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Manual Coffee Grinder

Does anyone use a manual grinder for a press pot on a regular basis? I'm looking for a reliable way to coarse grind my coffee for under $50.

I searched this board and Googled a little, but it seems like hand cranking has typically been too labor intensive for regular use. But I'm holding out hope that new technology has changed this. Yes/no?

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  1. you might have to expand your budget a bit to get a good quality hand grinder. These have been around for a long time and seem to have staying power.

    http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.zas.p...

    1. While Sweet Marias is a good place to buy coffee, I think I could suggest an alternative link to find a grinder.

      www.orphanespresso.com

      These guys refurb and repair all the grinders, but what's morel, they actually can tell you about how they are in practice. What I mean is that they will tell you the grind variety available, the difficulty in grinding (ie. the strength required) and even how many turns of the crank it takes to grind 7 grams (one cup) of coffee. You will not find a more knowledgeable, respectable, or FAIR dealer in these products.

      /not affiliated, just a fan.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Zedeff

        thanks, Zedeff, always good to have more resources. You might also check home barista and coffee geek and chris's coffee

        1. re: Zedeff

          Interesting that orphanespresso sells the knee mill for higher cost but sweetmarias sells the original box mill for higher cost.

        2. I have one. It's not labor intensive at all. I'm a weak, 105 lb woman with skinny arms.

          2 Replies
          1. Here's one that's gotten pretty good reviews:
            www.camanocoffeemills.com up in Washington - right in your price range too!

            Or you could try your luck on ebay or your local flea markets for an old, west-german Zassenhaus grinder.

            2 Replies
            1. re: can_i_try_some

              I have had the small Camano mill for a few years. I bought a much more decorative one for my brother as a gift, but I don't think they make it anymore. The little mill with a pint jar is just perfect.

              1. re: Jane917

                I just purchased the Camano mill after learning about it on this board. I'm pleasantly surprised at how well it works - consistent grind, solid construction, an overall great buy!

            2. I bit the bullet and bought a Hario Skerton manual grinder. It's made in Japan, $50 (I probably paid a premium buying it at a Blue Bottle retail location instead of shopping around on line), and works fine. Pretty even grind for a French press. Caveat: I like my French press coffee a little finer than most people do.

              http://shop.browncoffeeco.com/product...

              PROS:
              -very easy to use and ergonomic. No difficultly grinding at all, even at its finest setting
              -the conical burr grinders are 100% ceramic
              -the entire thing is dishwasher safe, which seems crazy to me
              -very sturdy glass construction
              -rubber base stays on counter while I grind. It almost creates a suction cup effect, actually
              -no noise and no mess. I used to have an electric burr grinder. It was not only noisy, it sprayed a fine dust of coffee around its base whenever used.

              CONS
              -definitely doesn't grind fine enough for espresso
              -there aren't even numbers to denote how fine or coarse the grind will be, so there's no way to know what's going to come out of your grinder without putting some beans in. Two problems: you'll waste beans, and unless you use the same brewing method every single day you'd soon drive yourself crazy turning the little nuts and bolts trying to change between grinds. There aren't any numbers so you can't even memorize "my drip machine is 5 and my French press is 2," for example

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pei

                I had the same experience with a Zassenhaus. Great for drip grinds, but for finer grinds you need to crank a hell of a lot more per spoonful, and you can't get very close to espresso at all.

                1. re: Pei

                  Yeah, I agree with you that changing the grind size is too cumbersome to do regularly. I had to experiment with different settings, and I have left it unchanged since I found the ideal setting for my machine.

                  I'm surprised that you found the grind too coarse for espresso. I'm getting great results on my 15-bar machine, and according to Mark Prince, "it can produce a grind fine enough for a La Marzocco GS/3 espresso machine." http://coffeegeek.com/opinions/coffee...

                  In my brief experience with this mill, the Hario is best for espresso because the wobble of the inner burr is minimized at the finer grinds. The coarser the setting, the greater the wobble, and the more uneven the grind.

                2. There is no advance in technology over the high quality Peugeot or Zassenhaus burr grinders. They are labor intensive, especially on morning wake up.

                  If you want less labor, an old flywheel grinder will work. There are many appearing on eBay, but few being made now. They were developed for small grocers, who would grind you a half pound , a century ago.

                  1. Here's old technology working really well for my morning coffee: stone Quern.

                    http://www.cwtrades.com/page/1450g/St...

                    It doesn't take much muscle to grind, and can have different coarse levels, but all in the technique of the person grinding - how much to feed at first, the speed of the rotation, how often to feed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: HLing

                      Interesting. I wonder if these grinders show up in Asian markets or Chinatown? Worth looking for.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        I've not seen it anywhere in NYC's Asian markets.

                        The initial learning curve is steep (though the grinders themselves are inexpensive) as i tried to muscle my way and turn it the wrong way, and wonder if that stone smell will ever go away...etc. Now i have a large, medium and small, each for different things to grind. They are great for wet grinding as well, which opens up a brand new world in cooking.

                        But yes, definitely worth looking for.

                    2. This is a link to the grind I'm achieving with my $50 Hario hand cranked conical burr grinder. Is this considered an even grind?

                      http://www.chezpei.com/uploaded_image...

                      10 Replies
                        1. re: Pei

                          Your beans may be too brittle, from a slow roast.
                          I had a batch like that, roasted in a wok over charcoal for about 12 minutes.
                          The grind comes out very uneven, whether by Zass or KA burr.

                          1. re: jayt90

                            You might be making this more complicated then it really is. I don't believe Pei is roasting her own beans. Manual grinders are not all equal. The original Zass's are better then the current ones and some of the other brands have their own issues. The Photo showed a grind that was far to coarse for any kind of brewing. Maybe Pei could tighten up the grind a bit and post another photo. By the way, that photo was quite excellent.

                            1. re: chipman

                              My Zass is mid 20th century, and these brittle beans are the only ones it can't handle.
                              The coffee is still quite good, but 20% more has to be used. By Monday it will be gone.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                I think I enlarged the photo so much that it's completely unrealistic...will try for a better shot.

                                1. re: Pei

                                  It doesn't really have anything to do with the resizing of the image. The grinds are clearly uneven. Attached is an example of an even espresso grind.

                                  Then again, you use a French press for brewing, so you get a lot more leeway when it comes to the grind. If you were making espresso, then grind consistency would be critical.

                                  Bottom line: If you like the taste of your coffee, then you're fine. I would suggest that you play a bit with the adjustments to see if you can tell the difference in taste.

                                   
                                  1. re: can_i_try_some

                                    Oh, I definitely would not use the Hario to attempt espresso. I have tinkered with its various settings and had success with a cone filter machine and the French Press. At best I think I could use a Vietnamese filter or stovetope mokka pot. But I only use the FP on a daily basis, so this works for me.

                                    I've noticed that grinding more slowly results in a more even grind, and that as I set the grind finer I get a more even grind as well. It's perfectly serviceable for me, it's more intellectual curiosity at this point. I think next time I'm at a coffee shop I'll ask to see their FP grind.

                          2. re: Pei

                            It seems that I've neglected my other manual grinder when I got the stone grinder. I got this first one online a while back and had planned to travel with it since obviously the stone grinder would be too heavy to bring with me. This disc grinder is well-designed both for carrying and for grinding. You rotate the discs, which have 3 parts (or 4 if you add the filter) with a magnet in the center keeping it together while rotating. It has an optional filter to filter out grounds that are too fine, though that adds an inch to the body of the grinder, which without the 4th ring is about 2 inches tall. I'll let the pictures talk for themselves. Also included one picture of the grounds from the Stone Quern, which is capable of much finer grounds.

                             
                             
                             
                             
                            1. re: HLing

                              How do I get one of these? Does it have a name? How much? please.

                              1. re: vikslen

                                do a search on the folloing: 4.0" Space ALUMINUM Herb Grinder w/ Pollen Case 100mm

                                You'll find many places you can order from. Just know that for coffee bean grinding anything smaller than the 4.0" size is too small. Even with the 4 inch it's a one person portion.

                          3. I have a Toastmaster hand grinder which was cheap, but not the slightest bit consistent. It also has no setting so I have to time my grinding by verbally counting. I saw an electric burr grinder (which Alton Brown says is better for an even grind than the blade grinders) for $50 at Bed, Bath, &Beyond, and I have a 20% off coupon, so that's my next payday purchase.

                            1. Tell ya what: I'd give a lot of money for manual grinder that has a vertically-oriented handle with a good ergonomic throw.

                              I'm so very much about using manual appliances whenever possible, but the extremely expensive Zassenhaus I got years ago just absolutely sucks for easy use. I banished it to my twice-yearly decaf forays and got a nice electric model.

                              Every model I've tried with a horizontal crank is too difficult to use. I knock into my wrist and expend way, way more energy than is logical or reasonable. Your mileage my vary.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                I have one - Birchleaf - cast iron - made in London - purchased in Canada at Homesense for the bargain price of $40.00 CAD in 2005. Image below. Mine differs, it has the same size wheel on the left hand size as the right, for adjusting the grind.
                                http://www.redferret.net/Images/birch...

                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                  Hey there Michelly. I have been surching for a vertical crank coffee grinder for YEARS and just a few weeks ago, I found it. It is hand made by a family out in Oragon. I just got mine in the other day and WOW! It is everything and more. Here is the link. http://www.etsy.com/listing/35758294/... I hope this is helpful.

                                2. Anyone have anything to add? I'm starting my search for a hand-powered mill. It needs to be able to grind 3-5T of grounds at a time, and have decent leverage/ergonomics.

                                  Bonus points if there's a classic vintage model that stands out as best-in-class. I don't mind waiting/scrounging.

                                  Thanks!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    I'll reiterate Hario being a great choice. They make a few "vintage" looking models like these:

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Hario-Canister-...

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Hario-Coffee-Gr...

                                    Functionally they look to be the innards of the Skerton grinder with fancier ousides.