A French press is one of three manual ways of brewing coffee, along with Chemex and Aeropress. Even though scientists debate on health benefits of the French press (1), it already has its devotees and fans.
For making the French press coffee at home, it’s best to use freshly ground beans, which means you will need a grinder.
And we’re here to help you choose among the best coffee grinders for the French press, and teach you how to pick the right one with our comprehensive buying guide right below!
Side-to-Side Comparison of Different Coffee Grinder Types
There’s a lot of things to consider when you are choosing a coffee grinder, but let’s boil down to the very essential element — the type of grinding mechanism.
Today, you can count on two types of coffee grinders — blade or burr. Burr grinders can also be made of steel or ceramic or come in a flat and conical shape, which will have its impact on the results.
So, let’s bring down each type in a side-to-side comparison!
Burr Grinder vs. Blade Grinder
The main difference is the grinding element:
Blade grinders have a propeller blade, which is very similar to a food processor cutting blade, whereas burr grinders use two revolving elements with serrated surfaces. These elements can be made of steel alloys or ceramic, and have a flat or conical shape.
So, how does it impact your drink?
Honestly, if you want the best coffee grinder, it’s more advisable to go for a burr model, and here’s why:
- They are more energy-efficient. The burrs enclose coffee beans from all sides, which results in faster grinding and requires less electricity if you use an electric grinder, and less physical effort if you choose a manual model.
- They are resistant to heat and static. Heat can alter the taste of your coffee, and static electricity makes the coffee dust go into hard-to-reach places, which adds to the cleaning time. Burr grinders are more immune to these issues than blade grinders.
- They produce even grind. Of course, if you check the beans under the microscope, you’ll notice some inconsistency, but the overall quality is much higher than with the blade grinder.
As for the blade grinders, they are great for those who only enter the world of brewing because of their lower prices. Also, they are more powerful, which means quick grinding even for the large batches of coffee beans. However, the main problem is the inconsistency of the coffee grind, which may result in a bad tasting cup. They also are more prone to heating, so it’s recommended that you use a pulsing mode for grinding instead of just holding a button until it’s done.
Conical vs. Flat Burr Grinder
Now, let’s break down two different shapes of the burr grinders.
Flat burrs have a donut-like shape with very sharp edges and locate very close to one another in the coffee grinder. This allows getting ultra-fine and more even grind, which is suitable for espresso or Turkish coffee.
However, close placement also makes flat burrs more prone to heating up, which can alter the flavor of your cup, so be sure to use pulsing mode or grind small batches of coffee beans at once.
Conical burrs, on the other hand, are the industry standard: you will find them in most coffee machines and cafeterias that specialize in alternative methods of brewing.
Conical burrs consist of two elements: a center burr that is secured inside the grinder, and the outer serrated burr that moves around the central element. Such design makes the conical burrs less prone to heating and delivers a good quality grind for most beverages.
The finer the grind, the more energy should be put into it, which means that flat burrs are typically more expensive than conical burrs. They also require more maintenance and frequent cleanings to deliver the same quality.
The French press method requires a very coarse grind (2), so if you won’t plan to purchase an espresso machine, you will be perfectly fine with a conical burr grinder.
Ceramic vs. Steel Burr Grinder
Finally, let’s break down the main differences between stainless steel and ceramic burrs because they too can have an impact on your grind and even on the flavor of your cup!
Today, most domestic coffee grinders feature ceramic burrs, and there are a few reasons for that:
- They remain sharp for longer. Ceramic burrs may feel less sharp than steel burrs, they retain their sharpness almost forever.
- They’re heat-resistant. Ceramic doesn’t conduct heat, which means that it won’t alter the flavor profile of your coffee, and you can enjoy a good cup every morning.
- They are more suitable for finer grinds. Ceramic burrs won’t accidentally scrape each other and get blunt, which means that they can grind the beans very finely.
However, ceramic burrs are also fragile, which means that if you drop your grinder, you will probably have to replace them, so be sure to handle it with caution.
Steel burrs contain chromium in most cases, which means they’re immune to corrosion and can retain their sharpness for a long time — although you will have to sharpen them eventually. As for the flavor profile, the coffee ground by steel blades will typically taste cleaner and with less mouthfeel, although that will depend on the beans.
Also, steel burrs are more prone to heating up, since all metals are perfect heat conductors, and may alter the flavor profile of your beans if you grind them for too long.
Things to Look for in a Quality Grinder for French Press
Now, choosing a proper coffee grinder based on a grinding element is a good place to start. After all, this is a thing you’ll use regularly, so it has to be quality-made.
However, there are a few more features that make a good coffee grinder, and we list them just below!
Adjustable Grind Settings
Different brewing methods require different grind. So if you plan to experiment with homemade coffee recipes, it’s better to choose a grinder with adjustable grinder settings. Most of the modern grinders — including the ones we reviewed here — allow you to make the finest grind for espresso or Turkish coffee and the very coarse grind for the French press and leave you with a lot of room for improvisation.
Ease of Cleaning
It’s recommended that you clean your grinder after every use and if you change blends, so they will have a clean flavor without stale or bitter notes.
This is a pretty frequent cleaning, so the grinder you choose should let you do it without taking too much time.
Some models include a cleaning brush that reaches deep crevices to remove coffee dust and scrub the residual oils. If your grinder doesn’t have a brush, you can just wipe it thoroughly with a paper towel and shake the dust off in the bin.
Coffee beans are pretty hard, and the grinders are equipped with a powerful motor to grind them properly. However, in most cases ‘powerful’ also means ‘noisy’, and if you or someone in your household is sensitive to noises, here’s how you can cut them:
- Choose a manual grinder. These grinders rely on your physical powers and are the quietest among the all.
- Choose the conical burr grinder. Conical burr grinders produce less noise compared to flat burrs or blade grinders because of their design.
Heat and Static Levels
Heat and static electricity not only make your user experience less comfortable but also may directly influence the taste of your coffee. Here’s how:
- Heat triggers the oil extraction and may warm the beans up unevenly, which results in the burnt notes in the flavor profile.
- Static electricity charges the coffee particles so that they begin to repel from the grinding mechanism, which results in an uneven grind and can make the flavors completely different from the advertised.
Generally, ceramic burr grinders are superior to steel blades and burrs when it comes to reducing heat and static. But if you’re looking for the cheaper alternative, choose the steel burr grinder with a pulsating mode, and don’t grind the beans for a long time.
Bean Container Capacity
There are too many factors that impact the flavors in your cup. Freshly ground coffee is usually the best, and you might feel a strong difference even after 24 hours (3).
The majority of grinders today come with an 8-oz container for the beans and a 4-oz container for the ground coffee. This amount will last you for 2-3 weeks and won’t lose all its flavor if you store it properly: in a cool dark place and inside an airtight container.
- Heidi Godman (2016, April 29). Pressed coffee is going mainstream — but should you drink it? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/pressed-coffee-going-mainstream-drink-201604299530
- Alexa Tucker (2018, October 24). The Way You Brew Your Coffee Affects Its Caffeine Levels—Here’s How. Retrieved from https://www.wellandgood.com/coffee-brewing-caffeine-connection/
- James Hoffmann (2021, January 9). How to make the perfect coffee at home? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jan/09/how-to-make-the-perfect-coffee-at-home
My name is Yurii Brown. I am a passionate coffee geek and, concurrently, a certified coffee specialist.
I’ve been learning about coffee for a long time, testing various devices and practicing in home coffee brewing. I like to share my experience and insights with fellow coffee lovers so that my readers could enjoy the real taste of quality-brewed beverages.