How to Pick a Grinder for an Espresso Machine

Picking a grinder can be as challenging for picking an espresso machine. I'm sure by now you have looked online and seen that every espresso guru out there cannot say enough about it. And it totally makes sense from a science stand point: Espresso is using pressure and heat to extract particles from the bean as fast as possible. It only makes sense that you will want those particles in a uniform size. You don't have the luxury of time that you do with a french press. So let's break it down.

Blades: Why Blades suck.

Blade Grinders are awesome for that person who is used to drinking Folgers Instant Coffee and wants to make a change to better coffee. This is going to be an eye opener for this guy, because for the first time in his life, he will have fresh ground coffee. For everyone else, blade grinders won't work. The reason why? Because it's like trying to get consistancy chopping a block of ice with a butter knife. It's not going to happen. What you need for good espresso is a burr grinder.

Burr: Let the awesomeness begin.

Burr grinders are where it's at. They come in to shapes and sizes:

Conical Burr Grinders

Cone shaped grinders, one sitting in side another.

Flat Burr Grinders

Two flat plates with a space between. The coffee falls in between the space and crushes the bean. Which is better? There's some argument to that, because they produce different flavors, but everyone agrees that they will both produce good espresso.

High Speed (Direct Drive)

The motor of the grinder is attached directly to grinder stone. The grind is consistent, but because of the motor, the stone can get hot and affect the taste of the bean.

  • Pro: Cheap.
  • Con: Noisy and burns the coffee.
Gear Reduction

Still high speed motor, but gears are added to the mix to slow down the grinding stone.

  • Pro: Doesn't burn the coffee.
  • Con: Even noisier than direct drive.
Low Speed

Best in the market. Low speed is quiet and doesn't burn the coffee.

  • Pro: Quiet. No burned coffee.
  • Cons: Price.
Dose vs Non-Dose (Doserless)

Dose grinders basically have a basket that will hold your ground coffee in it. It's a nice option when you get a long line because you will have 6-8 doses of coffee sitting in the basket, waiting to be drawn. However, it comes with a cost. Coffee left in the basket too long goes stale. So, anything left over at the end of the night is waste. Also, you run the risk of serving stale espresso. Many home users will go Non-Dose. Personally, I like having the basket available.

Step vs Stepless

The grinder will have a different way to adjust the grind setting. A Step grinder will allow you to lock in the setting once you've found it. It could be by the clicks of the adjusting wheel or in some cases they will have a lever.

Stepless doesn't have a lock in option. It's typically just a knob or wheel that you turn until you find the place you'd like. The issue is that if your grinder bounces a little as it grinds, you may lose that setting over time.