Whole Latte Love Blog

Best Low Retention Coffee Grinders 2020

by Marc Buckman Updated: March 12, 2020 6 min read

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive promotions and regular updates on everything coffee!

Hello coffee and espresso lovers, today we’re getting into the nitty-gritty details of all things low-to-zero retention grinders. We’re starting out with what grind retention is and why it’s important and then trailing into the top 7 low retention grinders with some interesting test results, so keep reading.

The Complete Guide to Coffee and Espresso

The Complete Guide to Coffee and Espresso

This guide covers everything you need to know about brewing the best coffee and espresso at home along with our recommendations on which espresso machines to buy.
Read Article 

What is Grind Retention and why is Grind Retention so Important?

Grind retention determines the grinder’s ability to dispense the same (or close to the same) amount of coffee that you put into the grinder. For example, if you add 18 grams of coffee beans to your grinder and it dispenses 18 grams of coffee grounds, then your grinder is a zero retention grinder.

The Complete Guide to Coffee Grinders

The Complete Guide to Coffee Grinders

Learn everything there is to know about coffee grinders and how grinding fresh will always result in more flavorful, aromatic coffee.
Read Article 

Most of the time grinder won’t dispense the exact amount of coffee that you added—instead of dispensing 18 grams, it might dispense 17.78 grams of coffee. But, that’s still a heck of a lot better than a lot of grinders on the market that retain a lot of your coffee grounds.

If you don’t really care about the specific of grind retention then a zero retention grinder might not be for you, but if you really want our take on one of the key elements of getting good quality and consistent espresso, then here’s our thoughts on the top low retention grinders.

How to Pull Consistent Espresso Shots

How to Pull Consistent Espresso Shots

The key to making the perfect espresso is how you grind, tamp, and create stable temperatures to extract your espresso. Read more here!
Read Article 

Top Low Retention Grinders

So our competing grinders in order from the lowest price to the most expensive.

We have the ROK manual. It’s an easy to use, hand-powered unit with a grind straight thru design and stepless adjustment.

ROK Coffee Grinder

ROK Coffee Grinder

106 Reviews
Made possible by a dedicated community of crowd funders from Indiegogo, the ROK Coffee Grinder is a revolutionary manual grinder for all forms of coffee preparation.

Next the Baratza Sette 270. It grinds straight through like the ROK, but the motor makes it easier and super fast.

Baratza Sette 270 Conical Burr Espresso Grinder

Baratza Sette 270 Conical Burr Espresso Grinder

58 Reviews
The Sette 270 is a programmable timed grinder that features Baratza’s innovative straight-thru design for seriously low retention grinding. Adjust the grind across 270 settings, dose three timed presets on demand, and easily grind for any brew method with this versatile grinder at an excellent value.

Two more Baratza’s after that; the Vario and the Forte. For years, the Vario has been recommended by many as the entry grinder into higher-end home grinding for espresso.

Baratza Vario All Purpose Coffee Grinder

Baratza Vario All Purpose Coffee Grinder

23 Reviews
The Baratza Vario is a powerful 54mm ceramic burr grinder with a compact footprint. Its programmable timed grinding allows users to automatically dose on demand, and its unique dual cam grind adjustment allows you to fine tune your grind across a whopping 230 settings.
Baratza Forté-BG Steel Burr Coffee Grinder

Baratza Forté-BG Steel Burr Coffee Grinder

3 Reviews
The Baratza Forté BG is designed with coarse brew methods in mind. It features stainless housing, setting sliders adjustable across 260 steps, commercial components, and touch screen operation. Dosing presets programmable by either weight or time for automatic grinding make the Forté BG a must have.

The Forte is similar to the Vario but uses a more powerful motor and has a more robust and durable full metal case.

The Mazzer Mini is an Italian grinder that’s been around for a while. I’ll be using the Electronic A version.

Mazzer Mini Electronic Type A Espresso Grinder

Mazzer Mini Electronic Type A Espresso Grinder

7 Reviews
The Mazzer Mini Type A is an electronic, fully programmable, 64mm burr grinder, that is capable of grinding manually or, at the press of a button, a single or double shot. Its polished finish and easy operation make it a must have companion for any prosumer.

The ECM V-Titan 64 is made in Germany and features titanium coated burrs.

ECM V-Titan 64 Espresso Grinder

ECM V-Titan 64 Espresso Grinder

17 Reviews
The ECM V-Titan 64 offers a light commercial-grade grinder with a classic aesthetic built to last a lifetime or longer. Employing a powerful motor and long-lasting titanium coated burrs, the V-Titan 64 grinder is at the top of its class.

And last up is the Ceado E37S. Like the Mazzer it’s made in Italy. The E37S was updated for 2017 and features the largest burr set of the group at 83mm. It uses Ceado’s steady lock technology and is known for producing very consistent dosing weights.

Ceado E37S Quick Set Espresso Grinder in Black

Ceado E37S Quick Set Espresso Grinder in Black

56 Reviews
The E37S takes programmability to the next level with its touchscreen display and Ceado’s Portioning System Selector. Program and dose three personalized presets with this powerful, doserless grinder with stepless worm gear adjustment and impressive 83mm burrs.

Testing

To test the grinders I first dialed each into a grind size that produced a standard double espresso from an 18-gram coffee dose in twenty to thirty seconds from the first drip. Then I meticulously cleaned the grinders using a variety of tools, including brushes, some pokers, and a vacuum. Although laborious, it was relatively easy to do the cleaning and maintain the grind setting on all but 2 of the grinders.

How To: Basic Espresso Technique - Dialing in Grind Size

How To: Basic Espresso Technique - Dialing in Grind Size

Learn how to dial in coffee grind size for making espresso. Marc from Whole Latte love shows you a basic technique for setting grind size to make good espresso. Learn about dosing weight, tamping, how to determine if a machine needs a flush prior to making espresso and how to flush a semi-automatic machine if required.
Read Article 

The ROK manual grinder was a breeze with its straight-through design and nothing to take apart. Same for the straight-through Sette 270 with an easy to twist out burr assembly. The Vario and the Forte were fairly simple with their top burr that twists out with a custom tool. On the Ceado, it’s just 3 screws and your in with no loss of grind setting.

What Grind Setting Should I Use?

What Grind Setting Should I Use?

Learn how to choose the right grind setting when grinding whole bean coffee for different brewing methods. Marc from WholeLatteLove.com discusses why a setting on one...
Read Article 

Cleaning & Reassembling

With the ECM V-Titan and the Mazzer Mini, it was a little more challenging to open them up for cleaning and then reassemble while maintaining the grind setting. To do that, I made note of the grind setting, then found the zero grind setting by operating the grinder and turning the adjustment until the burrs touched. I then noted the angle of rotation made between my dialed in grind and the zero grind setting.

SSP Burrs: Upgrade Your Coffee Grinder

SSP Burrs: Upgrade Your Coffee Grinder

SSP’s Red Speed-coated burrs are a premium upgrade for your coffee or espresso grinder, read on for details on performance and compatibility with your grinder.
Read Article 

After cleaning and re-assembly I returned the grinders to their zero setting and backed them off by the angle of rotation noted prior to taking them apart. That all sounds a little complex but was actually much easier than it sounds.

With the grinders cleaned and set back to the dialed-in grind size, I weighed out 18 grams of beans accurate to 1/100 of a gram. At times, I was literally splitting beans to nail the 18 grams on the scale. Those beans were then single dosed into a grinder and the grinder was run until no more ground coffee exited the grinder. What came out was then weighed. This process of cleaning, calibrating, grinding and weighing was repeated 3 times on each grinder.

The Best Grind Sizes for Different Coffee Brewing Methods

The Best Grind Sizes for Different Coffee Brewing Methods

We go into details about how to dial in the right grind size for your coffee brewing methods whether it's Turkish espresso or cold brew.
Read Article 

Coffee

A couple of notes on the procedure. I used Maromas Arabea coffee from the same bag for the tests. When practical, any ground coffee that was easily accessible by a brush in areas like a chute was brushed out and included in final weights. And, if you try these tests at home you may see slightly different results based on variables like coffee type, humidity, static and other factors.

Maromas Arabea Whole Bean Espresso

Maromas Arabea Whole Bean Espresso

22 Reviews
This Barista Darling is comprised of 100% carefully wet-dry processed Arabica beans from Latin American origins. It is extremely well balanced and delivers rich and aromatic flavours of chocolate a...

Weight

So here are the results showing the average weight dispensed for the three grind cycles done on each grinder. They’re ordered here from best to worst.

Zero Retention Grinder Test Results

Originally coined by Mark Prince of Coffeegeek, Zero retention refers to grinders that retain less than 0.5g.

Taking top honors was the ROK Manual grinder with an average of 17.68 grams dispensed. The worst performer was the Mazzer Mini which dispensed an average of 14.8 grams, meaning it retained an average of 3.2 grams.

In this group, the Mazzer is a real outlier. Why is that? Well, it’s a design that’s been around for a while. In the Mazzer, there’s a lot of space between the burr and the walls of the grinding chamber and then a relatively long horizontal space between the chamber and where the coffee falls into the delivery cone. An anti-clumping screen helps to hold coffee back as well.

For the other six grinders, based on my testing, it’s fair to consider them all zero retention grinders for practical purposes. Keep in mind that a half gram of old coffee makes up only about three percent of an 18-gram dose. I challenge anyone to pick up a difference in flavor from that three percent in a blind taste test.

Factors to Consider

Now grind retention is just one measure of a grinder’s performance. Other factors include grind quality, dosing accuracy, ease of use, duty cycle, cost and more. For me, the big takeaway here is that with the exception of the Mazzer, you don’t need to grind out and throw away coffee to get a fresh dose from any of these grinders.

If you have any questions about zero retention grinders, be sure to give our experts a call or use the chatbox on our website, we’d be happy to help you out.

Marc Buckman
Marc Buckman

Marc is one of Whole Latte Love's resident experts on everything coffee. He built our YouTube channel from the ground up in 2009, demystifying the world of coffee for upwards of 100k subscribers by producing over 1000 in-depth videos. Marc enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and saving the lives of his coworkers when the kitchen runs out of coffee by sharing some of his own.