VSSL Coffee Grinder Review: Great For The Outdoors
Electric automatic coffee grinders are great for convenience and speed, but it’s nearly impossible to pack one safely into a backpack or carry-on. Manual coffee grinders are the best bet for those who like travelling.
The VSSL Java manual grinder is a prime example. It offers a uniquely portable design in a compact aluminium frame with high-quality conical burrs. Keep reading to see if this grinder is for you.
Summary: The VSSL Java Coffee Grinder
- Manual burr grinder with 38-millimeter, stainless steel conical burrs
- 20-gram coffee capacity lets you enjoy a quality cup of coffee anywhere
- Durable aircraft-grade aluminum frame for travel and camping
It’s compact, looks great, and gets a lot of comments. The build quality and durability, like all VSSL products, is superb.– Customer
VSSL Java Coffee Grinder Review
When shopping for burr coffee bean grinders for home use, coffee connoisseurs know that the key to a great cup lies in a consistent grind size. Consistent grinds lead to uniform extraction, a much more flavourful final cup, and an upgraded coffee experience.
Some automatic burr coffee grinders have a relatively small footprint, but they still take up precious countertop or backpack real estate – not great if you live in a tiny apartment or enjoy travelling. Those who refuse to compromise great ground coffee for portability are constantly searching for the ultimate manual burr coffee grinder. Could the tiny but ultra durable VSSL Java grinder fit the bill?
Grind Consistency – 5/5
The VSSL Java boasts excellent uniform grind size, thanks to its precision-engineered, stainless steel, 38-millimeter conical burrs. With a Rockwell hardness ranging from 55 to 58, these 5-axis, CNC-machined burrs have excellent edge retention and durability.
Why is that crucial for uniformly ground coffee?
Conical burrs — like the ones found in the VSSL Java and the Timemore Chestnut C2 manual grinder — grind fresh coffee beans into increasingly finer pieces via a series of teeth on the insert burr’s cutting surface. Over time, the pressure and friction on the steel burrs will dull the cutting edge. Hard steel teeth ensure the burrs will stay sharper for longer (1).
The higher the number, the harder the steel is. The harder the steel, the better edge retention it will have. The better edge retention, the less often you must sharpen it.
Additionally, if the burrs aren’t precision-cut, the teeth will be marginally uneven. These microns of difference in the burrs produce ground coffee that is either under or over-extracted.
The VSSL Java grinder offers exceptional grind consistency and durability at all 50 grind settings thanks to its excellent engineering.
Build Quality – 4/5
The fit and finish of the VSSL Java is everything you would expect from a high-quality manual burr coffee grinder – and then some. We awarded it “Most Durable” in our round-up of the best manual grinders after one editor spent three weeks putting it through its paces on a 3-week camping trip.
The conical stainless steel burr and dual stainless steel bearings are well-crafted, and the VSSL Java housing is made from aircraft-grade aluminium (2). Also, because of the dual set of stainless steel bearings, there is no wobble or side-to-side play when you move the extendable crank.
The smooth, polished surface of this grinder is aesthetically pleasing, but some users note that gripping the chassis can be awkward and fatiguing.
The smooth finish doesn’t allow your palms to gain enough traction for a steady grip. If you’re prone to sweaty palms, holding the VSSL Java with a dry, clean cloth makes the task much more stable and comfortable.
Burr Quality – 4/5
The VSSL Java sports an excellent 38-millimeter, stainless steel conical burr set that produces high-quality fluffy and consistent grounds. If you are familiar with the Timemore C2, the results are very similar.
Where it differs, however, is in the number of available settings. While the C2 has 24 grind settings, the VSSL Java has more than double that with 50 stepped settings for ground coffee. That said, it still lacks the fine adjustments needed to be a true espresso grinder. You can set the grinder at 16 clicks but not 15.95 clicks, if that’s the grind size that happens to work best for your espresso setup. Since the particle size of the coffee grounds can vary, depending on the roast level of the coffee being used, a stepless grinder is better for precisely dialling in your espresso grind (3).
“Stepless grinders have infinite adjustability. You can get exactly the particle size that you want because the machine doesn’t stop you.”
The VSSL Java coffee grinder has a fantastic set of conical burrs. It produces very consistent grinds that will serve you well for anything from Moka pot to French press.
Portability/Grind Capacity – 4.5/5
The VSSL Java is very portable. Like all VSSL gear, it was designed for outdoor enthusiasts who need supplies that can withstand the rigours of backcountry travel. It has a 20-gram capacity for coffee beans, which is small compared to other hand grinders but should yield one or two cups.
Its unique Clip and Flip lever serves dual purposes. It works like a normal carabiner or as an extension for the crank arm.
While the magnetic hand grip knob makes the hand crank easy to hold, the extendable crank gives you extra leverage when grinding fresh beans — folding away neatly into the side of the body when not in use.
The VSSL Java grinder has a very compact frame, perfect for squeezing into your brimming carry-on for a business trip or tucked into your backpack for a weekend hike. Its 15.2 x 5 cm, 396-gram frame is slim enough to fit just about anywhere. It’s the ultimate hand grinder for those who place equal value on great coffee and an adventurous lifestyle.
Price – 4/5
While the VSSL Java isn’t as affordable as the budget-priced Timemore C2, it won’t set you back nearly as much as premium hand grinders like the 1Zpresso K-Plus or the Comandante. For the price, we think it’s a great buy. Its fit and finish are fantastic, the grind size is uniform, and the capacity is perfect for a single serving.
At $200, it’s an expensive piece of kit to leave dangling from the side of your backpack, even with its military-grade aluminium case. Though the carabiner can support up to 200 pounds, it doesn’t protect the coffee grinder from inadvertent knocks and scratches. If you decide to carry this hand grinder with you on a camping trip, we’d suggest tucking it away safely in a padded section of your pack to protect your investment.
Things we liked:
- Great fit and finish
- Good burr quality
- Easy-to-use, ergonomic hand crank
- Uniform grind size
- 50 grind adjustment settings
Things we didn’t like:
- Relatively high price
- Small 20-gram capacity
- Not suitable for espresso
- No texture on the grip makes it slippery
Do Not Buy the VSSL Java Coffee Grinder If…
- You’re looking for a stepless manual coffee grinder: While the VSSL Java’s 50 grind adjustments are great for a hassle-free coffee experience, it’s not so great if you need to dial in your grind for something like an espresso. If you need a stepless manual coffee grinder, we’d suggest the Orphan Espresso Lido E-T. The stepless grind adjustment makes it possible to dial in a specific cup profile.
- You want a manual coffee grinder with an even smaller footprint: The VSSL Java is fairly small, but if every inch and gram counts, we recommend the Porlex Mini hand grinder. At 5 cm in diameter and only 13 cm in height, the Porlex Mini packs a versatile, high-quality hand grinder in a tiny package. It will even fit inside an Aeropress!
- You want a manual grinder suitable for espresso: Some excellent manual grinders perform best at the finer end of the spectrum, even while still having a stepped grind adjustment. If you’re an espresso enthusiast, we’d suggest the 1Zpresso K-Max.
The VSSL Java coffee grinder is the best choice if you need a travel-sized manual coffee grinder that doesn’t compromise on quality for portability. With 50 grind adjustment settings, a Clip and Flip carabiner, an extendable crank that folds away for easy storage, and precision-machined stainless steel conical burrs, the VSSL Java is a great buy for the price.
- Russell, A.G. Understanding Rockwell. (2023). AGRussell.com. https://agrussell.com/steel-articles/rockwell
- VSSL JAVA COFFEE GRINDER. (2021). Vsslgear.com. https://www.vsslgear.com/products/vssl-java-coffee-grinder
- Lemos, Chase. (2018, March 13). Coffee Technicians Guild. Coffee Technicians Guild. https://coffeetechniciansguild.org/blog/2018/3/12/the-technicians-guide-to-espresso-grinder-selection-how-to-help-inform-a-cafe-owners-grinder-purchase