Our list consists mostly of conical-burr grinders. In a conical grinder, coffee beans are crushed and ground between two rings of burrs. They deliver a finer, much more consistent grind than you’d get with a traditional blade grinder, even the nicest ones.
Flat-burr grinders are similar, but they’re typically more expensive. In these, the burrs are laid on top of each other, and the beans pass through them as they grind. The grinder action pushes the grounds out of one end, instead of relying on gravity like a conical-burr grinder, and the beans spend more time in contact with the burrs. This results in a more consistent grind, but for home brewers, conical-burr grinders are just as good—even if they require more maintenance and don’t result in consistent-down-to-the-micron-scale grounds.
Blade grinders have a chopping blade that spins around like a food processor. But blades don’t produce even results. Some of your coffee will be fine powder at the bottom, and at the top you’ll have bits too large for even French press. The result is an inconsistent, unpredictable brew. These grinders are cheap, and yes, using fresh beans in a blade grinder is far better than buying ground coffee. (You can learn how to shake the beans to even your grind just a little. See world barista champion James Hoffmann’s video for some more blade grinder hacks.)
If you can afford it, we highly recommend going with one of the burr grinders we’ve listed. There’s a reason why they cost a little more than a budget burr grinder. The machinery in a high-quality burr grinder is a bit more complicated, and it’s built to withstand greater wear and tear. In cheap burr grinders, the burrs will typically get blunt from regular use, and the flimsier motors may burn out with regular use in a matter of months.
PSA: Do not put preground coffee into a burr grinder. Logically, it makes sense. It’s too coarse, so you put it through again, right? No! With a burr grinder, the preground coffee gets stuck inside the burrs, and you”ll have to do some disassembly to set them to rights again.