Best Manual Coffee Grinders in 2019

Grinding your own coffee is the best single thing you can do to improve the quality of the coffee you make and drink. But, should you chpose an automatic (electric) coffee grinder? Or a burr coffee grinder? Or are those the same? And what about hand powered coffee grinders?

Pfff… a lot of questions. 

At Monsieur Coffee we took a good look at the best manual coffee grinders available.

A good place to start might be to check out one of these top performing manual coffee grinders:

The next question you’ll ask is probably: What does a quality manual coffee grinder look like? What should you look for? Or, which one should you choose?

We took a good hard look at the best hand powered burr coffee grinders available and found which ones are the best.

In the article below we’ll tell you all you need to know.

Why You Need A Coffee Grinder

Before we dive into the specifics of each of the coffee grinders, let’s start at the beginning.

Why do you need a coffee grinder?

Woman and child using a manual coffee grinder

You could just buy your coffee pre-ground, right?

Yes, you could, but you would be missing out.

After grinding coffee beans, the coffee loses much of its aroma within one hour after grinding. Fancy processing techniques and vacuum packaging can’t change that. You could even argue that pre-ground coffee is stale before it reaches the shelves of your local supermarket. And even then, you need to open vacuum-packed pre-ground coffee. You are not going to use it all at once. What you are left with is a pile of (stale) coffee sitting in a can losing even more precious flavor.

Let me be clear. It’s not that I think pre-ground coffee is all bad. Freshly ground coffee is just better. I can see why someone would prefer pre-ground coffee for convenience. Heck, I use store bought pre-ground coffee when I have to make coffee for a large group of people. Grinding a pound of coffee beans can be a pain, especially by hand.

Even whole roasted coffee beans lose flavor. You should buy you roasted coffee beans in small batches and use them within a few weeks. A rule of thumb is to use roasted coffee beans as soon as possible, but within six weeks after roasting. Eight weeks is possible, provided you store them properly, but within six weeks is preferable.

Coffee goes stale because of a number of factors, but the main problem is oxidation. Oxygen in the air reacts with the oils and aromatic compounds that determine the flavor of coffee. Through oxidation, the oils will eventually go rancid and the aromatic compounds, which are volatile and fleeting will dim and eventually dissipate.

This oxidation process happens gradually but is sped up exponentially when the surface area of the bean is increased. Which is exactly what happens when you grind coffee. When the bean is pulverized into small fragments, the surface area increases and oxidation happens more quickly. Some studies say that noticeable changes in flavor happen only 15 minutes after grinding. So, grinding (fresh beans!) right before you make coffee ensures the minimum amount of oxidation and maximum flavor. 

To grind your own coffee you need to buy a coffee grinder (duh!). Fortunately, there are coffee grinders for every budget and kitchen size...

For this roundup we focus on the best manual coffee grinders on the market.

Manual vs. Automatic Burr Coffee Grinders

Do you go manual or automatic? That’s the first big question you face when shopping for a burr coffee grinder.

A manual or hand coffee grinder is powered by you, by continuously cranking the swivel arm on the grinder until the batch of beans is ground. An automatic coffee grinder is powered by whatever comes out of the socket in your wall (provided its electricity).

The main advantage of an automatic burr grinder is convenience. You put in some fresh beans, flip a switch, et voila: freshly ground coffee. No sweat.

When you grind manually, and especially if you need a very fine grind for espresso, you will break a sweat.

So, the decision is easy: an automatic grinder is the way to.

Right?

Not necessarily.

Although automatic grinders are very convenient, they are also more expensive, bulkier and noisier than manual burr grinders.

So, when you have a small budget, a small kitchen, or when you want to grind your coffee without waking up the kids, a manual or hand grinder might be a sensible option.

Kidding aside, don’t discount hand powered grinders. I use a manual grinder at least half of the time. Although I have a very nice automatic grinder (this one), there are plenty of times I prefer my trusty manual coffee grinder. 

Especially on the go. When I am traveling and I am not sure what kind of coffee I am going to get I make sure to throw my manual coffee grinder and a small French Press (this one is awesome!), a Clever Coffee Dripper, or AeroPress into my bag. Wherever you are staying, on a campsite or in a Nespresso-equipped-Airbnb, you can always make great coffee. Provided you also have a means to heat water, of course.

But also, when I am at home and have the time to start the day slowly and easy, I will often grab my manual coffee grinder. You see, making coffee can sometimes be a soothing ritual to me. Especially early in the morning when I have plenty of time to brew a lovely and fragrant first cup of the day.

Staring out the window into my small Japanese style garden, I grind my 20 grams of single estate beans in my Hario Skerton.

A very ‘zen’ way to start your day. I can assure you.

And yes, I am crazy.

My mother had me tested.

It’s just one of those things: good quality gear, for great quality coffee, without breaking the bank. I love that.

Snap out of it!

Ok!

To sum up, you should buy a manual or hand burr coffee grinder when:

  • You do not have the budget to buy a good quality automatic coffee grinder
  • You do not have enough room in your kitchen to accommodate a bulky automatic coffee grinder
  • You don’t want to make a lot of noise when grinding coffee beans
  • You travel a lot and want to grind your own coffee on the go

Reviews Of The Best Manual Coffee Grinders

Now that you have the general overview of why you need a burr grinder and know the choice between automatic and hand powered coffee grinders, we take a look at each of the four best manual coffee grinders on the market. Don’t settle for anything less than one of the best manual coffee grinders out there.

JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder

The JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder is a bestselling grinder that gets almost exclusively positive reviews. The grinder has a capacity of 35 grams of coffee and allows you to adjust the grind size in 18 different settings. The manufacturer has really thought this product through. Its dimensions are just so that the grinder will fit inside your AeroPress. 


The JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder

This makes the JavaPresse the ideal companion for your Aeropress and a fantastic combination for hikes, camping trips and the like.

This makes the JavaPresse the ideal companion for your Aeropress and a fantastic combination for hikes, camping trips and the like.

JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder inside an AeroPress


The build quality of the JavaPress is good. It isn’t perfect but it checks a lot of boxes. The stainless steel casing looks and feels sturdy and well-made. While cranking the arm to grind the coffee beans the whole device just feels solid. A downside and I’m being picky here, is that the burr grooves are not as defined or deep as I have seen on other grinders. Also, the grind size adjustment dial could have been made a bit better. It is sometimes hard to hear or feel the clicks between different grind sizes.

All in all, the JavaPresse is a well-designed coffee grinder that offers fantastic value for money

Pro's and Cons of the JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder

  • Price, great value for money
  • Spring-loaded burr for consistent grinds
  • Clickable wheel to adjust grind settings
  • Grind settings are not visible
  • Build quality of burrs and grind size adjustment dial could have been better

JavaPresse has produced a nice unboxing and demonstration video. A great way to see what this hand grinder is all about.

Upgrade option: Porlex JP-30

If you like the JavaPresse but feel uneasy about the build quality and you have a bit more to spend, then an upgrade is possible. The JavaPresse is a very close relative of the Porlex JP-30. The Porlex is a great manual coffee grinder that has a slightly better build quality than the JavaPresse. 

The most important pro for the Porlex is the burrs.

The Porlex JP-30 Manual Coffee Grinder

The grooves on these burrs are deeper and more defined. This improves the efficiency of the grinding. Also, the grind adjustment dial on the bottom of the burr feels better made. The clicks between grind settings are easier to hear and feel.

Overall these improvements are important but there is one big downside to the Porlex: it price. The prices of the Porlex JP-30 coffee grinder is about double the price of the JavaPresse. Quality costs money, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the higher price tag of the Porlex is worth it.

Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill

This grinder is a product of Hario, the Japanese heatproof glass manufacturer. A great manual grinder with a few downsides. First off, the build quality of this thing is good. A sturdy plastic thick top part that fits the burrs and the crank and a walled glass container that catches the ground coffee. The earlier version of this grinder had the problem that with an open top (parts of) the beans being ground were shouting out of the feeder and landing all over the place.

The new and improved Hario Skerton had a silicone lid that prevents this.

Unfortunately, the Hario Skerton isn’t without its problems. The conical burr has room to move on coarser grind settings. This results in an inconsistent grind. This is especially a problem when you plan to use it for a French Press ground, which is usually on the coarser side. When you prefer or need a finer grind, this won’t be much of a problem. Still, it makes the Hario Skerton less versatile than its competitors.

Setting the grind size on this grinder is no easy task. Which is its second problem. You must almost fully deconstruct the top part to be able to change the grind setting. And when you do this you will find that it is quite hard to try different settings. There is no way to track the step-less adjustment.

This doesn’t mean the Hario Skerton doesn’t do its job. When you have found the ideal grind size setting, you can mill like a pro. As said, the build quality is very good and the whole thing feels sturdy. And let’s not forget: this bad boy can grind 100 grams of coffee beans in one loading.

The prices of the Hario Skerton is somewhere in the middle. More expensive than the JavaPress, less expensive than the Porlex (Mini) and the Handground Precision.

Pro's and cons of the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill

  • The large top feeder can accommodate up to 100 grams of coffee beans
  • Build quality
  • More inconsistent ground on coarser ground settings due to lack of spring-loaded burr
  • Grind settings are not visible
  • Setting the grind size is a hassle

Handground Precision Coffee Grinder

The Handground Precision comes with a story. A great story. This coffee grinder is the result of a community effort and a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Handground took the ideas, experiences, and feedback of thousands of coffee lovers and made its ultimate coffee grinder. It took them hundreds of iterations and incremental improvements to get to the final version of the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder.

And the result is great. 

A well designed, sturdy and beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Where most of my coffee gear gets stuffed back into a cabinet after use, this one can stay in full view at my countertop. And get this: the top feeder can handle a whopping 100 grams of coffee beans.

The first installment of the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder had some troubles. Some people reported inconsistent grinds. The burr system seemed to allow some movement of the burrs. The same problem as with the Hario Skerton. Wiggling burrs result in an inconsistent grind with a lot of fines. Especially with a coarser grind setting. Fortunately, the Handground team listens to feedback. They released an updated version of their grinder in November of 2017. This version comes with an improved and more stable burr system.

There is a catch, however. The Handground Precision is the most expensive manual coffee grinder in this list. It’s only a bit more expensive than the Porlex grinders (mini and JP-30) we discuss here. But more than twice as expensive as the Hario Skerton and the JavaPresse. That’s not the whole story, however. The Handground Precision aims to compete with the high-end manual coffee grinders. These grinders usually cost somewhere in the USD 200 range. With that in mind, the Handground Precision is fairly affordable.

But still…

Other things to consider are that this hand grinder is quite chunky. It’s, bigger than the other grinders we discuss. If you are unlikely to travel with it, that’s won’t be a problem. 

Pro's and cons of the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder

  • Build quality
  • Side mounted crank arm for more ergonomic use
  • Chunkiness, it’s big? (whether this is a problem depends on use)
  • Price

Porlex Mini Coffee Grinder

Porlex is another Japanse manufacturer. Located in Osaka, Porlex has been designing and developing ceramic products since 1978. The Porlex coffee grinders are generally considered to be high quality and extremely precise.

The first thing that stands out when looking at the Porlex Mini is its size. It’s small (duh!). But, as with many small things, don’t underestimate it! 

The quality of the spring-loaded burr’s and the sturdiness of the stainless steel body make it an excellent coffee grinder. It is the ideal travel companion.

There isn’t much to find at fault with the Porlex Mini. The one downside I could find is its capacity. The top feeder can only accommodate 20 grams of coffee beans. While traveling this is enough for one cup of coffee from your AeroPress or a small French Press.

At home, when you wish to make multiple cups of coffee the Porlex Mini soon becomes too small.

As a product, the Porlex Mini is fantastic. But, the dimensions and capacity make a niche product. Ideal for travelers or lone coffee drinkers, not for those who make larger quantities. For those people, the Porlex JP-30 with its 30-gram capacity may be the preferred option.

Pro's and cons of the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder

  • Build quality
  • Spring-loaded burrs
  • Great for traveling
  • Small capacity (20 grams) only suitable for one-cup brewing methods

Conclusion: get the best Manual Coffee Grinder

So there you have it. The best manual coffee grinders we could find. Those below USD 100, that is. We believe that you don’t need to pay more for an excellent hand coffee grinder. The question that remains is: which one is the best.

The answer is as boring as it gets: it depends.

I could pull out the fancy language and try to convince you to buy one or the other. But that wouldn’t be fair. 

Researching and testing these hand-powered burr grinders hast taught me a few things, though.

There are some simple guidelines you could follow to make your choice. Here we go

  • Your ideal burr coffee grinder should have ceramic burrs. They rule. Period.
  • You shouldn’t settle for a subpar build quality. Your ideal manual coffee grinder should be sturdy.
  • You want a consistent grind on every setting. From fine to coarse. That means the best coffee grinder for you has spring-loaded burrs for stable grinding.
  • Your coffee grinder should be able to handle the amount of coffee you need for your preferred brewing method(s).

When you find a coffee grinder that ticks these four boxes, all that remains is the price of the grinder versus your budget. Getting you hands on one of the best manual coffee grinders is within reach.

I hope this article helps you find the best manual coffee grinder for you.

Caffeinated greetings,

Monsieur Coffee

You might also be interested in our round up of the best automatic coffee grinders on the market.