Welcome to the Midrange Grinder List! This is where the word “diminishing returns” starts getting thrown around a lot. For many people, especially those who prefer medium or medium-dark roasts, you will not find significant improvements in taste by upgrading your grinder from here. Light-roasts are another story, but we’ll get to that later. Depending on the user’s propensity to modify, tinker, and align, grind quality will be either approximately the same, or at least be good enough to be served at a reputable cafe. In this list, I will be differentiating between “Designed for Home” and “Commercial” options. Commercial grinders are meant to serve a completely different use-case compared to home-grinders, so they will often retain coffee, require modding, and be large and noisy. However, commercial grinders can be found on the used-market for cheap, so they can offer great value. Whether a specifically designed home grinder is worth the extra cost over a used commercial grinder is up to your personal values.
Flat Burrs and conical burrs are both measured via their outer diameter, so comparing burr sizes between them is not a useful endeavor. The usefulness of large burrs for a home application comes down to available grinding surface-area, which depending on the geometry, will lead to improved taste. In addition, there has been much conjecture about the taste of a flat vs a conical burr. This is an oversimplification; both flat and conical burrs are designed with a huge variety of geometries and cannot be generalized into a singular taste profile.
SSP is a Korean company that designs and machines high-end burrs. They are contracted by companies such as Kafatek, Weber-Workshops, and Option-O to design burrs for their grinders. SSP creates burrs which can be swapped into old commercial grinders, which can greatly improve the grind quality. Website. To buy, find them at espressotool or contact them directly.
If you hang around on the server or on forums, you will often see the words “bi-modal” and “unimodal” being thrown around. These are in reference to the grind distributions the grinder/burr combination creates. Bimodal refers to the plot having 2 “humps”, centered around “fines” and “target grind-size” particles. Unimodal refers to the particles creating few fines and being centered around the target grind size. Please note; this is an oversimplification. All grinders create fines, although some will create less than others, thereby being closer to unimodal. We can also note that the width of peaks can change from burr to burr. As for effects on taste, this is a bit of a black-box function, but what I can safely say is that you can make good coffee with any roast on either type of distribution, they will just taste different and you have to decide which flavor profile you prefer.
The two disks in a flat burr grinder should be as close to parallel as possible, in order to create the most even distribution it can while grinding. A surprising number of grinder are not well-aligned, and part of the reason why bespoke grinders are so expensive is because the manufacturing tolerances necessary to ensure alignment is very difficult to mass-produce economically. As an example, see the EK43. While there are complaints of its alignment, also consider that aligning a 98mm burr requires less than 10um tolerance on the burr carrier, and then think about how many EK43s they sell to cafes and what its original purpose was (grinding spices). As far as aligning conicals I rarely see this being done non-professionally, as concials are much harder to align since they have no reference point to align from. Note: there are a few avenues if you want to align your own grinder. If you have a Baratza Vario or Forte, you can align using the Alicorn method by Jake on HomeBarista. If you have different flat burr grinder , you can use the sandpaper method specified here.
- 63mm Mazzer Kony Conical Burr
- “Polarizing” looks
Pros: Switchable from brew to espresso, single dose, great espresso grind quality, decent brew grind quality, small, quiet, 58mm dosing cup
Cons: slower grind speed, some don’t like Mazzer Kony taste profile (somewhat bimodal), sells out quick like Yeezys
- 64mm Italmill Flat burr or 64mm SSP Multipurpose or 64mm SSP HU
- highly mod-able, decent when stock
Pros: Able to punch far above it’s price range when properly sorted, competes taste-wise with nearly anything out there with appropriate burrs and/or alignment. Thriving modding community and 3D printed parts, 58mm dosing cup, surprisingly sturdy feeling.
Cons: Most units seem well-sorted, but high production volume and availability means you’re rolling the dice with alignment or build quality. Somewhat struggles with useability and retention until modifications, may not have brand-image of other grinders.
- 54mm Malkonig Steel Flat burr (espresso geometry)
- timed hopper-dose
- 2-5g retention (stock)
Pros: Able to swap in 54mm Ditting steel geometry from Baratza, better adjustment mechanism than Forte/Vario, good build quality, able to drastically reduce retention with removal of clump crusher, quieter than Forte/Vario
Cons: Alignment unknown, current units seem well sorted. Likely needs grind-range recalibration, high-retention before modifications, twice the price of refurbished Vario for the same burrs
- 55mm Eureka Flat Burr
- ~2g retention
- electric timer dosing
Pros: good grind quality, precise dosing, small, quiet, fast, available in many places
Cons: not easily switchable for brew, not amazing for single-dosing, reported channeling issues until post-seasoning (it gets better with time)
- 54mm Mahlkonig Ceramic Espresso burr OR 54mm Ditting Steel Brew Burr
- ~2g retention
Pros: meant for light duty commercial use while having a small footprint, exceptional grind quality when aligned, grind by weight option
Cons: Grind quality is okay if left unaligned, somewhat loud, steel burrs are painfully slow
- 40mm Etzinger Conical Burr
- Grind by weight
- ~1g retention
Pros: Fast af, good grind quality, precise timer, doesn’t popcorn much, stupid-easy workflow
Cons: Gearbox issues, ear-destroyer, shims needed over lifespan
Differences between the grinders of the same burr size would be down to alignment or burr-quality. These usually don’t grind as well as the modern home grinders, since R&D money has gone into designing for reliability and speed. However, these grinders come alive with a bit of modding. With alignment and a set of SSP burrs, this is as good as it gets before you spend on a titan.
- Proven reliability
- Doserless Mod
- Bellows Mod (ask Discord members about this one; it can be done in different ways)
Pros: Active modding community, absolute tanks, almost always worth saving, can be had as low as $20 (I’m serious)
Cons: Usually has doser, absolute unit, lose calibration with burr cleaning, horrible single-dosing workflow, loud
Comparable Grinders: Fiorenzato F4E, Anfim Caimano, Ceado e37j, Ceado E6P, Compak k6, Mazzer Mini Doserless (beware of motor), ECM S-Manuale 64, Nuova Simonelli MDX, Eureka Atom, Helios, Zenith 65 (buy SSP at your own risk: they may or may not fit)
- Compatible with Mythos Burrset (Hoffmann setup) or SSP
- Very fast
- Use similar mods on these as the 64mm commercials
Pros: Look nicer than the Mazzers, use a reputable burrset, commonly found at retailers
Cons: Newer, so harder to find used, large, retains a lot of coffee
Comparable Grinders: Anfim SCODY II, Anfim Super Caimano, Nuova Simonelli MDJ, Macap M7
Note: These are quite impractical for the home due to retention and size
- Cheap used for a huge, SSP swap-able burr
- Very, very fast
- Otherwise, similar pros and cons to the Super-Jolly Comparable Grinders: Ceado e37s, Eureka Helios 80
Yup, you can get a $1000 hand-grinder. For all the
masochists tactilitarians out there.
- 83mm 3-phase Mazzer Robur Conical Burrset (big boi)
- Great build-quality
- Will pop-up used ~$600-$800
Pros: Tactility, cheapest way to get the Mazzer Robur Burr, looks awesome
Cons: Hand-grinding, potential complains on alignment on the older models, may not fit into everyones workflow
Other Handgrinders: Kinu m68, Malwani Livi, Orphan Espresso Pharos 1.1 or 2.0 (Please don’t do this to yourself)