Hey espresso lovers, Marc here from Whole Latte Love. We recently took a look at our Top 5 Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines for 2018. Today we’re picking our Top 5 Best Coffee Grinders for Espresso in 2018.
The categories range from Best Entry-Level Grinder, up to our Favorite Grinder for Near Zero Grind Retention. We’ll have picks for Best Overall Value in Prosumer Level and Home Use grinders, and our choice for the Best Multi-Purpose Grinder, which works for multiple brewing methods and give decent results for espresso. Along with our top grinders in each category, we’ll have some honorable mentions for your consideration. As a bonus, I’ll give you a sneak peek at the soon to be available Ceado E37Z Hero. It’s a true zero retention single doser with variable speed control, one horse power motor, and a lot more so be sure and watch for that.
Our picks and opinions are based on our experience testing, using, and servicing most every available grinder and lots of feedback from our customers. Our technicians service hundreds of grinders every year, and we work directly with manufacturers on grinder design and upgrades like the E37Z-Hero you’ll get a peek at.
Now, you may have opinions of your own. And as always we’d love to hear them. So whether you agree or disagree with ours, please use the comments and let us know what you think.
Our first category is Entry-Level Grinders. These are lower cost grinders that, if used for espresso, do best when brewing through a pressurized filter basket. With less precise control of grind size, our picks in this category are actually more suited for brew methods other than espresso, so they are multi-purpose so long as you’re brewing espresso in a pressurized filter basket. They can be used on more capable machines, but don’t expect to get the most out of a higher level machine with these grinders.
Our pick for best entry-level grinder is the Baratza Sette 30. Honestly, it’s not typically a first choice for espresso grinding, but when brewing through pressurized filter baskets it’s really all you’ll ever need, as extra precise grind size adjustment is not critical with those.
As the name suggests, the Sette 30 has 30 stepped grind size settings. There’s one timed grinding preset, and weight output is very consistent. That’s due to the Sette’s unique grind straight through design. In most grinders it’s gravity which feeds the beans to the burrs, but In the Sette, the top burr spins and pulls in the beans for a consistent feed rate and very fast grinding speeds of 3.5 to 5.5 grams per second. With the straight through design the Sette has very low retention. Since it’s more open it tends to be slightly louder. You can grind into a portafilter while resting it on forks or you can reset the forks and grind into an included grinds bin. For most, the low retention, high output, and extra fluffy grinds makes up for a slightly louder sound. A shutoff on the hopper makes changing out beans easy.
The Smart Grinder Pro has a lot of features. It’s a timed grinder as well, but you set the grinding time per espresso shot or cup of coffee. As you change the number of shots or cups the grind time is automatically increased. With gravity fed beans the weight output is not as accurate as the Sette 30. The Smart Grinder Pro comes with 2 cradles for grinding into portafilters and a grinds bin.
The Baratza Virtuoso has the widest grind size range of any Baratza grinder at 200 to 400 microns. So you’re covered from espresso-fine, up to chunky, coarse grounds for cold brew and everything in between.
The Virtuoso’s grind size is adjustable in 40 steps. There’s a timer switch on the side for unattended grinding or a pulse switch on the front. An anti-static grounds bin holds about 5 ounces of ground coffee. You can remove the grounds bin and grind directly into a portafilter and that’s when the pulse switch comes in handy.
For our next category we move up to espresso specialists. These are grinders with larger burrs, stepless grind size adjustment, and more powerful motors. While our entry-level grinders have a lot of plastic used in construction, these grinders are built to last.
Our winner for Best Value in Prosumer-Level Espresso Grinder is the Ceado E6P. It features 64 millimeter flat steel burrs, two timed grinding presets, and hands free grinding into a portafilter. It’s currently our lowest cost 64 millimeter grinder with timed grinding. A couple of things that make the E6P a standout: first, is the E6P’s steady-lock system. It’s a design feature found on Ceado’s more expensive grinders that maintains burr position under heavy use so there are no problems with grind size changes due to thermal expansion. Second is a design that helps isolate the grind adjustment threads from coffee dust and oils in the grinding chamber. In some grinders, adjusting size gets difficult or jumpy as adjustment threads get dirty. The E6P produces a fluffy grind which distributes evenly into a portafilter. An adjustable hook allows for hands-free grinding and accommodates all portafilters including bottomless.
If you want to save about a $150, The Ceado E5P is the same grinder without the timed presets. It’s totally on demand, just push in your portafilter to start grinding and pull back to stop. Be aware that using bottomless portafilters with the E5P is difficult, as the start stop switch is activated by portafilter spouts.
The ECM, like the Ceado E5P, is manual with no timed presets. It uses a very precise worm gear to adjust grind size of its 64 millimeter burrs. If space is a concern, the ECM is compact and at 16.3 inches high it’s an inch shorter than the Ceados.
The Eureka Atom Is the most expensive of the bunch. I’ve used a lot of timed grinders and the Atom is the easiest to program. The display is large and angles up so it’s easy to read. Grind size adjusts by a knob. It’s a different setup than other grinders. As you turn the knob, the shaft of the motor moves through a linkage at the bottom which adjusts spacing of the 60 millimeter burs. An impeller drives beans to the burrs, making for accurate cycle to cycle weights. A side effect of that is a little more noise and some popcorning of beans in the hopper when it’s near empty.
Next up our pick for Best Value Home Use Espresso Focused Grinder. These cost less than Prosumer-Level Best Value Grinders. They have lower duty cycles and tend to include more plastic and less metal in their construction.
Our winner for Best Value for Home Use is the Baratza Sette 270. Now, the Sette 30 was our pick for the Best Entry-Level Grinder. The 270 adds a micro adjustment ring for a range of precise stepless grind size adjustment within each of the 30 macro steps. While the adjustment mechanism on the Sette 30 is made of plastic, it’s metal on the 270. Other differences include that there are 3 timed grinding presets instead of one, The Sette 270 has a swing away arm which holds a portafilter in place for hands-free grinding. The portafilter forks swing out without removing to accommodate an included grinds bin. Like the Sette 30, the 270 produces an incredibly fluffy, clump free grind, and with the straight through design and top burr spinning, you get very low retention and consistent dosing weights cycle to cycle.
The Vario has been around for years and was the game changer in home grinding when it came out. It runs about a $100 more than the Sette 270 and uses stepped macro and micro adjustments. It has 3 timed presets. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose grinder, Baratza considers the Vario a little better for multi-purpose grinding than their Sette grinders.
The Rancilio Rocky doserless grinder has been around for a long time as well. It’s a no frills workhorse with a solid build for the price and it gets consistently excellent customer reviews. With 55 stepped grind settings it doesn’t give you near the dial-in control of the Sette or Vario. If you are not obsessive with your espresso, a Rocky gets the job done with single boiler machines like a Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia.
Until the Hero comes out, our pick for best near zero retention grinder is another Ceado, the E37S. It’s an NSF approved grinder updated this year with a crystal clear touch screen display with 3 timed grinding presets so you can do single, double and triple shots. Timing is in tenth of a second increments. Grind size adjustment is smooth with the adjustment completely isolated from the grinding chamber, and you can access the grinding chamber by removing three screws without losing your grind setting. In testing, retention is under .5 grams. The burrs are massive at 83 millimeters. During our testing, timed grinding was very accurate with just .2 grams variation in weight from dose to dose. Fluffy, clump free grinds distribute evenly into a portafilter and there are 3 operation modes: pulse on, pulse off, and dose with start. So you can use it in a way that fits your style. The E37S is designed to serve both high-end cafes and discerning home espresso enthusiasts looking for the best.
The 270Wi, like the other Sette grinders, is low retention with it’s grind straight through design. What it adds is intelligent weight-based grinding with an integrated Acai scale. 3 weight presets are intelligent, and as the coffee is ground and weighed in realtime, the intelligent software learns when to stop the grinding to achieve the desired weight. In my testing the 270Wi had a maximum variation of .2 grams over 10 grinding cycles.
The ECM V-Titan 64 is a true beauty with its’ mirror finish and retro styling. In my testing retention was a low .6 grams. The 64 millimeter burrs are titanium coated so they stay sharp and have double the life of standard steel burrs. A worm gear gives incredibly precise grind size adjustment, and there are 2 timed grinding presets. A funnel assures clump free dosing into the center of a portafilter. A push switch and hook allows for hands-free grinding.
Our last category is Best Multi-Purpose Grinder. These are grinders capable of doing very good grinding for espresso and quickly transitioning to grinding for other brew methods like drip, pour over, and press. Our winner for Best Multi-Purpose Grinder is the Baratza Vario.
It was an honorable mention in our Best Value for Home Use category as well. It has the macro and micro adjustments for quick and precise grind size changes, 3 timed presets so you can store espresso doses and cycles for other brew methods, and it comes with a metal portafilter holder and a grinds bin. The stock burr is ceramic, which is what you want if doing mostly espresso. If you’ll be doing less espresso and more grinding for other brew methods, you might consider going with the optional steel burr, which produces fewer fines at coarser grind sizes.
The ROK is my favorite manual grinder. It’s long horizontal crank and sticky base make it very easy to turn. Grind size adjustment is stepless. For espresso, we’ve pulled shots ground on the ROK alongside more expensive grinders and been impressed when comparing the results. It’s probably not appropriate grinding for large pots of drip coffee but works well grinding for smaller volume pour over or press coffee.
The Baratza Forte AP is a more powerful and rugged version of the Vario, so it’s appropriate for small volume commercial grinding of up to 2 kilograms of coffee per day. It has the portafilter holder and grinds bin. In addition to the standard Vario’s 3 timed presets, the Forte has three weight presets useable when grinding into the bin. The Forte AP has a ceramic burr which is best for espresso. If you’ll be doing more brew grinding consider the Forte BG with steel burrs for fewer fines at medium grind sizes.
So those are our picks for the best in espresso grinders. Again whether you agree or disagree with our picks we’d love to hear your opinions or questions in the comments.
Now, a sneak peek at a grinder that’s not near zero, it is zero! It’s a Hero. It’s the Ceado E37Z Hero grinder. We’ve been working with Ceado on this grinder and have had our evaluation unit in-house here for testing for the last couple of months. Before that, over the summer we got our first hands-on with the Hero at Ceado’s plant in Venice, Italy. The E37Z Hero Grinder is now available, so you'll want to snatch one up as a staple in your kitchen.
Some initial specs: a one horse power motor, continuously variable grinding speed from 600 to 1500 RPM, proprietary 83-millimeter burrs with diamond-like carbon coating, and of course zero retention. The Hero is looking to be the best coffee grinder ever made.
I’m Marc from Whole latte Love. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll come back soon for more of the best on everything coffee.