
Grinding on the Sette 270 is handled by a suite of three programmable time profiles and a start button. Each of the three profiles can be programmed within 1/100th of a second grinding times, though when grinding for espresso, you’ll rarely need more than a handful of seconds, thanks to the Sette’s output of 3.5 - 5.5g/sec. Grinding time is displayed on an LED screen in the center of the grinder’s front panel. If you need to stop the motor while grinding, simply the start button again to pause and retain your remaining time, or the stop button to reset. Pressing the timed profile buttons will switch the grinding time to whatever the button is programmed for. To program these buttons, simply press and hold the desired button to enter programming mode for the profile.
Grind adjustment on the Sette 270 is fairly unique as it combines elements of both stepped and stepless adjustment. The burr assembly consists of two halves for adjusting your grind. The top half, or macro adjustment, consists of 31 stepped adjustments, while the bottom half consists of a micro-adjustment wheel which adjusts steplessly. When making adjustments, one full revolution of the micro-adjustment wheel is equal to one stepped adjustment. However, it cannot adjust the burrs beyond the current macro setting, only within it. Regardless, the inclusion of the micro-adjustment wheel affords users the precision necessary to dial in extractions on prosumer level machines and maintain consistent extractions.
All in all, the Sette’s speed, programmability, and incredibly low retention make it an attractive choice for home grinding. Additional features like its adjustable portafilter catch for hands-free grinding, hopper stopper, and easy to access burrs help to round out the user experience. As far as downsides are concerned, the Sette is made mostly of plastic and is fairly loud while grinding. Something else worth mentioning is that the Sette 270 is more of a Musketeer than a Zoro in that the Sette series of grinders also features the more entry level and fully stepped Sette 30 AP, and the weight based Sette 270Wi (in case you’re interested in some grinders that aren’t on this list). Regardless of its intended purpose, the Baratza Sette 270 is one of the best choices around if you’re looking for a featureful home espresso grinder.
Eureka Mignon Silenzio
- Powder Coated Cast Aluminum Housing
- Micrometric Stepless Adjustment
- Programmable Timed Grinding
- Reduced Grinding Noise
- Made in Italy
When we first introduced the Eureka brand on our site, the Mignon Instantaneo was and incredibly popular grinder. That said, grinding with it in the company kitchen sometimes filled people with awe at how such a small grinder could be so noisy. Fortunately, the Mignon Silenzio was released shortly after, offering the same compactness and versatility but with sleeker casework and quieter grinding. Like the BB005 TM, the Mignon Silenzio has both an analog grind timer and micrometric burr adjustment. Uniquely square shaped for a grinder and only 14” tall, the Mignon owes its signature look to its one-piece aluminum housing.
As discussed above, micrometric grind adjustment allows for incredibly precise changes to your grind size. However, unlike the BB005, the Mignon’s adjustment works a bit differently. Similar to other Eureka grinders like the Atom and the Zenith, the Mignon’s grind adjustment key doesn’t directly move the burrs, but instead raises and lowers a shaft inside the motor which in turn raises and lowers the bottom burr. This unique solution not only provides incredible control over adjustment but also allows the Mignon to retain your grind settings when you remove the top burr for cleaning.
To start grinding on the Mignon Silenzio, a portafilter activated switch underneath the grinding chute can be used to start and stop the motor. Using a button on the bottom right hand side of the grinder, you can set the operating mode to either “manual” or “timed” dispensing. In manual mode you start and stop the grinder manually, grinding exactly as much coffee as you want. In timed mode, the analog dial can be used to set automatic dispensing time between 1 - 14 seconds, after which the Silenzio stops grinding.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Mignon is one of the best looking grinders on this list. As a commercial grinder manufacturer, Eureka pays close attention to visual details as many of their grinders wind up on the bar of a cafe. The Mignon’s body is made from powder coated aluminum, with a chromed top panel and grinds chute. Two legs on the front of the grinder from a small space to help catch stray grinds.
The Mignon Silenzio helped to redefine the Eureka line for us. Its compactness and price make its incredibly accessible choice to anyone looking for a good-looking and high-performing grinder. While it might not be our first recommendation, our customers pair it with prosumers just as readily as entry level machines. Some things to be aware of are that the Mignon’s smaller burrs (50mm) and smaller motor limit its grinding speed to about 1.2g - 1.6g per second when grinding for espresso. That said, at max grinding duration, the Silenzio can dispense roughly 22g in a single cycle. Grinding noise is significantly reduced compared to similarly priced grinders from other manufacturers, though grinds may clump a bit at finer settings. Apart from that, the Mignon Silenzio is a cute and capable grinder that easily fits into most kitchens and budgets.
Breville Smart Grinder
- Easy Calibration
- All-Purpose Grinding
- Flat Ceramic Burrs
- Programmable Timed Grinding
The Breville Smart Grinder is a great grinder. Updated from its original version, the BCG820BSSXL Smart Grinder Pro comes with even more features than its predecessor, solidifying its spot as an all-purpose grinder. Now updated with 60 grind settings versus the original 25, you have a much wider net of grind size possibility.
As the term “all-purpose” suggests, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is capable of producing grinds suitable for all forms of coffee preparation. Beyond the amount of grind settings available, the Smart Grinder Pro can be used either automatically or manually. For the first option, the Pro uses timed based dosing to measure out coffee while grinding. The digital timer is precise, and can be set to grind within 0.2 second increments so you can have complete control over your dose even when letting the machine do the work for you. If you need to pause at any point during the grinding cycle, you can! Just adjust or re-settle your grinds as needed.
Unlike the other grinders on this list, the Smart Grinder Pro has fully stepped grind adjustment with 60 settings. However, in the context of all-purpose use, this is actually an advantageous design decision. Because the steps offer fixed and unchanging points of reference, that means that you can very easily record the position of specific settings for different methods. However, the top of the stainless steel conical burr grinder can be adjusted if you want a different grind setting than what's offered or need a more precise measurement.
In addition to easy-to-remember settings, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro has a timed grinding option. Just like the Sette, the Pro can either grind a profile automatically with time displayed via a digital screen, or operate manually for on-demand dispensing. This most recent version of the Smart Grinder Pro includes a 50-54mm and a 58mm portafilter cradle that can be fitted on the chute for hands-free operation.
Rancilio Rocky Doserless
- Heavy-Duty Black Case Aluminum Frame
- Simple Operation
- Minimalist and Compact Design
- Doserless Grinder
The final grinder on this list is produced by Rancilio, a manufacturer that also makes espresso machines which makes it a perfect companion to their Rancilio Silvias. The Rocky Doserless is, as you'd expect, a doserless machine that instead uses a chute design. It also improves upon the already established and recognize Rocky, which is no easy task considering the Rocky has been one of the top home espresso grinders for years.
Starting with the exterior, you’ll notice that this grinder comes in a heavy-duty black case with aluminum frame and blue accents. Or, you can go for the Black & White option, which has a black plastic base and back cover with a with heavy-duty white aluminum frame.
Being a doserless grinder, the Rocky instead uses an efficient blue-tinged chute. This change reduces the amount of wasted coffee, as well as the amount of stale coffee often left behind in dosers. Grind directly into your portafilter thanks to the metal holder. This is another update to the Rocky, and was drastically redesigned to provide a more stable platform to grind into. Either press the main power switch located on the right of the machine to grind only what you need directly into the portafilter. Or press the "push and hold" switch on the front of the grinder to start and stop grinding manually.
The Rancilio Rocky Doserless grinder uses 55 different grind settings that can be easily and accurately adjusted by pushing down on the release lever and turning the bean hopper on. With the Rocky, you can quickly and easily change from course enough for French Press to fine for espresso. The burrs are flat plate style and 50mm in diameter, and can handle a commercial load of coffee.
As for the power behind this grinder, the Rocky’s motor is legendary. In fact, it's the same motor that Rancilio uses in the Commercial MD40 grinder, which can produce an impressive seven pounds of fresh espresso in the span of an hour. So what is this motor? A 166-watt direct drive motor that is quiet and, you guessed it, extremely powerful. This grinder will not slow down even under the most demanding workload. Plus, the motor spins at 1,725RPM but has a high temperature overload switch that will alert you before any possible damage can occur — for instance, if a stone gets caught in the burrs. Like the motor, the grinding burrs are also the same ones used by Rancilio in the MD40.
And that’s our list! Any of these grinders would do nicely in a pairing with a prosumer machine, and their modest price points make them perfect picks for a starter setup. Please note that we’re constantly experimenting with and evaluating the products we sell, so don’t be surprised if this list gets updated in the future.
If you welcome any of these grinders into your home, make sure to leave a review on the product page so that everyone can hear about your experience! Make sure to follow Whole Latte Love on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and sign up for our newsletter so you never miss out on any of our new products or deals!