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The 3 Best Manual Coffee Grinders

Paul's passion for making and consuming coffee extends back over thirty years. An extensive traveler, he currently lives in Florida.

Read on for my suggestions regarding the top 3 hand-cranked coffee mills...

Read on for my suggestions regarding the top 3 hand-cranked coffee mills...

Once you discover that nothing can beat the aroma and taste of freshly ground coffee, there is not going back! I have been grinding my own beans for over thirty years and would never dream of returning to buying ready ground.

Grinding your own coffee beans ensures that you capture the maximum amount of flavor. You also have much more flexibility and control when it comes to obtaining the specific grade of fineness/coarseness that you require.

Unlike electric grinders which are powered by a motor, manual grinders typically use a crank that is powered by hand. Although this means more work, these mills have a lot going for them in terms of convenience, functionality, versatility, and appearance.

The Top 3 Manually Operated Coffee Mills

Here are my suggestions for the best manual grinders, based on personal experience.

  1. The Cun Yi Driver: Beautiful Look and Feel
  2. The Zassenhaus: Vintage Style and Quality
  3. The JavaPresse: Sleek, Robust, and Reliable

I explain my choices in more detail and give my experiences below.

The Cun Yi Driver mill.

The Cun Yi Driver mill.

1. The Cun Yi Driver: Beautiful Look and Feel

My personal favorite from the list is this Cun Yi Driver manual grinder that features a stainless steel burr. This mill is robust, high quality and easy to use. I've used it on my travels for almost a year and I love it.

Cun Yi Driver Pros

  • Unlike most manual grinders, this unit lets you choose the coarseness of the grounds, there's a built-in adjustable grind selector on the bottom that you can tighten or loosen
  • It's travel friendly, you can use it anywhere, on the road or in the office
  • I love the classy look and feel of this product
  • The stainless steel burr is built to last, I'm not worried about this product expiring prematurely
  • I've bought a couple as gifts and both recipients loved it!

Cun Yi Driver Cons

  • This mill is compact, it may be too small for some people (great for travelers though!).
  • It's not obvious how you adjust the grind size. (There’s actually a knob at the bottom, which is twisted left or right according to requirements.)
My personal favorite out of the all vintage-style mills, the Zassenhaus is a highly rated grinder for good reason.  Constructed from high quality hardwood, it looks and feels beautiful.  The burr-style mill produces a precision grind.

My personal favorite out of the all vintage-style mills, the Zassenhaus is a highly rated grinder for good reason. Constructed from high quality hardwood, it looks and feels beautiful. The burr-style mill produces a precision grind.

The Zassenhaus: Vintage Style and Quality

Zassenhaus have an excellent reputation as a maker of grinders, deservedly so in my experience. Their mills are much sought after. This Zassenhaus coffee grinder is superior product with a tried and tested, classic design, the mill has a hardened metal grinding mechanism, which is durable, as well as precise.

I bought mine online and it arrived in a slightly dented box but the grinder inside was in pristine condition.

There's a knurled adjusting nut that sets the level of fineness/coarseness of the grind. I would advise that you make sure that this nut is loosened before you use the mill for the first time and then gradually tighten it as you grind to get the setting you want.

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As with all manual mills, it is very quiet to use, but it requires a certain amount of time and effort.

This grinder doesn't come cheap, they typically sell for around $100, but they have a classic build and work well.

Zassenhaus Pros

  • More precise than most cheaper manual grinders.
  • Sturdy construction and attractive appearance.
  • Grinding mechanism has a 25-year guarantee.
  • Nice talking point for when we have guests.

Zassenhaus Cons

  • Great for a few cups of coffee, but hard work for larger amounts.
  • Pricey. I think it's worth it, but others may not.
The JavaPresse

The JavaPresse

The JavaPresse: Sleek, Robust, and Reliable

The JavaPresse is the manual mill that I always take with me when I travel. It's easy to store inside a suitcase or carry-on bag. As with all hand-cranked grinders, there is no need to worry about cords or batteries or power supply.

Grinding enough coffee for one cup is very quick, it generally takes less than a couple of minutes. If you require enough coffee for two, you will need to fill it up with beans and it will take you around five minutes.

The unit can be easily disassembled into its component parts making it very straightforward to clean. Seeing all the parts also enables you to understand how a manual mill works, if you didn't already know!

As with all manual grinders, the grounds produced are never 100% precise, but grinding your own is always a much better alternative than buying ready ground beans, as the flavor is superior.

For sure, it does take a little experimentation before you get the grind you want, but you can see what's happening through the viewing window.

JavaPresse Pros

  • Minimal effort required to grind.
  • It's very easy to clean.
  • I love the sleek, modern look of this mill.
  • The compact design makes it easy to transport and store.

JavaPresse Cons

  • This hasn't happened to me, but I've read a few reviews where people complained that the plastic piece that sits inside the conical burr has broken after only a few months of wear and tear.

5 Advantages of Hand-Cranked Burr Mills

  1. Manual mills are very quiet, especially when compared with electric grinders. This is especially useful if you are making coffee in the morning when other family members are sleeping and you don't want to awaken them.
  2. You effectively have full control over the grinding process. There are no switches, settings, or computer programs. The finer that you want the grounds to be, the longer you work the crank.
  3. Manuals use burrs to crush the beans, widely considered to be the best way to grind. Many electrical machines, especially the more affordable ones, use blades.
  4. They often look more attractive - you can put them on full display in your kitchen, rather than having to shut them away and hide them when not in use. Some of the more exotic designs can even serve as talking points at social events.
  5. As you don’t need a power supply, you can do your grinding wherever you wish. You can take them traveling, or use them outdoors. Even if you use an electric as your main grinder, it is also worth having a manual grinder just for this reason.

2 Disadvantages of Hand-Cranked Burr Mills

  1. They require more work. Some people don't want to put in the time and energy needed to grind their beans, especially if they are in a rush and it's early in the morning.
  2. You typically have no settings as you do with many electric grinders. It takes time to learn how long you need to work the mill in order to produce the desired coarseness of grounds.

Tips on Storing Coffee

To keep the flavor for as long as possible, coffee should be stored correctly. Below are some useful tips for ensuring that your brews are tasty.

  • Buys beans whenever possible, rather than ready ground, and grind them just before brewing to get maximum flavor.
  • Store your coffee in an airtight container. Good construction materials are glass, ceramic, stainless steel. Moisture is bad for the beans and needs to be minimized.
  • Keep the beans away from sources of heat (such as a stove) and direct sunlight, if possible. A fairly cool and dark place is ideal.
  • Do not freeze the beans, or refrigerate them, as very cold temperatures can also damage the taste.
Palestinian women grinding up coffee manually in 1905.  Coffee was first consumed in Ethiopia but it was the Arabs of Yemen who were the first to cultivate it as a crop and create the drinking and coffee house culture that we recognize today.

Palestinian women grinding up coffee manually in 1905. Coffee was first consumed in Ethiopia but it was the Arabs of Yemen who were the first to cultivate it as a crop and create the drinking and coffee house culture that we recognize today.

A Very Brief History of Coffee

According to legend, coffee was originally discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder, who saw the energizing effect that the berries had on his animals. It was the Arabs of Yemen who first cultivated it as a crop in the 15th Century. By the 16th Century, coffee drinking had spread to the wider Middle East and North Africa. Coffee spread to Western Europe via Italy, and then to Indonesia. After the Boston Tea Party, lots of Americans switched to drinking coffee, as tea was seen as unpatriotic.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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