Grinding coffee beans by hand takes much longer than simply pushing a button, yet some coffee drinkers (myself included) prefer to use a hand grinder. What’s the attraction to hand-grinding coffee? The answer varies from person to person, and manual grinders aren’t right for everyone. Assuming the quality of two grinders is equal, however, manual coffee grinders have a number of advantages over automatic ones.
(All of the following comparisons are between manual and automatic burr grinders. We’ve previously written on why burr grinders are better than blade ones.)
MANUAL COFFEE GRINDERS DON’T HEAT UP BEANS
In theory, manual coffee grinders should produce slightly better tasting coffee than automatic grinders, because manual grinders don’t heat up coffee beans during grinding. Most automatic grinders grind at high speeds, and the friction slightly increases the coffee’s temperature for a short time. This could theoretically change the taste of the grounds.
In practice, however, the difference in taste is virtually imperceptible. Even experienced coffee professionals struggle to identify the difference, and you likely won’t notice any.
Although manual coffee grinders theoretically might produce better tasting coffee, you shouldn’t get a manual grinder for this reason. Automatic grinders are used by roasters, cuppers and baristas, and an automatic model will produce coffee that tastes just fine for you (provided you’re using freshly roasted coffee.)
HAND GRINDERS ARE SMALLER & LESS EXPENSIVE
For those with little space or money, manual grinders have clear benefits. They’re both smaller and less expensive than automatic models.
As is the case with electric grinders, manual models come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and at several different price points. A high-end manual grinder, however, will be much cheaper than a comparable automatic one, and it’ll take up less counter space. For a great manual coffee grinder, you might spend $100. An equally good automatic grinder could easily run more than $500.
HAND GRINDERS ARE QUIETER
Manual grinders are also quieter than automatic ones, because they don’t grind beans as rapidly. Grinding coffee in the same room where someone is sleeping will probably wake them up no matter what kind of coffee grinder you’re using. A manual grinder may be quiet enough to use in another room while your significant other or child is sleeping, though.
HAND GRINDERS DON’T REQUIRE ELECTRICITY
Obviously, manual grinders don’t need electricity. This may not be a significant feature if you’re making coffee at home in your kitchen, but for people who like to camp and travel, not needing electricity is a major perk. If you frequently take trips, there are several travel-sized manual grinders that make enjoying freshly ground coffee on the road (or in the woods) easy.
HAND GRINDERS ARE NOSTALGIC
Finally, manual grinders have a nostalgic appearance. Old-fashioned models are just as popular as newer designs, and older designs make great conversation starters. If you’re interested in hand grinders for their old-time look, you’ll find both new models that look old-fashioned and used models that are sometimes over 100 years old. Old models in good condition often are still very good at grinding coffee, although they may not be any less expensive than new ones that are made to look old.
HAND GRINDERS MAY NOT BE FOR YOU
In some situations, automatic coffee grinders have clear advantages over manual models. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to use a manual grinder if you need lots of coffee, don’t have time to grind by hand or are making espresso. (Espresso shots should be pulled as soon after grinding as possible, and manual grinding releases more aromas from the beans because it takes a longer to grind.)
If you’re just looking for a great cup of freshly ground coffee at home or on the road, though, manual grinders are a great choice.
OUR HAND GRINDER RECOMMENDATIONS
GETTING FRESHLY ROASTED COFFEE
Of course, coffee tastes best when it’s not just freshly ground but is also freshly roasted. If you’ve never had freshly roasted coffee, sign up to receive some of our coffee. We’ll ship it to you right after roasting, and you’ll surely taste the difference — regardless of whether you use a manual or automatic grinder.