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Good, cheap burr grinder for French press coffee?

Buckethead May 8, 2007 10:18 AM

I make coffee in a French press every morning, and it's always good, but sometimes it's much better than others. I think it's my blade grinder, the grind varies depending on how awake I am at the time, the number of seconds I grind for, whether I pulse it or not, etc. etc. I'd like to get a burr grinder, but I don't drink espresso and all the burr grinders I've seen seem geared (and priced) towards the espresso fanatic, with a multitude of incredibly fine grind settings. Is there a simple burr grinder out there with a few coarse settings for French press users?

  1. i
    interference Jun 14, 2007 10:43 AM

    I recently bought a "Breville Conical Burr Grinder" (model # BCG450XL) from Williams-Sonoma. It was $100 and I figured I would risk it with a newcomer model since they have a liberal return policy. You might also try Bed Bath and Beyond, which also has a liberal return policy, plus the ubiquitous 20% off coupon.

    The Breville is a handsome unit and does a surprisingly good job for grinds from medium-coarse to medium-fine. The conical burrs appear to be similar to those in the Solis Maestro units. I get a consistent grind with no static at all. I've found that most grinders cannot get a truly uniform very-coarse grind (the particles tend to vary in shape), but that medium-coarse with a slight shorter steep time makes excellent french press. Even a medium grind (if uniform) pressed carefully can be sludge-free.

    I just received a Gaggia Carezza for espresso, and I'm finding the Breville's limits at this point. The finest grind is just enough for a 15-second pull, and not the ideal 25 seconds. I may swap the grinder for a replacement to find a better-calibrated one. Or I may upgrade to the $200 Baratza Virtuoso, which can be manually-calibrated and seems to have excellent aftermarket support (replacement burrs available, etc.)

    However, I can definitely recommend the Breville for non-espresso applications!

    1. revsharkie Jun 13, 2007 01:30 PM

      I use a manual burr grinder--the kind with the crank on top--for my french press. I'm able to adjust the grind to where it basically just busts the beans apart, which is perfect. I spent about $45 for it several years ago in a coffee shop in Portland. Have no idea what brand or anything it might be. It looks like an antique, but it was new.

      can't imagine making french press coffee with the output of a blade grinder--you've gotta have a lot of sludge in your cup!

      1. b
        Buckethead May 30, 2007 08:40 AM

        Just thought I'd post back my experience with the Capresso Infinity, which is what I bought. It's worked well so far, but it doesn't really meet my need for more coarse grind settings. I've got it set on the coarsest possible setting right now, and it still seems a little too fine for french press use.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Buckethead
          zin1953 May 30, 2007 12:14 PM

          Sorry I missed this thread early.

          The problem with virtually ALL burr grinders -- as you have discovered -- is that they are primarily aimed towards espresso machines, not towards French Press.

          Here are some suggestions (albeit too late):

          Quick Mill http://www.chriscoffee.com/products/home/grinders/quickmillgrinder

          Even better, from Baratza http://www.chriscoffee.com/products/home/grinders/mistroplus

          And even better, also from Baratza (and under $100) http://www.chriscoffee.com/products/h...

          1. re: zin1953
            Joe Blowe May 30, 2007 01:08 PM

            As you have correctly pointed out, the QuickMill and Virtuoso are very capable grinders but are over the OP's original price point of $100 (see Buckethead's May 9 post).

            The Maestro *is* within that price point, but is no better than the Capresso Infinity as per ratings over at coffeegeek, and has quite a few slams against it regarding static issues and burr set quality...

            When it comes to coffee grinders, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

            1. re: Joe Blowe
              Buckethead May 30, 2007 01:33 PM

              It seems to me that the grinder manufacturers don't see much demand for burr grinders beyond espresso aficionados. Maybe there isn't any demand, or maybe I just picked the wrong grinder. In any event, the Infinity *does* make much better coffee than my old Braun blade grinder, and does so consistently morning after morning.

              1. re: Joe Blowe
                zin1953 May 30, 2007 01:58 PM

                I agree -- which is why I picked three (relatively) inexpensive burr grinders. But:

                a) burr grinders are definitely more expensive than blade grinders;

                b) most are difficult to adjust between the fineness required for espresso and the coarseness needed for the best French Press, unless I suppose one opts for a Ditting -- http://www.espressoparts.com/c=Pbr5EE7xzJ3asBSNfMgG7ZFuv/category/01espressomachinesgrinder.ditting_grinders/ -- or perhaps a Mahlkonig -- http://www.1st-line.com/machines/comm...

                Personally, I've got a Mazzer Mini AND a Quick Mill grinder at home, paired with my La Valentina, and at the office is my old Gaggia Classic with an MDF. That said, it's a PITA to switch from espresso grind to French Press, and the dial it back in to espresso . . .

                1. re: zin1953
                  John Manzo May 30, 2007 08:02 PM

                  Zin, the OP won't be grinding for french press and for espresso. Only french press. Even the Baratza, which I agree is a decent entry level grinder for an espresso novice, is overkill for that. I use my old Braun bottom of the line burr grinder for decaf french press and it works fine- the coarse press grind doesn't demand an expensive grinder.

                  OP, I'd say the capresso or the starbucks one would be ample for your needs.

          2. s
            Seattle Rose May 11, 2007 02:44 PM

            I have one made by Mr. Coffee (yup) that I bought years ago for around 30 or 40 bucks. It works great for French press coffee.

            1. i
              itsrob May 10, 2007 11:08 AM

              I use a $20 hand-crank ceramic burr grinder made by GSI Outdoors.


              It is a nice, fast grinder with an easily adjustable grind (there's a wing-nut on top that controls the spacing of the burrs). It has a stepped bottom that is designed for use with the GSI french presses, but I just use it over my mug or a bowl which seems more stable. It has become a pleasant part of my ritual to grind the beans while I wait for the water to boil.

              3 Replies
              1. re: itsrob
                WanderingSlade Jun 11, 2007 07:21 AM

                Hey. I just discovered this thread. I'm in a similar boat to Buckethead, except that portability is also extremely important to me. I do a lot of international travel, so non-electric grinders are much more convenient (no plug or current converters necessary!). So your GSI grinder sounds fantastic to me. But I have one question: it looks like the grinder drops the grounds directly into the French press/mug/whatever, instead of into a hopper. Yet at the link you posted, the site claims the opposite. Could you please shine some light on this matter?

                1. re: WanderingSlade
                  itsrob Jun 11, 2007 08:01 AM

                  There's no hopper on the GSI grinder. I either grind over my mug, or right into the press. When I use a filter cone, I usually grind right into the cone.

                  1. re: WanderingSlade
                    paulj Jun 11, 2007 09:00 AM

                    The GSI grinder was awkward to hold while grinding until I found a small cup that fits the base nicely. I now use an 8 oz rigid plastic storage cup to both catch the grounds and to help hold the grinder steady. It helps to sit and steady the grinder and cup in my lap. With this setup I can grind the 2 scoops for a mug of coffee in a minute and half.


                2. b
                  Buckethead May 9, 2007 07:28 AM

                  Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I should have clarified 'cheap', I'd consider under $100 to be fine if the device delivers a consistent grind day in and day out. I looked at the Antigua, and came across the Capresso Infinity, which also seems well-reviewed and not too expensive.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Buckethead
                    Joe Blowe May 10, 2007 11:58 AM

                    I have a Capresso Infinity.

                    Get one. Get one now!

                    I read every CoffeeGeek review, and Epinion and Amazon review out there on sub-$100 grinders, and the Infinity can not be beat. I use mine for AeroPress, and it would certainly do an outstanding job for french press...

                    1. re: Joe Blowe
                      Buckethead May 10, 2007 01:39 PM


                  2. j
                    Jimmy Buffet May 8, 2007 10:36 AM

                    If you buy an electric model, be prepared to spend some bucks for a good one. Pavoni makes one for about $40 which might do the trick but I don't know how good it is relative to something that might set you back the cost of many French presses.. If the Pavoni doesn't cut it, be prepared to spend over $100. However, La Pavoni is a good, established name.

                    Manual grinders might be your cup of java. I have one (a Zassenhaus) and find it OK for the occasional cup, waaay too much cranking for supporting a heavy habit. Zass suspended production awhile back due to lagging sales but I hear they are back.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Jimmy Buffet
                      ccbweb May 8, 2007 12:23 PM

                      For the consistency of the grind and the ability to set the amount of coffee to be ground with a dial that automatically turns the grinder off, we've been very happy with the model available at Starbucks for about $100 or so (I think we paid that on sale). It does have the rather ubiquitous static problem getting the ground coffee out of the recepticle. Overall, though, we've been using it daily for about 2 and a half years now and we're very pleased with it. We had a capresso model prior to this one and found that it stuck fairly regularly and was much more difficult to keep clean. It also had a tendency to walk around the counter a bit. The Starbucks model stays put.

                      1. re: Jimmy Buffet
                        Panini Guy May 9, 2007 05:31 AM

                        It really depends on your level of personal satisfaction with what you brew. It sounds like you're not the type to throw your brew out even it's not perfect. So, you're right in that there's no need blowing up the credit card.

                        I'm in the business, yet own a Lello Ariete (<$40) burr grinder because we wanted to see if we should sell them. It's not the cleanest running unit and it's LOUD, but I can adjust it for press pots, Aeropress or drip (but not quite to espresso). As it doses into a chamber, the chamber requires cleaning each time - and the chamber is an odd shape which makes getting all the grounds out more difficult than it should be - figure on wasting a little each time. OTOH, it's a short chute, so not much buildup there - a quick toweling keeps the oils from caking which helps with clumping.

                        The other issue with it is that there are built in settings (2, 4, 6, 8 cups) which bear no correlation at all to the amount of beans that actually get ground. So you'll just have to figure out the correct amount of beans/grounds on your own. Lastly, the unit is not something you'd want to take apart on a regular basis. It's all plastic. So when the burrs dull after a year or more of regular use, you'll probably just want to toss it. There are about 50 reviews on it on Amazon, average rating 3.5.

                        If you want to be more fanatical about your brew, then no $40 grinder is going to do it. You'd probably need to go up to at least $80-$90 to a Bodum Antigua at minimum. True geeks would probably scoff at the Antigua and suggest nothing less than a Santos. But we had a Clover demo in our shop and they used one of our retail Antiguas right out of the box for their demo - and you're not going to get much geekier than the Clover folks.

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