“I don’t know what type of coffee grinder to use with my French press” is admittedly a first-world problem. But let’s face it: we can make fun of this “problem” while still acknowledging the simple truth that we love our coffee.
- What is a French Press?
- Are French Press and Pour Over the Same Thing?
- What is a Coffee Grinder?
- What Makes French Press Coffee Better?
- So, Should I Toss My Coffee Pot? Kick My Keurig to the Curb?
- What Do I Look for When Shopping for a Coffee Grinder?
- Just One More Thing You Need to Know
- Best Coffee Grinders for a French Press
Coffee is more than just a beverage: it is steeped into our very cultural identities. It is our faithful morning companion, and for those who don’t mind a sleepless night, a faithful evening companion, too.
Coffee is a great unifier. While Coca-Cola attempted to “teach the world to sing” starting in the 1970s, coffee needed no such grand gesture to win our affections and loyalty. We have been faithful stewards of the bean for centuries. Our love for it only grows stronger as time goes on. In fact, we drink more than 500 billion cups worldwide each year.
Coffee is indeed more than just a simple beverage: it is a commodity. A lifestyle. A brand builder. Everyone is trying to “up” their coffee game, which goes beyond fast-food franchises and upmarket java chains. Consumers are suddenly home baristas every day, thanks to the surge of gourmet coffee brands and products available for home use.
Outfitting a home kitchen with the best coffee gadgets is as important now as it once was to have the right stand mixer or knife block or cast-iron skillet. If you’re serving coffee to guests you want to impress. A regular old pot simply won’t do.
We can help you find the perfect coffee grinder to use alongside your French press. Let’s start at the beginning for those who may not even own a French press.
What is a French Press?
While the device's name would immediately suggest that it was conceived in France. Readers are advised not to make a quick assumption. There are actually some longstanding arguments between France and Italy over the origins of this beloved kitchen staple. And we won’t split hairs (or croissants) over that argument here. It basically boils down to where the idea originated and where it was first patented. It is safe to say that regardless of which country rightfully claims the French press, it is beloved in countries worldwide.
A French press is a relatively simple device with a few components, used to brew coffee manually. In the same way, old-fashioned tea drinkers scoff at the idea of heating water in a microwave for a cup of hot tea, and many coffee purists find nothing measures up to a cup poured from a French press.
The device's main body is the beaker. It can be made of glass or plastic (most serious French press users prefer a glass or metal beaker over plastic). A metal filter, attached to the device’s lid and plunger, is used to prevent the coffee particles from entering the liquid. Once you have the French press, all you need is ground coffee and hot water and your favorite mug. It is a fairly easy process from start to finish. If you buy already-ground coffee, you can go ahead and get started.
But not so fast! If you are going to the trouble to drink coffee from a sophisticated French press, you really ought to be grinding your own coffee beans first. After all, would you slather store-bought guacamole on bread and call it avocado toast? We think not.
Grinding your own beans is the only way to go, and we will have more on that to come. First, we need to clear up one common point of confusion when it comes to coffee methods.
Are French Press and Pour Over the Same Thing?
Unless you live off the grid in a cave, you have heard the term “pour over” used in relation to coffee preparation. And perhaps you have also waited in line behind someone waiting for their pour over. This might have made you late to a meeting with your boss, and you are now holding a grudge against all pour over coffees.
To be fair, pour overs actually do not take that long to prepare in the grand scheme of things. For those who want the barista to have the cup in your hand by the time you reach the counter to order, the pour over will probably test your already limited patience.
Pour over coffee is prepared by boiling water, allowing it to cool briefly, then pour the water directly over the coffee grounds. Where the French press and pour over differ is that in the pour over method, a filter is used. That means pour over coffee does not come with the “grit” often associated with French press cups. Pro tip: don’t drink the last sip of a French press-filled mug. You can thank us later. French press devotees would tell you that grit is a small price to pay for the unbeatable flavor and aroma of a French press coffee.
What is a Coffee Grinder?
Of all the coffee-related equipment in a home kitchen or a cafe, the grinder may very well be the most important tool. Some may argue that the coffee maker itself is most important (be it the fanciest Nespresso available or the discount-store pot you received as a wedding gift from a notoriously cheap aunt). Still, without a good grinder, the end result will undoubtedly suffer.
A coffee grinder is typically fairly compact and can be a standalone tool. It can also be built directly into the coffee machine in some cases. For this article's purposes, we will focus on and recommend the standalone grinders. They can be used to prep coffee for a French press. However, if you happen to own a grinder-pot combo, such as this model from Cuisinart, you can also use it to grind beans. Then transfer the grinds over to a French press for the remainder of the preparation.
What Makes French Press Coffee Better?
Consider the taste of an apple. Imagine a gorgeous, sunny autumn day, and you’ve picked an apple straight from the orchard. The first bite is delightfully sweet, crisp, and pure.
Now imagine a different scenario. Imagine standing in front of a break room vending machine. Out of sheer desperation, you hit “F3” for a package of “apple mini muffins” to satisfy your hunger pains. As you take the first bite, maybe there is the tiniest hint of that delicious apple from the orchard. In the end, the purity of the flavor has been destroyed by artificial ingredients and packaging made for a long shelf life.
Now turn that apple into a coffee bean. Decide whether you’d want to soak it up in its purest state, or let something interfere with its glorious natural flavor?
When coffee is brewed in an automatic pot, the filter stands between you and some of the bean's best elements. Oils and flavors are removed in the process. French press coffee means nothing is coming between you and the full coffee flavor. The price we pay is a little bit of “grit” in our java. Most French press drinkers will tell you its worth it (and that you will quickly get used to it!)
And sure, perhaps the apple example was a bit extreme, but the point remains that most things taste best in their purest state. Coffee is no exception!
So, Should I Toss My Coffee Pot? Kick My Keurig to the Curb?
Before you clean out your coffee cabinet Marie Kondo style, consider the fact that a variety of coffee makers may be best suited to your lifestyle. Those with several generations under one roof may love the ease of a Keurig. Everything from hot chocolate to hot tea can be whipped up quickly. And a good old-fashioned coffee pot may come in handy when your grouchy father-in-law visits a “simple cup of coffee poured from a regular pot.”
A coffee grinder and a French press take up very little space. You can probably squeeze these in even if you already have several coffee contraptions on hand.
What Do I Look for When Shopping for a Coffee Grinder?
There are many coffee grinders available to suit every java drinker’s budget and taste, and it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. To better understand the products on the market, shoppers should be familiar with two distinct categories of coffee grinders: conical blade grinders and flat burr grinders.
Just as the name implies, a conical blade grinder includes a cone-shape within its device. Coffee beans are pushed through cone-shaped rings with blades (with one blade being hollow and the other solid). The beans are pushed through in a vertical direction. When a grinder uses a flat burr technique, the beans will fall between two up-and-down burrs.
“Burrs and Blades” are two components actually present an important distinction in grinders. Blades cut beans just in the way you would imagine knives cut. But burrs break down the bean with more of what you would consider a “crushing” motion.
You may be asking yourself at this point, “Why does it matter how the beans are cut or crushed? As long as the end result is ground coffee?” The distinction is important because a burr grinder produces a more uniform result. The blade grinder produces grinds with more variation in size, which actually creates a different result in the final coffee cup. Think of it this way: large grinds mixed in with small grinds mean the water comes through and is absorbed at different rates. For the ideal flavor profile, you want your grinds to be as consistent as possible.
Just One More Thing You Need to Know
Before we recommend the best automatic coffee grinders for your French press, we would be remiss if we did not mention one more method available: the MANUAL grinder. While we rarely think of people doing anything “by hand” anymore, there is still a market (albeit a small one) for folks who like to do things the old-fashioned way.
Also known as hand grinders, manual grinders add a rustic touch to your kitchen (whether you actually use them or not!) They employ burrs to grind the beans--resulting in uniform sizes and a delicious brew--but require a little extra patience and time.
For those who are looking for automation, our top picks are listed below.
Best Coffee Grinders for a French Press
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
This Capresso model is a burr grinder available in several different finishes and equipped with 16 different grinder settings. Variety in settings is important for those who enjoy different coffee styles, whether the beans are very coarsely ground for French press coffee, or whether they are reduced to the finest grounds for a Turkish preparation.
The Capresso container will hold 8.8 ounces of beans. The removable container will hold 4 ounces of coffee grinds. If you’re wondering now, “how many ounces go into a cup of coffee?” there’s no one correct answer. It is based on tastes and preferences. But the typical range is around .3 to .4 ounces per cup. The Capresso removable container will give you enough grinds to prepare around 8 to 10 cups, depending on your method.
A built-in timer on this model allows you to set the unit to grind the beans from 5 to 60 seconds. It comes with a brush for easy cleaning of the grinding chamber. The unit measures 14.6 x 9.6 x 7.8 and can be stored in a large cabinet when not in use.
Cuisinart Grind Central Coffee Grinder
A budget-friendly choice for a quick and easy grind, the Cuisinart comes from a company whose name is synonymous with food processing. Although they're now known to equip kitchens with everything from toasters to can openers.
A Cuisinart grinder is a simple, no-frills machine for those who do not need a lot of variety in the way the beans are ground. Packed into a relatively small frame is a heavy-duty motor and stainless steel blades, which get the job done in a simple “on-off” operation format. For safety, the Cuisinart Grind Central won’t operate unless the lid is securely closed.
The Cuisinart grinder's bowl will hold enough coffee for 18 cups, making it a nice little workhorse for the price! Users also love that the Cuisinart is dishwasher safe. It’s an easy and affordable choice for the average coffee drinker, even if it does not produce grinds fine enough for a Turkish coffee. “Java elites” will probably want a machine with more bells and whistles. If you are just getting started grinding your own beans, this will certainly do the job for you.
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
This Baratza grinder came on to the market almost a decade ago and quickly became the gold standard for “entry-level” grinding. It’s simple enough for beginners to handle but sophisticated enough for experienced baristas to love.
The Baratza comes with 40--that’s right, we said 40!--different settings. No matter what coffee style you want to prepare, the Baratza can accommodate you with perfectly ground beans. The machine’s hardened alloy steel burrs and powerful motor produce superior results.
First-time users should not be intimidated by this grinder, no matter how sophisticated it sounds. The Baratza was carefully designed with a front-mounted pulse button and a simple on-off operation. This makes it incredibly easy for anyone to use. At 6.83 pounds, the Baratza certainly has a little heft to it, but it is still compact enough (4.7 x 6.3 x 13.8) for easy storage. Baratza converts also report that these make less noise than other, cheaper grinders they have used in the past.
Baratza grinders are also backed by a one-year warranty and outstanding customer support. They will cost more than some of the more basic models on the market, but the company goes above and beyond to stand behind their product.
Kitchenaid Burr Grinder
When it’s time to bring out the big coffee guns, look no further than the Kitchenaid Burr Grinder. This is serious coffee equipment for serious coffee people. This is how you grind beans for the guests whose presence warrants the fine china, the highest thread count sheets, and the “good” wine.
Kitchenaid is a beloved culinary brand known for its reliable products (just ask fans of its stand mixer). They also make an affordable blade grinder for those on a more limited budget, but their Burr Grinder is the cream of the crop when it comes to prepping your beans for French press coffee or any other style.
The Kitchenaid grinder comes with 15 different settings, and the glass hopper can hold up to seven ounces of beans at a time. The burrs turn at 450 rpm, minimizing the buildup of friction and static. (If you thought static cling was only a challenge in your laundry room, think again!) When beans pass through burrs, they can take on a charge that will result in them sticking to the sides of a grinder (or a counter when opened). That’s why experienced baristas will consider static issues when looking at grinders. This is why the Kitchenaid is a reliable favorite.
Side note: there are plenty of online tips and tutorials on eliminating static in your grinder. Most will recommend adding a little water. Just be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions included with any grinder you purchase. Avoid adding too much water, which could cause a machine to rust.
Bodum Bistro Burr Grinder
One of our favorite overall picks for the best coffee grinder to use with your French press is the Bodum Bistro Burr Grinder. The smart and sleek design has this burr grinder weighing in at only 4 pounds. The dimensions (7.6 x7.1 x 12.5) make it easy to store in a kitchen cabinet.
A user-friendly upper container can be twisted to determine the type of grind. Whether you are looking for coarse grinds for French press coffee or extremely fine. Twelve different settings accommodate the needs of any coffee drinker.
The borosilicate glass container that holds the coffee grinds after they pass through the burrs will prevent static and “jumping” coffee grounds. An easy-to-use preset timer also ensures users can grind only the beans they need. No coffee goes to waste in this process.
Oxo Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Finally, we have the Oxo Brew Grinder. It is another moderately priced, reliable grinder with a smart and sleek design. Users of the Oxo Brew Grinder love the one-touch timer that keeps your last setting. The container on this unit can hold up to 110 grams of coffee (enough for 12 cups).
There are 15 different settings on this grinder (and some micro settings). Its consistent output ensures the maximum flavor is achieved with each cup of coffee prepared.
The Oxo Brew Grinder has an attractive stainless steel finish and weighs in under five pounds. Forty-millimeter conical burrs and solid construction make it a reliable everyday kitchen tool and a smart companion for your French press. It also comes with a two-year warranty.
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Originally Published October 15, 2020