If you’ve been educating yourself about brewing coffee, you’ve likely discovered that grinding whole coffee beans just before you brew is the number one way to unlock the full potential from your coffee.
Weighing out and then grinding your coffee using a big push-button electronic grinder at home is the preferred way to achieve your desired coffee grind size and release that locked in flavor.
But, what if you’re not at home and you’re craving a quality cup of coffee. What you need is a grinder that’s portable – like a manual coffee grinder (aka, hand-cranked coffee grinder).
Don’t let the looks of these hand-crank grinders deter you. Although they may look simple, they’re well-engineered to produce excellent uniform coffee grounds that are just as consistent as their electric big brothers – and in most cases, better!
If this sounds like something you need, keep on reading because, in this article, we’re going to help you to choose the best manual grinder for your next excursion.
These hand coffee grinders will require a bit of elbow grease – but who said making excellent tasting coffee was going to be easy!
Our Top Pick: Best Value
Things To Consider When Buying A Manual Coffee Grinder
There are many different types of hand-operated coffee grinders, and as you can probably imagine, some are better than others. To help you weed out the good from the bad, I have jotted down some buying advice to ensure you pick the best manual grinder you can.
Some of the below criteria is optional, but others on the list are must-haves.
Steel or Ceramic Grinding Burrs
When choosing the best grinder, the quality of the burrs will be one of the most important factors to consider.
Conical burrs are used in almost all the hand grinders I have come across, and they are manufactured from either Steel or Ceramic materials.
Both Steel and Ceramic have their pros and cons. For example, Steel is a lot sharper and tends to provide a more consistent grind.
On the downside, Steel can rust, and they’re also a conductor of heat – when grinding coffee, a lot of friction is produced, leading to heat that is detrimental to your coffee.
On the other hand, Ceramic burrs also provide excellent grind consistency, but the burrs tend to be brittle and can easily break if a rogue coffee bean gets jammed. Ceramic doesn’t conduct heat, and obviously, this material won’t rust.
At the end of the day, both Steel and ceramic are great options for any hand-cranked burr coffee grinder.
As you can see, they both have their pros and cons – it boils down to your budget and personal preference.
Portability and Overall Size
By design, manual burr mill grinders are small and compact, making them perfect for throwing into your backpack.
However, there are some which are oversized and are better suited for use on your kitchen countertop.
Depending on where you’ll be using the grinder the most, decide on the size that suits your needs.
Personally, I would recommend edging to a smaller sized grinder for its portability and put some money to one side to invest in a bigger sized electric grinder for use in the kitchen.
Oh, and don’t forget, if you have smaller hands, you’ll want to make sure the grinder is going to be easy to hold firmly – the last thing you want is something that’s difficult to hold.
It’s great to have a grinder that comes with what seems like an endless amount of grind settings – but do you really need to grind coffee for every type of brewing method under the sun?
Remember, this grinder is small, compact, and portable, and a few grind settings that are both consistent and uniform is all you’re going to need – seriously.
After all, you’ll probably be using an AeroPress, some type of pour-over, or maybe a French Press on your travels.
Keep it simple. If you want to churn out ground coffee in bulk, constantly switching between different settings, wait until you’re at home and use a full-sized coffee grinder instead.
Grinder Handle Length
Okay, the handle’s length will be a bit of a big deal, and it can make or break a hand grinder.
Once you’ve tried a few different manually operated coffee grinders, you’ll soon realize that having a handle too short will take considerably more energy as it would grinding the same amount of coffee beans with a large handle.
Trust me. When it comes to the size of the handle, it’s go big or go home!
Internal Bearings – Yay or Nay?
You’ll find that the premium manual grinders come with internal bearings that make the whole grinding process easier and smoother, but all of this does come at an additional cost.
Sure, it’s going to be more comfortable, but a grinder without bearings isn’t inferior when it comes to the grind; it just requires more energy on your part to get to the finish line.
The 10 Best Manual Coffee Grinders For 2021
If you’ve got this far, you’re probably ready to buy a hand grinder, and maybe you’re still slightly confused as to which model to purchase.
I hear you. There are hundreds of manual grinders to choose all with varying levels of quality.
That’s why I’ve done some of the legwork for you and picked out ten of the best manual coffee grinders that will take your home coffee brewing to the next level (albeit with a bit of elbow grease and sweat).
1Zpresso Q2 Manual Coffee Grinder
The 1Zpresso Q2 comes in as my top pick manual coffee grinder – I love this little thing!
There are quite a few grinders in the company’s range, and I have sampled a few of them this past year, but the 1Zpresso Q2 is my personal favorite. It’s also one of the smallest and budget-friendly out of the entire range.
Trust me. This hand crank can easily beat rival grinders that cost 2-6 times more!
The grind consistency of the 1Zpresso Q2 is impressive, and you’ll have no problem effortlessly grinding coffee for everything from extra-fine Turkish all the way through to a coarser grind suitable for a French Press.
Oh boy, this grinder is fast, I’m talking like turbo speed.
The 1Zpresso Q2 can grind 20 grams of coffee in under 60 seconds.
Compare that to, say, a Porlex Mini or a Javapresse. Both of these will take roughly 2 to 3 minutes to grind the same amount of whole beans.
The fast speed of the Q2 is down to the two super-smooth bearings housed inside of the grinder.
Like all of the other coffee grinders in the company’s range, the Q2 has an aluminum body, and the main shaft and burr-set are manufactured from Stainless Steel.
The burr set is 100% stainless steel, and these make light work of any medium roasted beans – effortless.
Hario Ceramic Burr Coffee Mill “Skerton Pro”
If you’re looking for a durable, well-made ceramic coffee mill, it doesn’t get much better than this.
While not as feature-rich as some of the other hand grinders on my list, what the Hario lacks in features it makes up for with a superb robust grinding capability.
The Hario Skerton is small, lightweight, and easy to use on the go. The Skerton has a rubber base, decent-sized storage capacity, ceramic burrs for a precision grind, and an overall ergonomic design.
Ticking all the required boxes for a great manual coffee grinder.
Porlex Mini Portable Hand Grinder
The Porlex is the epitome of a high-quality coffee grinder. The mechanism is housed inside a brushed stainless-steel body and comes equipped with robust ceramic, conical burrs – grinding coffee with the Porlex is a breeze and actually quite enjoyable.
The Porlex excels at most ground sizes, from a fine to coarse and everything in between.
Whether you prefer brewing up a pot of French Press coffee, Drip Coffee, AeroPress, or a simple Pour-Over, the Porlex has you covered, and you’ll get a pretty consistent grind.
It’s worth noting that the Porlex does grind coffee fine enough for espresso, but it takes a lot of work – roughly 2-3 minutes for a dose of 16 grams.
If you’re looking for a manual coffee grinder primarily for traveling, the Porlex Mini is a good contender.
It’s one of the smallest hand-crank grinders on the list, and it also gets bonus points for being able to fit snuggly inside of the AeroPress – this gets a big thumbs up from me.
Orphan Espresso Lido 3 Swiss Burr Grinder
The Orphan Espresso Lido 3 has been doing the rounds in the online specialty coffee community for a while, with many singing its praises.
The Lido 3 is the brainchild of a small company “Orphan Espresso” who are better known for their various espresso accessories and a small selection of manual coffee grinders.
Let me start by saying that the Lido 3 is on the large side for a hand grinder.
When you hold it, you’ll actually feel how heavy and bulky the Lido 3 is, weighing approximately 2lbs (roughly 1 kilo). It’s not the lightest or the most backpack-friendly of the coffee grinders on the list.
However, the Lido 3 does excel at doing one thing right, and that’s grinding coffee. The Lido 3 features a set of Swiss-made 48 mm conical steel burrs and boasts a huge coffee bean compacity compared to its rivals on the list.
For a hand crank coffee grinder, it’s fast enough, it’s not going to win any awards for its speed, but it does a reasonably good job at keeping up some of the other high-end grinders in this price range; but not as fast as the 1Zpresso Q2.
I will say the grinding mechanism does feel smooth and effortless due to the internal bearings.
The Lido 3 is definitely a capable grinder. The only downside is its weight and size, which would make me think twice before taking it on my next travel trip.
Handground Precision Coffee Grinder
The Handground Precision Coffee Grinder was born from a successful crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign back in 2015 with a design that’s been tweaked and adapted by thousands of coffee enthusiasts around the world.
The Handground comes equipped with a 40mm ceramic conical burr and an internal axel that’s triple mounted – a design meant to help eliminate or lessen the burr wobble, which is a problem with many manual coffee grinders.
The combination of added stability allows the Handground grinder to achieve a consistent grind every time.
It also features up to 15-grind settings, and by turning the numbered ring, you have full control over your set-up and you’re covered for almost any type of brewed coffee you can imagine.
Also, a smart tool comes supplied with the Handground – the “Brew Magnet” that eliminates the need for any other tools to clean your grinder, making cleaning quick and easy.
An issue that tends to plague hand-crank grinders is an inconsistent grind in the coarse settings range.
A coarse setting for a French Press with most manual grinders typically gives you an inconsistent mess with many uneven coffee particles.
The good news is that the Handground Precision has taken steps to reduce this problem by introducing three bushes in place of the standard single bush – this practically eliminates this inconsistency issue. Great news for French Press lovers!
One concern I have with this particular grinder is the side-mounted gearbox and handle.
Most manual coffee grinders have the mechanism top-mounted, which is for a good reason – durability.
The force required to crank the arm repeatedly is best suited for the top design, whereas the side-mounted design provides more weak points and a more complex system that could potentially break.
Akirakoki Manual Coffee Bean Grinder
The Akirakoki is an unusual manual coffee grinder since it’s been manufactured from a single piece of wood – even the threads that join the two sections are carved into the wood.
The manufacturers claim that it will never crack due to the wooden design; I’m not sure how much truth there is in this claim.
I’m sure with excessive moisture and heat, the wood could expand and crack?
Mounted inside of the Akirakoki, you’ll find a set of cast-iron conical burrs that should produce less heat than stainless steel burrs.
However, the problem with a cast iron burr vs. a machined burr is that I find the coffee beans tend to get crushed with a cast burr rather than ground – the cast iron burrs simply aren’t sharp enough.
The bean hopper can hold up to 35 grams of whole coffee beans, which should be enough for most brewing requirements without filling a second time.
All-in-all, this Taiwanese made coffee grinder is a decent option for anyone shopping on a modest budget. Does it have some flaws? Yes, but none of them are really a deal-breaker.
Rok Hand Crank Coffee Grinder
Off the bat, I will tell you that the ROK grinders aren’t going to be the best grinder for taking with you on a trip – it’s significantly larger and bulkier than others on the market.
But that doesn’t mean that the ROK is terrible. If you want a manual hand-crank coffee grinder for your kitchen, look no further.
The ROK is constructed from die-cast aluminum, and grinding whole coffee is effortless due to design and the large crank arm, which by the way, can be adjusted for left-handed users.
The grinding system inside of the ROK comprises of a set of 48mm stainless steel burrs, which are set in a vertical array rather than the classic horizontal setup.
If you are concerned about heat buildup due to the steel burrs, you can buy replacement ceramic burrs directly from ROK and swap them out.
The ROK coffee grinder is a straightforward machine that provides an old-school feel both in aesthetics and function. It grinds coffee consistently and quietly and doesn’t come with too many bells or whistles.
JavaPresse Manual Hand Grinder
Affordable, compact, and sleek would be three words to sum up the JavaPresse manual coffee grinder.
Those of you wanting a decent pocket-sized coffee grinder for a reasonable price but aren’t bothered about style and aesthetics, look no further than the JavaPresse.
The JavaPresse consists of a durable brushed stainless-steel body that houses a ceramic conical grinding burr.
The detachable hand crank is easy to remove, and the entire grinding can fit inside your AeroPress, making it the perfect travel companion.
It also features a dual plate system, making the entire grinder feel a lot more stable when grinding and aids in producing more consistent results.
Surprisingly for such a small compact hand grinder, you have a lot of options. In fact, there are 18-grind settings to choose from.
By turning a click-dial on the base from left to right, you have full control over the coarseness of your grind, whether you’re grinding coffee for a French Press, Espresso, AeroPress, or any other brew method.
The JavaPresse has been a popular coffee grinder on Amazon for many years, and at the time of writing, it currently boasts over 13000 reviews, most of which are positive.
With such a glowing endorsement for this pocket-size grinder, I just had to purchase one for myself – here’s my complete JavaPresse review.
Zassenhaus Santiago Coffee Grinder
I’ll get straight to the point. For traveling, the Zassenhaus Santiago Coffee Grinder probably isn’t going to be the best option due to its size, weight, and overall bulky design.
However, if you are looking for something the use at home, all of the above isn’t really going to matter.
They say that practice makes perfect. Well, after over a hundred years of manufacturing coffee grinders, I would like to think that Zassenhaus, the German company behind this grinder, know a thing or two about how to produce a quality product.
Backed with a 25-year guarantee on this particular manual coffee grinder, they definitely have confidence in their product.
Housed inside of the beautiful Mahogany Beech Wood you’ll find a durable carbon steel grinding mechanism.
Its grind function produces consistent results and has a large number of grind settings allowing you to grind for every brew method, even Turkish and Espresso.
One last thing: it seems like a vast majority of coffee grinders are produced in China. After doing a bit of digging, I am happy to say that the Zassenhaus Santiago Coffee Grinder is manufactured in Germany – funnily enough in the same city that produces the Porsche.
Timemore Chestnut G1 Manual Coffee Grinder
Have I saved the best till last? Maybe?
The Timemore Chestnut G1 is a thing of beauty with its modern industrial-chic design. In fact, this exact immaculately engineered manual coffee grinder that stole the prestigious Reddot design award in 2017.
Past the impressive looks, you’ll find precision-milled steel burrs produced in 5-axis CNC for high grinding efficiency. Two internal ball bearings firmly fix the central axis to ensure that the grinding burrs are both running smooth and aligned optimally.
The G1 grinder comes with an impressive selection of grind settings that are easily set to your liking with the stepped wheel.
Turning the dial clockwise will push the center burr closer to the outer burr, which in turn will set the grinder to a fine setting – turning the dial counterclockwise does the opposite, coarsening the grind.
The Timemore serves up a home run with this durable and award-winning manual burr grinder – it’s ideal for beginners and baristas alike.
Why A Hand Grinder? Can’t I Just Flick A Switch?
You could, but investing in a high-quality electric grinder that can produce uniformly ground coffee consistently isn’t going to be cheap – don’t be surprised if you have to spend more than $300 for a well-crafted machine.
If you don’t mind putting in a bit more work to grind your coffee, manual grinders are going to be fantastic value for money.
Yes, it will require more work than merely pressing the “on” button, but even the cheapest manual coffee grinder will outperform most electric grinders in the sub $100 class.
Let’s not forget that most coffee hand grinders are portable, so packing one in your luggage won’t take up too much space, and you’ll be able to make a great-tasting cup of coffee wherever you go.
Less Heat While Grinding
A problem that tends to plague electric grinders, especially those with stainless steel burrs, is excess heat produced while grinding.
This is mainly caused by friction as the coffee is ground at a high RPM (revolutions per minute).
Simply put, exposing your ground coffee to heat before brewing is bad. The slight amount of heat can dissolve the delicate and volatile aroma of the coffee, meaning they will never make it to your cup!
A Hand Crank Coffee Mills Are Very Durable
Hand-held grinders can withstand a lot of abuse and are designed for grinding through thousands of pounds of coffee with little to no upkeep apart from a regular clean.
On the other hand, electric grinders are prone to failure due to the many moving parts and electrical components.
Once broken, electric grinders are either destined for the scrap pile or a costly repair.
You can often purchase replacement parts online for hand-crank grinders and fit those yourself with little to no effort.
How Long Does A Manual Coffee Grinder Take?
For the most part, a good quality manual grinder with steel burrs will take about 60 seconds to grind roughly 20 grams of whole bean coffee.
Cheaper entry-level models that come with ceramic grinding burrs will be slightly slower, and you’re looking at around 2-3 minutes to grind the same quantity of whole bean coffee.
Also, keep in mind that the finer your coffee, the more effort you will have to put in with many more rotations of the crank.
If you are looking for a coffee grinder for espresso or Turkish coffee, opting for an electric model is highly recommended.
Remember, you’re powering the grinder, and it will take a lot of effort to grind by hand – it’s not easy!