The Manual vs Electric Coffee Grinder - Which to Choose?
“Manual vs electric coffee grinders” might sound like a dorky slap fight between an “exclusively vinyl” hipster and an ironically nerdy Silicon Valley yuppie, but there is a little bit more to it than that.
To be honest, that awkward battle royal would be hilarious to watch, but today we’ve got business to attend to. You’re shopping for a new burr coffee grinder: which do you choose, manual or electric? Besides an on/off switch, is there any difference between the two?
When it comes to making damn-good (better than darn-good) coffee at home, no detail is too small to consider.
What Are You Looking For?
Before diving into the narrow gap between the manual and the electric burr grinders, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- How much work am I willing to put into my coffee?
- How much money am I willing to spend on my brewing setup?
- What type of coffee beverage do I brew most often?
Knowing where you stand on these three considerations will help you narrow down which type of grinder is right for you, so keep them in mind as we take a closer look at each.
Manual Burr Grinders
As the name implies, you are the driving force behind a manual burr grinder. By continuously cranking the swivel arm, you provide the necessary power to rotate the burrs and grind up your beans.
Depending on which kind of grind you are shooting for, you may have to put in a little extra work with a manual grinder. A coarser grind isn’t going to take too much effort, and will come out pretty quickly, but make sure you have a sweat towel on hand if you are set for a finer grind, because you will be spinning away for a while.
Fortunately, manual burr grinders are much smaller than their electricity-dependent cousins. Many manual grinders are small and ergonomically designed, which makes prolonged grinding a little more manageable. Additionally, the smaller size also makes many of these grinders much easier to travel with.
Because these grinders are small, and have no complex electrical components, they are significantly less expensive than electric burr grinders. You can find a high quality manual grinder, like the Porlex Mini, for about $50.
For a list of the top rated manual burr grinders (in all shapes and sizes) click here.
Electric Burr Grinders
Can you tell me what a Las Vegas escort and an electric burr grinder have in common? Before I let your mind wander to places it shouldn’t, the answer is simple: convenience.
One of the main benefits of an electric grinder is that they are very simple and easy to use. All you have to do is load the hopper (this is where the metaphor ends), select your grind size, and flip the switch. In seconds you will have fresh grounds ready to be brewed.
However, one of the main drawbacks of an electric burr grinder is that they can get quite expensive. Before you think about simply snagging the cheapest option at your local department store, let me warn you that you will get what you pay for.
Cheaper electric grinders are not going to offer the same grind consistency or accuracy of the more expensive models. Unfortunately, a good electric burr grinder, like the Baratza Virtuoso or the Fiorenzato F4, could cost you more than $200, but check out my “best of 2016” list for more options.
Many electric burr grinders are about the same size as a standard blender, and though they aren’t huge, they do take up considerably more counter space than a manual grinder.
Which is Right for Me?
So which should you choose, electric or manual? Did you think about the three questions from before?
Budget is probably one of the easiest ways to decide between these two types of grinders. If you are willing to shell out a few hundred, then by all means go for the electric burr grinder. If you simply can’t go over $50, then stick with a manual burr grinder.
However, I know the decision might not be that simple for some of you. If you love espresso, it may be worth the extra money to buy an electric grinder. Achieving that fine espresso grind on a manual grinder is both arduous and time consuming. With some manual grinders it may take so long, that your grounds will start to go stale before you even begin to brew.
Alternatively, if you prefer pour over or French press (which require coarser grounds) a manual grinder can get you what you need with surprisingly little effort, or time.
Here is a breakdown of the main considerations to help you decide which type of grinder is right for you:
You should get an electric burr grinder if:
- you want a quick and no-hassle setup
- you are comfortable spending $200+
- you prefer espresso or other fine-grind coffee beverages
- you have enough kitchen space for a blender sized machine
You should get a manual burr grinder if:
- you don’t want to spend over $50
- you don’t mind expending more time and effort into your brew
- you prefer pour-over or other coarse-grind coffee beverages
- you need something small
To see the manual burr grinder vs. electric burr grinder showdown for yourself, check out this great video made by our friends over at Seattle Coffee Gear.
As anyone who is serious about coffee knows, there are no simple choices when it comes to coffee gear. Finding what is right for you is both a matter of personal taste and tangible benefit, and you should always consider your options carefully.
Tell me what you thought of the article, and your own experiences with these grinders in the comments below. Don’t forget to share with your friends if you liked the article!