Best Stained Glass Grinders For Beginners. Glass grinder machine

The 4 Best Stained Glass Grinders For 2021

A quality glass grinder can be one of the most useful tools in your shop whether you’re a beginning stained glass artist or a seasoned professional. Getting the perfect shaping on a piece of glass is so satisfying, and can help improve the look and feel of any project.

That said, if you’re a complete beginner, you may want to hold off on purchasing a glass grinder until you’re sure you plan to stick with it. Glass grinders are somewhat expensive, ranging from 100. 500 or more. It’s also common for beginners to go with pre-cut glass kits, which don’t need additional shaping. Finally, there’s little a grinder has to offer that can’t be accomplished with a little bit (ok, maybe more like a lot!) of elbow grease.

Once you’re sure a glass grinder is a fit for your needs, we think it should be one of your earliest additions to your toolkit. Below, we’ll give you a quick overview of our picks for the best stained glass grinders on the market today. We’ll also go over the attributes you need to look at when choosing the right grinder for you. Finally, we’ll give an in depth review of each grinder on our list of top picks for 2020, and sum up everything we’ve learned.

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Stained Glass Grinder Reviews

Gryphon Gryphette Glass Grinder Best Entry-Level 3000 N/A 6.75″x6.75″
Inland Wiz CG Best Mid-Range 3550 30 11″x10″
Glastar All Star G8 Best High-End 3560 42 11″x13″
Glastar SuperStar II Honorable Mention 3450 19 8″x9″

Gryphon Gryphette Glass Grinder

Pros: Decent power for the price-point. Small footprint. Great for beginners.Cons: Not suitable for large jobs or sustained and heavy use.Our Rating: 4.7 / 5

The Gryphon Gryphette is our top pick for entry level glass grinder, and is fantastic for beginners. It has a small footprint, which is great if you’re short on space. The device is powerful enough for most beginners and smaller projects, and will last you for some time as you move up in experience in complexity.

The key list of features include:

  • .67 AMP DC Motor
  • 3000 RPM.
  • 6.75” X 6.75” working surface.
  • Includes standard 3 / 4” bit.
  • Standard 5 / 16” shaft accepts all standard bits.
  • 4.78 lbs unit weight.

At the entry level price point, the Gryphon Gryphette is the clear winner. It’s got enough power to get the job done until you’re moving on to bigger projects. The grinding area is for pieces up to 4-6”, if you remove the guide. One common complaint is the instruction manual can be confusing for beginners, so we recommend checking out a YouTube guide if you have problems at setup.

All in all, if you’re just getting started out or are on a tight budget, this grinder won’t let you down!!

Inland Wiz CG Glass Grinder

Pros: High RPM and decent torque, at a mid range price point.Cons: Lack of deflectors out of the box can lead to messes.Our Rating: 4.6 / 5

For more experienced artists, or those with higher budgets, our pick for best mid-range stained glass grinder is the Inland Wiz CG. It has a larger working area than the Grypette, and comes with additional torque and RPMs that’ll provide a bit more “umph” for bigger jobs. While it’s not the most powerful grinder on the marke, it does have a balance of price and power that will meet the needs of most intermediate level users.

The key list of features include:

  • 30 Oz-In torque for medium sized jobs.
  • 3550 RPM.
  • 11”x10” surface.
  • Includes 1 / 4” and 3 / 4” grinding bits.
  • 9 lbs unit weight.

If you’re serious about the art of stained glass, but don’t have professional level requirements, this is your best bet. It has solid technical specs, including power and surface area for bigger jobs than the entry level recommendation.

All in all, once you’re ready to move beyond the entry level grinders, we think this one deserves your strong consideration!

Glastar All Star G8

Pros: Huge number of practice questions and exams.Cons: Not as comprehensive as other resources on this list.Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

If you’re looking for the absolute top of the line, our hands down pick is the Glastar All Star G8. It has a whopping 42 Ounce-Inch torque, which can handle any job you can throw at it. It also boasts a massive 11×13 inch working area, and a hefty 3560 RPM.

The key list of features include:

  • 42 Oz-In torque for any size jobs.
  • 3560 RPM.
  • 11”x13” surface.
  • Includes 1” and 1 / 4” grinding bits.
  • 11.9 lbs unit weight.

It’s certainly not the cheapest unit out there, but considering the excellent list of specs, it’s still a fantastic value if you’re in need of a top end model.

If you’re ready to take the plunge on a top end unit, the All Star G8 should definitely be it. It also has an amazing number of additional features, top of the line cooling, and everything a professional needs. Consider making this unit the last stained glass grinder you ever need to buy.

Glastar SuperStar II

Pros: Great Mid-Range speed, size, and power.Cons: Less max power than our pick for best mid-range grinder.Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Our last pick didn’t quite take the top spot in any of our categories, but we felt it deserved a nod due to it’s popularity. The Glastar SuperStar II is a Mid-Range glass grinder from the same brand as our top pick in the high-end class. It has an excellent 3450 RPM, a sizable 8×9 inch grinding space, and plenty of great features.

The key list of features include:

  • 19 Oz-In torque for any size jobs.
  • 3450 RPM.
  • 8”x9” surface.
  • Includes 3 / 4” and 1 / 4” grinding bits.
  • 7.3 lbs unit weight.

The reason we didn’t pick this as our top mid-range entry boils down to 1 thing… torque! It’s got a respectable 19 Oz-In motor, but doesn’t quite compete with the 30 oz-in of our top mid-range pick. That said, if you’re a big fan of the brand, or just looking for an alternative mid-range grinder, this is still a fantastic unit that won’t disappoint.

Stained Glass Grinder Buyer’s Guide

You’ll find a pretty broad range of when looking at stained glass grinders. So what’s the difference between them? What makes them a value? The main attributes you need to keep in mind are:

  • Torque: The force with which the grinder bit spins.
  • Speed: The rate with which the grinder bit spins.
  • Size: The area of the grinding table and the device itself.
  • Cooling: The method for keeping the bit cool.
  • Safety: Features which help protect the operator.
  • Accessories: Supplemental items like grinder bits, drawers, foot pedals, etc.
  • Motor Noise: The amount of noise a particular motor makes.
  • Price: How much the grinder costs!


Torque is the amount of force with which the grinder bit spins. A grinder which has lots of power is capable of maintaining the bit’s speed when load is applied (i.e. it’s grinding a piece) better than one with low power. The ability to maintain that speed is important to ensure fast, high quality work.

Glass grinder torque is measured and expressed in “inch-ounces”, and values typically range from 10-50 (higher is better). Generally, torque values can be categorized as:

This is one of the most important attributes to consider when you look for a grinder, and a general rule of thumb is to buy the one with the highest inch-ounces you can afford.


The speed (measure in “revolutions per minute” or RPM) is another important attribute to consider when choosing the best glass grinder for you. Higher speed grinders (with high torque) are able to perform their work quickly, with less effort on your part. Higher speeds also help to give a smoother finish to your edges, and more precise shaping.

Glass grinder speeds (in RPM) generally range from around 3000 to 3700. Higher values are better, a general categorization is:

For intermediate and professional glass artists, speed should be weighed heavily when making you purchase decisions.


The size of the device itself and the surface area should also be considered when choosing a glass grinder. Device dimensions will affect where you are able to store and operate the grinder. Choose a size that fits your space!

The other key factor is the working area (or table) size. If you’re grinding on large pieces of glass, you will need the space to accommodate it. If you do primarily small pieces, the extra table space can get in the way. Some units come with changeable tables of various sizes, which may suit your needs if you don’t stick to one size all the time.


It’s important when working with high friction processes like glass grinding, to keep the parts (both the grinder and the piece being worked on) cool. Most stained glass grinders use a reservoir containing water or other cooling liquid, fed through a sponge up to the grinding head. Others use a pump or other method to deliver clean water up to the bit without a sponge.


As you can imagine, pressing pieces of glass up against high speed grinder bits can be a dangerous activity. While you should always wear protective eyewear, hand protection, and clothing, some grinders also come with additional safety features like:

  • Eye and face shields.
  • Fast acting electrical fuses.
  • Cooling and dust collection features.

Stained Glass making is not without its dangers, and you should strongly consider the extra value in strong safety features when you pick a grinder.


Most grinders have a wide array of accessories available or included at purchase. One of the most important accessories to consider are the grinding bits. High end bits can be quite expensive, and the size of the shaft the grinder accepts will determine which bits you’re able to use.

As mentioned above, other types of accessories include swappable tables, face shields, drawers to hold your bits and other items, and so on.

Motor Noise

Different types of motors, the speed they’re operating at, and power generated can all impact the amount of noise a grinder makes while operating. If you’re working in an enclosed space like an apartment, this can be a major consideration you should account for.

Most glass grinder motors are DC powered, and the higher end models tend to be more noisy due to their increased speed and power. There are exceptions to this rule, where low end devices have poorly muffled or cheaper motors that are noisier even at lower speeds.

We generally don’t advise making noise the deciding factor in a purchasing decision. Investing in a pair of earplugs is generally a good alternative if you have sensitive ears.


Finally, price is the key factor in determining whether a particular grinder is a value for you and your unique needs. A quality glass grinder isn’t cheap! range from 100 on the entry-level end, to 300 or more at the high end.

All grinders at a similar price point are not created equal. Using the above considerations, you can easily figure out what the best grinder for your budget is. To recap our rules of thumb:

  • Priority 1: get the most torque you can afford.
  • Priority 2: get the most speed you can afford.
  • Priority 3: get the one with the additional features and accessories you think are useful.

Conclusions: What’s The Best Stained Glass Grinder For You?

We’ve covered a ton of great info about what makes a stained glass grinder stand out above the rest. We’ve given our top recommendations for various price-points in the stained glass grinder market as of 2019. To recap:

The Best Entry Level Grinder:

The Best Mid-Range Grinder:

The Best High-End Grinder:

Honorable Mention (Mid-Range):

Gryphon Gryphette
Inland Wiz CG
Glastar All Star G8
Glastar SuperStar II

Ultimately, only you can decide which (if any) grinder is the best for your circumstances.

If you’re a novice stained glass worker, or on a tight budget, the Entry Level Gryphon Gryphette is a blend of low price and decent specs that will suit your needs for smaller projects and light use.

For intermediate level work, Inland Wiz CG has some impressive speed and power with a great working area suitable for bigger jobs. Mid range tend to be about 50% more than the entry level units, which is a decent value for the performance increase offered.

At the absolute top of the line level, our pick is the Glastar All Star G8. It has a tremendous amount of power and features, which will perform well on even the toughest jobs.

Finally, we mentioned the Glastar SuperStar II as another great mid-range unit with decent specs and popularity overall.

Remember, weigh your budget against the important performance specs (torque above all… and then speed), and pick the best one for your needs. Good luck, and go create something amazing!

Best Stained Glass Grinders For Beginners

But if you are making stained glass Windows or another form of glass art it’s crucial to make pieces of exactly the same size.

You can get roughly the right shape by using a diamond cutter. But you will need a glass grinder if you want smooth edges or need to small changes to individual pieces.

Is this your first time buying a glass grinder?

Then keep reading to learn everything you need to know before purchase.

Best grinders for stained glass

1 Glastar All Star 8 – Best glass grinder

Glaster is a popular brand when it comes to glass grinders. And their All Star 8 model in particular has been popular among both beginners and professionals.

It has many special features that you can’t find anywhere else that will make your life much easier.

Let’s start with the motor which has 42 ounce per inch of torque, resulting in an RPM of 3560. While at the same time producing minimal noise.

over, the the All Star 8 has a bigger working area compared to most other models. Thanks to this 11″x13″ work surface, you will be able to work on both small and big projects.

Most high-end stained glass grinders will come with a range of bonus features. And the All Star 8 is not exception.

It comes with an scratch resistant shield to keep your eyes safe, an accessory drawer to easily store all your extra bits, and a coolant drain to speed up your workflow.

The 5-year warranty also lets you buy with confidence and shows that Glastar stands behind their products.

It isn’t hard to see why the All Star 8 is a great grinder for stained glass. It gets high grades in all the important categories and even comes with a ton of extras.

While at the same time it’s only slightly more expensive than mid-range glass grinders. If you are able to invest money in a stained glass grinder, this model would be ideal.

2 Gryphon Gryphette – Cheap glass grinder

It’s not always possible to buy the best grinder. Especially if you are living on a tight budget or if you are hesitant to invest too much in a new hobby.

Don’t worry, there are cheap glass grinders available as well. However, if you choose one of these you shouldn’t expect stellar performance.

Yes, they will grind your glass, but the motor will be weaker, the size will be smaller, and there will be little to no extra features.

However, if that is what you are looking for, then the affordable Gryphon Gryphette is a good choice.

Gryphon is well known as a brand for producing great grinders. And with the Gryphette they managed to combine good performance with a low price.

The motor is 0.67 amp and goes up to 3000 RPM. Not the most impressive specs but it works. Although grinding might take a little longer than models with stronger motors.

The work surface is admittedly a little small (6.75″x6.75″). This makes a pretty difficult to work on bigger pieces of glass and can be uncomfortable for people with big hands.

However, since most beginners work on small projects the size doesn’t have to be a huge disadvantage.

People short on space might actually see it as an advantage. The combination of small size and light weight (only 6 pounds!) makes the Gryphette very easy to store or travel with.

All in all, the Gryphette is maybe not the most impressive performance wise, but offers great value for money. If you want a basic stained glass grinder without all the bells and whistles, the Gryphette is for you.

3 Glastar Super Star II – Honorable mention

The Super Star II is another solid stained glass grinder by Glastar.

This model is considered to be Glastar’s entry-level option.

Its specs are less impressive than the All Star 8. However, most beginners might not really notice the difference in performance.

With a torque of 19 ounce per inch, the motor isn’t as powerful as professional grinders. However, the motor is pretty quiet and the grinder can reach up to 3450 RPM.

over, the work area is 8″x9″ in size, which is enough for most beginners.

Although the the Super Star II is considered to be an entry-level product, it still comes with many of the same features as the All Star G8.

There is a useful cooling drain, and accessory drawer to keep all your drill bits safe, and a splash-guard that will keep your room clean.

Both in terms of performance and price, the Super Star II falls between the All Star G8 and Gryphette. It is a good option both for people who are just starting out and hobbyists with more experience underneath their belt.

4 Gryphon convertible grinder

At first glance the Gryphon Convertible grinder doesn’t look very different from it’s competitors.

However, this particular model has one trick up it’s sleeve that you won’t find anywhere else.

The secret can be found in the base.

By simply rotating the base you can change the grinding surface from a horizontal to an inclined position.

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This might not sound very impressive, but tit makes a huge difference. This simple feature lets you grind while either standing or sitting. And using the inclined surface is more comfortable and less fatiguing.

So for people working on their glass grinder for long stretches at a time the Gryphon Convertible is great.

The engine has an impressive torque of 67 ounce per inch, which is even higher than the Glastar glass grinders. However, the Gryphon convertible grinder only goes up to an RPM of 3000, which isn’t as high as I was hoping for.

In terms of size, the Gryphon convertible glass grinder is quite big. With a working area of 13.5″x10.5″, it is comparable to the Glastar All Star 8.

It also comes with some basic features such as a protective face shield, electric pump for fast cooling, and 2 different sized grinding bits.

Compared to the other stained glass grinders mentioned on this list, the Gryphon convertible is definitely the most comfortable to work. So if you need to work with a glass grinder for long stretches at a time, you should consider buying this grinder.

5 Inland Wiz CG stained glass grinder

The Inland Wiz CG grinder is a bit of a hit or miss for people. It has some clear pros and cons, so you need to know what you are looking for.

In terms of power it’s quite impressive, going as fast as 3550 RPM with 30 ounce per inch of torque. Which comes close to the All Star G8.

So you hardly have to put pressure on the grinder head to get smooth edges.

over, since the top tray can come off completely, it’s super easy to clean the reservoir. Which can save you a lot of time between projects.

However, the lack of any bonus features that you can expect from most high-end grinders can be a big drawback for some people.

For example, since there is no splash guard dirty water can spray anywhere. So don’t use this grinder inside your house without extra precautions.

It also doesn’t come with a face shield. So to keep yourself safe you will have to use a pair of protective goggles.

In short, the motor of this Inland grinder a respectable punch. But some corners were cut to keep the price low which might make it less enjoyable to work with.

However, if you want a powerful stained glass grinder for little money, this model will be exactly what you want.

Buyer’s guide: how to choose a glass grinder

Buying a glass grinder for the first time really doesn’t need to be difficult

If you are looking for the best glass grinder, go with the All Star G8.

If you are on a low budget and are ok with a cheap grinder with no extras, then the Gryphette is a good option.

Any of the other grinders mentioned above will get you something in between those two.

But I know what you are thinking.

You don’t just want some generic advice on the best stained glass grinders. You want to know which one is the best for you specifically.

If that’s the case, you will have to keep the following factors in mind.

Rotations per minute (RPM)

The RPM indicates how fast the grinder is spinning. Most grinders will have an RPM between 2800 and 3600.

In general, the higher the RPM the better. Since it will help smooth the glass edges and remove excess material.

However, if you want a good indication of performance you always want to look at the RPM and the torque together.


The torque indicates how powerful a grinder is and how fast it can keep rotating even when in contact with the stained glass. Normally the torque is measured in ounces per inch.

Surface area

When talking about the surface area we mean the area on which you lay your glass pieces while grinding (also known as the table).

Ideally you want to small surface area if you are working with small glass pieces, and a big area if you are working with bigger glass pieces.

So most professional will have glass grinders in several sizes or a model that can change the surface area.

However, if you are only buying a single glass grinder, I would advise you to go for a model with a big surface area.


One of the main differences between average and great glass grinders is the accessories that come with them.

Having the right accessories can make working with a glass grinder much easier, faster, and safer.

Some examples of common accessories include:

  • Extra grinder bits
  • Face shield
  • Foot pedal
  • Multiple tables

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Model: DG-12, Flat Lap Grinder

Denver Glass Machinery has developed a diamond grinding system that eliminates the need for several separate grinding wheels. Our interchangeable magnetic discs allow the operator to go from rough grind to a final polish with one machine. Obtain true flat surfaces, seam edges and bevel large pieces of glass. Results can be fully controlled by selecting the correct abrasive and the right amount of water with the desired rpm’s to achieve the finish that is needed.

Model: DG-12, Flat Lap Grinder

The DG-12 Flat Lap Grinder features a 1/3 horsepower, constant torque SCR controlled, variable speed motor. The 12″ (30.5cm) lap plate is precision balanced to run smoothly at high rpm’s. Adjustable water spray nozzle for complete control. The splash tray is made of stainless steel with a removable rubber splashguard. Comes with a magnet pad so you can use either magnet backed or metal backed grinding discs. Choose either our metal backed electrplated diamond discs or the 3M brand magnet backed bonded (sintered) diamond discs.

Dimensions 16″ (56cm). Length 18″ (61cm)- Width 41″ (104cm)- Height
Specifications Motor: 1/3 h.p. Voltage: 115V/230V, Single Phase Amperage: 3.5 / 1.9 amps Speed: 0-1200 rpm Hertz: 50/60

Standard crating fee is 300.00.Price does not include shipping.

Diamond Lap Grinders are available in foreign voltages; please contact us with your requirements.

Discs are metal backed to hold tight to the magnet pad provided with your flat lap grinder. Available in 12″ (30.5cm) and 18″ (46cm) diameters for use on our DG-12 and DG-18 diamond lap grinding machines. Available in mesh sizes to go from rough grind to pre-polish with any type of work. For example, the 60 mesh disc is very aggressive and is designed to remove large quantities of material. Good for casted sculptural work where large amounts of glass need to be removed. For most applications you would start with the 120 mesh disc and go to 200 mesh, then the 400 mesh and 800 mesh followed by the felt pad with cerium oxide for the final polish. Call our expert sales team for advice on which pads to use for your particular application.

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Electroplated Diamond Discs

The electroplated diamond discs are an economical alternative to the bonded 3M product. These metal-backed discs are coated with high quality industrial diamond.

12″ (30.5cm) diameter 60 mesh 230.00 120 mesh 200.00 200 mesh 160.00 400 mesh 150.00 800 mesh 140.00

3M Magnetic Flexible Diamond Discs

The 3M discs are a sintered (bonded) diamond on a flexible magnet backed disc that will last up to six times longer than the standard electroplated discs. They are the perfect choice for studios that do a large volume of grinding.

12″ (30.5cm) diameter 60 mesh 600.00 120 mesh 525.00 200 mesh 475.00 400 mesh 395.00 800 mesh 395.00 1800 mesh 395.00

Magnet Pads

Replacement magnet pads for the electroplated metal backed discs

12″ Perforated Felt Pad 78.00


High performance polishing powder. Polishes fast and yields consistently bright finishes with both synthetic and natural felt wheels.

Due to fluctuations in the cerium market, vary. Please call for current pricing.

Please inquire: E-mail,, or call: Ph. 303 781-0980 / fax. 303 781-9067

We Tested 14 Coffee Grinders—Here Are the Best Ones

Our top picks include the Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder and OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder.

Daniel joined the Serious Eats culinary team in 2014 and writes recipes, equipment reviews, articles on cooking techniques. Prior to that he was a food editor at Food Wine magazine, and the staff writer for Time Out New York’s restaurant and bars section.

Straight to the Point

Our favorite coffee grinder for serious coffee geeks who want a lot of control over grind size is the Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder (we also liked the Breville Smart Grinder Pro and the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder, as a less expensive option). For those looking for a more straightforward burr grinder with fewer grind settings, the OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder will serve most people well. And for about 50, the Krups Precision Grinder is our super-budget pick. We also recently reviewed the Fellow Ode Gen 2 and, while pricey, we really liked it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a coffee pro say that the single biggest upgrade a person can make at home is to buy a good-quality burr grinder. Less often have I seen other suggestions, like buying a better coffeemaker, learning the ins and outs of brewing, and developing a better sense of one’s own coffee-bean preferences. The grinder recommendation is so common that it invaded my brain, eventually anchoring itself deep in the part responsible for consumerist behavior.

Unable to afford the types of expensive grinders that are always recommended, I did what any scheming compulsive shopper would do: I spent years saving up the unsolicited 25 Starbucks gift cards I received as Christmas stocking stuffers each December. It took about six years before the grinder was within reach, including two very sad years when I believed I had lost four of the cards followed by a bright and shiny day when I found those cards. It culminated in five euphoric minutes visiting Starbucks’ online coffee gear store to order the Baratza Virtuoso I’d been saving to get.

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I’ve been very happy with that grinder. It’s allowed me to tinker with my coffee brews, which is something I enjoy doing, and I’m certain I make better coffee as a result. But the question has always lingered: Would every home-brewed coffee drinker really benefit from an expensive grinder? Is that advice truly as universal as so many baristas have made it seem?

So I set out with two objectives for this review. The first is the obvious one: Find the best coffee grinder for the kinds of brewing methods most people do at home, like pour-over, automatic-drip, French press, and AeroPress. But I also wanted to explore whether the “best” grinder is a more relative term than pros often acknowledge. Pros know their subject better than anyone, but—and I say this as someone who can be guilty of it on the cooking side—are often too deep in the details to remember that not everyone notices them or even cares to.

I’ll tell you now my research indicates that not every coffee drinker should splurge on the “best” grinder, and a big part of getting the right grinder is going to depend on knowing what kind of coffee drinker you are. This also means that I’m recommending an unusually large number of products, several of which overlap quite a bit in terms of what they do and how well they do it but differ in price and quality to some degree.

Here are my grinder recommendations, which I arrived at with the input of coffee-making professionals and coffee-drinking civilians. The team at Joe Coffee Company was invaluable in helping me run grinder taste tests and analyses, and conversations with Steve Rhinehart of Prima Coffee Equipment and Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters helped deepen my understanding of this piece of coffee gear and the technical details that underpin its use.

Here, too, is a guide to when and where a grinder really matters. Take note, though, that one thing this review is not is a thorough exploration of grinders for espresso—I’ll explain why below.

Editor’s Note

We recently tested the Fellow Ode Gen 2 grinder, an updated version of the grinder we previously tested, and added it as another winner. We also tested coffee grinders from OXO, Capresso, and Zwilling (which weren’t available at the time of our original testing). We’ve added our thoughts on each of these newer models to the bottom of this page. It’s also worth noting that when we initially published this review, our overall top coffee grinder was the Baratza Virtuoso, which has since been replaced by the Virtuoso. It’s comparable, performance-wise, to the Virtuoso, but has a digital display and a 40-second timer.

The Best Coffee Grinder for Serious Coffee Geeks

Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

Baratza’s Virtuoso coffee grinder is routinely picked by pros as the home grinder to beat, and for good reason. Its well-made conical burrs produce a wide range of grind sizes, the results are consistent, the machine is solidly built from both metal and plastic, and it’s all backed up by good customer service. I don’t love taking apart and reassembling the burr set for cleaning, as it isn’t intuitive enough, but beyond that, this is the grinder to get for serious home-brewed coffee drinkers looking to maximize control over grind size.

Best For: Folks who are well-acquainted with concepts like flow rate, brew time, and extraction level; who use scales to measure everything and know their bean-to-water ratio by weight; who prefer light to medium roasts that present more of a bean’s inherent flavors; and who usually drink their coffee black.

Alternate Best Coffee Grinder Pick

Breville The Smart Grinder Pro

Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro also performed very well in our tests, and it’s worth considering since it costs less than our other top pick, the Baratza Virtuoso. Its grind trends finer than the Virtuoso. Even at its coarsest setting, the results were closer to the medium grind that other machines produced. That potentially makes it less well-suited to making French press and cold brew, but it’ll perform well for most other brewing methods and can even function as an entry-level espresso grinder—something few other home coffee grinders can do.

Best For: The same people who would buy the Virtuoso, but those who are less likely to make press pots or cold brew, and those who may want to casually play with pulling espresso shots.

The Best Budget Coffee Grinder for Coffee Geeks

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

There’s a lot to be said for Baratza’s entry-level Encore grinder, which comes in a lighter-weight, all-plastic housing. It packs the same motor as the more expensive Virtuoso, and it includes a slightly less effective burr set that grinds nearly as well as—and slightly more slowly than—the Virtuoso. Also worth knowing is you can upgrade the burr set in the Encore to the one made for the Virtuoso if you do ever end up feeling like the Encore isn’t quite cutting it.

Best For: Anyone considering the Virtuoso but who’s not quite ready to pay the higher price tag.

The Best Coffee Grinder for Most People

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

Like many of OXO’s products, its burr grinder’s design is simple and intuitive. Even more importantly, it delivers excellent grind consistency given its price tag. This is about as inexpensive as a burr grinder gets before the grind quality really starts to fall off, making it a good starter grinder for most home-brewed coffee drinkers.

Best For: Any coffee drinker who wants more control and a chance to experiment with grind sizes; who wants to begin to explore some of the more detailed coffee-brewing concepts without a huge cost of entry; who likes a good cup but maybe isn’t 100% clear on what terms like TDS (total dissolved solids), acidity, and sweetness mean (at least when discussing a cup of joe).

The Best Super-Budget Burr Grinder

Krups Precision Coffee Grinder

If the price points of our favorite grinders make them an out-of-the-question proposition, and if you’d like to stop using a blade grinder to chop up your beans (after all, it does kinda suck when your coffee tastes like the cumin you also blitzed in there), you can’t beat the price on this Krups model. Its grind is inconsistent, and its build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but you get what you pay for. On the upside, even with the inconsistent grind, you’ll still have more control over your grind size than you would using a blade grinder, and for many people, that’s all that matters.

Best For: Coffee drinkers who tend to buy dark roasts and/or drink their coffee with dairy or sugar; those who want to grind whole beans for fresher flavor and are sick of having to do it in the spice grinder.

The Best Design-Forward Coffee Grinder

Fellow Ode Gen 2 Coffee Grinder

After a lukewarm reception for their first coffee grinder, Fellow re-tooled the anti-static system and overhauled the burr design for the Gen 2 Ode. This version featured some of the most consistent grinding in our testing, great user interface details (like a grind chart under the lid), and virtually no static cling—all in a stylish, small format.

Best For: People who want counter appeal and ease of use and are willing to pay for it. The Ode Gen 2 delivers high-quality grinding and a great user experience while its modern design and small stature look great on most counters.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Coffee Grinder

To understand the importance of a good coffee grinder, you need to have a basic understanding of what happens when coffee is made. Generally speaking, when we brew coffee, our goal is to extract a sufficient amount of desirable soluble molecules from the beans while leaving the undesirable ones behind.

If we don’t extract enough of what we want from a bean, the resulting coffee will taste “underextracted.” Underextracted coffee is not necessarily weak coffee. Rather, it’s coffee in which an insufficient amount of the desirable soluble molecules have been pulled out of the beans and dissolved into the water. If you brew a high ratio of coffee beans in water but underextract them, you could end up with coffee that is both strong and underextracted, a seemingly contradictory concept. Underextracted coffees tend to taste more sour—and not in a good way.

Overextracted coffees, on the other hand, have pulled too much from the beans, including unpleasant things we don’t want in the cup. Those coffees often taste harsh and bitter. And just like the seemingly antithetical possibility of a strong underextracted coffee, you can have a weak overextracted coffee, say, by brewing a small amount of coffee relative to the water for too long.

It should go without saying that you can also have weak underextracted coffees, strong overextracted ones, and everything in between.

A grinder plays a pivotal role in coffee extraction because it determines the grind size of the coffee. Grind size can affect extraction in two ways. The first is perhaps the most obvious one: Finely ground coffee has far more surface area than coarsely ground coffee, and that increased surface area makes what’s in the beans more immediately accessible to the hot water, speeding up the rate of extraction.

The second thing the grind size determines is the flow rate for certain methods of coffee brewing, such as pour-over, which, in turn, affects extraction levels. The smaller the coffee particles, the more slowly water can seep down through them; the larger the coffee particles, the faster. If you imagine two pipes, one of which is packed with sand and one that’s packed with marbles, and you poured water through each, the water would pass much more quickly through the marbles than the sand, given all the empty space around them. With coffee, the water traveling more slowly through the finer grounds has more time to extract coffee molecules, while the water racing through a coarsely ground coffee will have less time.

Exactly how coarse or fine to grind coffee depends on a complex set of factors, including the batch size, the brewing method, and the coffee beans themselves. It’s a moving target and therefore takes some practice to begin to understand how to use grind size to improve your coffee.

As you are probably starting to see, given how grind size can determine surface area and flow rate, and thus extraction, a grinder that offers a wide range of grind sizes and produces a uniformly sized result at each grind setting is desirable. The idea is that if a grinder produces coffee grounds that have too much variance in size for any given grind setting, results become increasingly difficult to control. A setting that’s meant to produce a medium grind but instead gives that medium grind littered with fine powder and too-big chunks, may under- or overextract, or both. At least, that’s the theory.

Exactly how uniform coffee grounds need to be is open for debate, and it’s something professionals in the coffee industry continue to explore. If we can say one thing with certainty, it’s that we want a grinder that helps us produce a cup of coffee that we consider enjoyable and delicious. As Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee pointed out in a conversation I had with him a few years ago: The challenge is finding agreement about what that means.

Cho told me he’d done a taste test some years before our conversation, and that even coffee professionals were all over the place in terms of their preferences. “No one has to learn to like strawberries,” Cho said at the time. “Whereas with coffee or beer, the things that contain bitterness, it’s an acquired taste—so what kind of taste you acquire is everything.”

Before diving into my review of coffee grinders, I decided to explore this question a little more deeply.

Do You Really Need a Good Burr Grinder?

My first grinder tests go back a couple of years. I wanted to get some data, and my initial results left the question unresolved. In those tests, I pitted one of our favorite blade grinders (technically, it’s a spice grinder, but lots of people use them for coffee) against an inexpensive burr grinder (the Cuisinart DBM-8) and a higher-end burr grinder (Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro). I used a Clever coffee dripper in those tests, which was a brewer that made it easier to control some key variables. All samples were tasted blind by my colleagues.

In each of those tests, tasters preferred the coffee made by the higher-end grinder more than the other two, and the blade grinder came in last for most people, but we were all surprised to find that the differences weren’t particularly striking—certainly not different enough to support the common recommendation that most home-brewed coffee drinkers should pay for a really good burr grinder. Yes, there was a difference, but if we didn’t have the benefit of side-by-side tastings, we weren’t sure we’d have been able to easily tell them apart.

Fast-forward to this year, when I finally decided to return to this question while working on this review. I headed over to the Joe Coffee Company Pro Shop, where Christopher Malarick, who also worked with us on our automatic coffee brewer review, helped me run a new round of tests.

This time we assembled a tasting panel that included two professionals (Malarick and a Joe Coffee colleague) along with four civilian tasters who represented a range of coffee-drinking expertise and preferences.

For this test, we used four different grinders, each representing a different class. A Krups blade spice grinder represented the type of grinder usually frowned upon by professionals; a Krups GX5000 burr grinder, which retails for about 30, represented the absolute cheapest of burr grinder options; the Baratza Virtuoso was our representative high-end home grinder; and a pro-level Mahlkonig EK-43, which is famed for its consistent grind quality and sells for nearly 3,000, acted as the crème de la crème against which all the other grinders were compared.

Malarick did all the brewing on a Kalita Wave pour-over brewer, which is prized for its consistency, and we tasted all samples blind.

We ran this test two times, using two different roast profiles. The first one was a Joe’s blend called The Waverly, which combines Peruvian and Colombian beans with a medium roast profile. The second was a very, very dark Italian roast from Starbucks. The results shed more light on the complexity of how drinkers perceive coffee and how the grinder can affect that perception.

With the medium roasted beans, the tallied results put the grinders more or less in order of quality, with the EK-43 in first place and the blade grinder in last place. But not everyone agreed. One of the pros rated the blade grinder in the middle of the pack, and the other pro, who admitted later he wasn’t a huge fan of the Waverly blend, had an inverted list, with the blade grinder his favorite and the EK-43 his least favorite. In light of his opinion on the blend, this starts to make sense: the EK-43 created the truest expression of the coffee, which he didn’t love, while the blade grinder produced a less clear expression of the beans, which worked for him—the less he could taste of the coffee’s nuances, the better.

Among the civilian tasters, one picked the two cheapest grinders—the blade grinder and budget Krups burr grinder—as his favorites and the coffees from the higher-end grinders as his least favorite. His tasting notes seem to indicate that he wasn’t the biggest fan of this coffee either, and so, perhaps like the pro, he valued the grinders that obscured the coffee’s full flavor. The remaining civilians ranked the coffees as one might expect, with the better grinders tending to get higher scores.

But things took an interesting twist when we switched to the dark Starbucks roast. Rankings became scattered, with no clear pattern, except that the EK-43 got consistently bad scores. A couple tasters had a hard time ranking the coffees at all, handing out ties and noting that it was difficult to tell the samples apart. Others did their best to rank the results, but all agreed afterward that the differences were incredibly difficult to notice, even in side-by-side tastings. The oft-maligned blade grinder came out toward the top on a couple tasting sheets, including in both of the professionals’ assessments (they each ranked it the second-best tasting coffee of the bunch).

What does this tell us? Mostly, it tells us that the preferences of the individual taster matter a lot and that the coffee itself has a significant role in determining whether a grinder’s uniformity of grind matters much or not. The darker the roast, the less the grinder’s quality seems to matter. If anything, the uniformly sized grounds produced by the better grinders seemed to be a bad thing for the dark roast, bringing some of the harsher charred flavors to the fore.

This makes some sense when you consider that the more deeply a coffee is roasted, the more it loses its original flavors and takes on a more generic roasty profile. A dark roast is not unlike oak in wine or hops in beer—it’s an equalizer of sorts, erasing some of a bean’s natural flavor, covering up flaws, and pushing the product’s overall flavor in one very particular direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lessen the effect that grind uniformity, and therefore the grinder itself, can have.

The lesson here is that coffee drinkers need to know what their preferences are in order to make an informed decision about which grinder to buy.

Do they prefer medium and lighter roasts that try to preserve the original character of the bean? Do they drink the coffee black instead of adding ingredients like milk and sugar, which can mask flavors and soften the harsh edges of darkly roasted beans? Or do they like a dark roast, maybe with a splash of cream or a bit of sweetener? Answers to these questions will determine which burr grinder is right for them or even if a blade grinder will suffice.

The Testing

The above taste tests were very helpful in constructing a more complex picture of just how much and when a grinder truly matters. With that information helping to inform us, the next step was to analyze each grinder, looking at both the range of grind sizes each machine offered as well as how uniform the grinds were. We could then see how each grinder related to the others in terms of quality and price and make recommendations.

Test 1: Grind Screening

To determine grind uniformity and range, we ran each grinder at its coarsest, middle, and finest settings and analyzed the results. We used a Kruve sifter system to sort and analyze the grinds.

Before running these tests, I called up Steve Rhinehart of Prima Coffee Equipment in Louisville, Kentucky, to get some of his wisdom on grinders. According to Rhinehart, ideal grind sizes fall roughly as follows: 1,000 microns and larger for French press; 600 to 800 microns are the most common sizes for most other home-brewing methods like pour-over; grinds for AeroPress and moka pots often fall in the 400 to 600 micron range; espresso is usually around 300 to 400 microns. Anything ground smaller than that is referred to as “fines” and is considered undesirable, as it will overextract quickly and clog filters.

Those numbers line up with the filter screen sizes Malarick used to separate our samples into groupings, cutting each into three groups: smaller than 400 microns (essentially an espresso grind and fines); between 400 and 1,000 microns (the range most useful for home coffee-making methods); and larger than 1,000 microns, for French press and such.

Since the 400 to 1,000 microns is still quite a large range, we did a visual assessment to see roughly how consistent and how large the grinds seemed to be within that range.

Test 2: Taste Tests

In addition to all of the rounds of taste tests described above, we also ran our finalists through more rigorous tests. This included grinding several varieties of beans from different roasters and brewing coffee dozens of times, and using different brewing methods to get used to the machines to develop a sense of how easy they are to dial in our preferences and otherwise assess real-world results.

Test 3: Design Quality Assessment

Throughout testing, we examined the build quality of each machine, its ease of use, loudness, and other design factors and weighed those in our final decisions of which grinders to recommend.

Test 4: Quick Espresso Test

This review deliberately did not take a close look at espresso. As just about any professional barista will tell you, home grinders at this price point are generally not considered up to par for pulling good espresso shots, largely due to a lack of fine-tune settings to truly dial a shot in.

Unfortunately, espresso is a more expensive brewing method to get into at home, and grinders that are made for it tend to cost quite a bit more, starting at several hundred dollars and climbing up into the thousands. Probably the most affordable and well-regarded espresso grinder for home use is the Sette series made by Baratza.

Still, after we’d narrowed the field of grinders in this test down to the final set, I thought it’d be fun to at least try them for espresso, and the folks at Joe were kind enough to humor me. We didn’t try to pull shots with any but the top performers—the Baratza Virtuoso and the Breville Smart Grinder—starting each at its finest setting just to see what would happen.

What we found is that both of those grinders are capable of grinding fine enough for an espresso shot—the finest settings were, in fact, too fine, clogging the portafilter and preventing the water from flowing through properly.

Malarick was concerned that the Virtuoso didn’t have small enough steps between grind settings to allow him to adequately dial in that shot, but the Breville, which leans fine and devotes about a third of its grind settings to espresso-level fineness, stood a better chance. He adjusted the Breville’s grind and pulled a second shot with it, getting it closer to his goal. He still wasn’t happy with it, but I didn’t think it tasted too bad.

Overall, it was clear that none of these grinders could really pass muster with a professional barista for pulling espresso shots, but for a home user who’s less concerned with pro-level perfection, the Breville can work.

How We Chose Our Winners

Our recommendations considered price as well as quality, keeping in mind the ideal user in each case. Remember, the “best” grinders aren’t necessarily the best for all coffee drinkers.

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