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If you find yourself reading this article then chances are that you are a French Press sort of a guy or gal. You like your coffee rich, strong and full-bodied. And while you still enjoy the nuances of coffee, nothing can compete with that bold hit of caffeine that your press gives you. Maybe you love the simplicity of it; that it’s as easy as putting in your grinds, adding water, waiting, and plunging. This passes what some people have called the 6am test; that is that you can still accomplish it at 6am when you are blurry-eyed and unfit for human company.
These are some of the reasons that people all over the globe have come to love the French Press. And there is a lot to love about it. It is simple to use, hard to stuff up, makes a strong and robust cup of coffee, and is generally delicious.
This article is all about taking the French Press coffee that you love to the next level.
Buying a quality coffee grinder is the single easiest way to improve your morning brew!
Don’t believe me? Well read on and I will do my best to convince you that better coffee is only one grinder away.
So Why Grind Your Own Coffee Beans?
Perhaps the first question that needs to be answered is why grind at all? What is wrong with the pre-ground beans I am currently using? Isn’t this just a money grab trying to convince me to buy another thing I don’t really need?
And the short answer is that while it does require another purchase, grinding fresh coffee beans in a burr grinder is a surefire way to make a noticeable improvement in the taste of your morning brew.
The somewhat surprising grounds (get the pun?) for this rather bold claim is that coffee beans are best understood as fresh produce. Just like lettuce or bananas, coffee beans are best consumed fresh and if left for too long become stale. However, the good news is that coffee comes with inbuilt mechanism to stay fresh for longer. The outer shell of coffee beans act as natural storage containers which help preserve the flavor and aroma of the beans until its brewing time.
Are you starting to pick up on the problem yet? This means that if your coffee is pre-ground weeks or even months before brewing it, then it is like a carrot that has been on the shelf for that long. Is it still edible? Probably. But does it taste nice? Well not unless you like your carrots rubbery and slightly slimy. It is exactly the same with coffee beans. As soon as coffee beans are ground the protective layer is removed and much of the distinctive flavor and aroma of the beans dissipate leaving a more bland, generic and stale flavor.
This is the reason that if you go along to your favorite cafe I can guarantee that you will see a monster of a grinder sitting on the bench next to the espresso maker. Grinding fresh and quality coffee beans on demand ensures that the maximum flavor and aroma make it from the bean to your cup!
However, be warned! Once you make the transition to grinding your own beans there is no going back. As you grow used to a higher quality of coffee, you will likely find yourself aware of the inferior flavor that comes from stale pre-ground coffee.
In addition, coffee grinding is especially important for French Press coffee. Because of the long contact time between the water and coffee grinds in this brewing method, the grinds need to be coarser than for many types of coffee like Aeropress or Pour Over. The potential problem with this is that the majority of pre-ground coffee is either super fine for espresso or a medium grind for filter. While you can use a medium grind for French Press the flavor won’t be great and more of the finer grinds will slip through the metal mesh into your cup. Grinding your own beans allows you to make certain that you have the right grind size for optimal flavor. If you really want to get your head around understanding grinding then see our Complete Guide to Coffee Grinding With Grind Chart.
So why grind your own beans for French Press? Because it allows you to ensure your beans are the grind grind size, and it leads to more of the flavor and aroma of the beans making it into your cup, which is what it is all about.
What Type Of Coffee Grinder To Buy? Blade vs Burr Grinder
So now that you are (hopefully!) convinced that buying a grinder is actually worth it, what sort of grinder should you buy? There are basically two different types of coffee grinders on the market; blade grinders and burr grinders.
Blade Grinders use a metal blade similar to kitchen blenders to slice up the coffee beans into smaller particles. There are two major problems with this approach; that the friction causes the blade to heat up which isn’t good for the beans, and that it tends to produce very unevenly sized coffee particles. Unevenly sized coffee grounds is a problem because it leads to uneven extraction and just leads to disgusting coffee. Hopefully by this point you have figured out that I am not particularly impressed with blade grinders!
The other type of grinder is the burr grinder which is the indisputable grinder of choice in the coffee world. Burr grinders use two revolving stainless steel or ceramic ‘burrs’ to crush the coffee beans into the desired grind size. The beans have to pass through the two revolving rings which ensures a far more uniform grind size which in turn leads to nicer coffee. Basically, if you are serious about French Press then a burr grinder is the way to go. For this reason all of the grinders we review below are burr grinders.
Best Coffee Grinder For French Press 2022
Things to Consider In A Coffee Grinder For French Press
Manual vs Electric Burr Grinders
One of the first decisions you will have to make in buying a coffee grinder is whether you want to go with an electric grinder or a hand grinder. And it really depends on what your needs are and how much you are willing to pay. In short, electric grinders (or at least the ones we have recommended above) tend to be of a higher quality, more expensive, more convenient, and of course larger in size. By contrast, hand grinders tend to be cheaper, more portable, require more physical effort, and have a smaller capacity. It is also worth noting that because hand grinders have less parts there is less that can go wrong and the only part that might need to be replaced over time is the burrs themselves.
We have made the chart below to help you figure out which type of grinder might work best in your context. There is no right or wrong answer and in fact many coffee lovers (including ourselves) end up with both an electric and a hand grinder.
Consistency Of Grind
The single most important factor in any coffee grinder is the consistency and uniformity of the grind size. As mentioned above the more uniform the grind particles are the better tasting the coffee. The reason for this is that the greater the consistency between coffee particles the less risk there is of over or under extraction.
There is no such thing as a perfect coffee grinder and even the commercial grinders which literally cost thousands still crush coffee beans into a range of different sizes. In particular, all coffee grinders produce what are called fines which are dust-like particles of coffee. The problem with fines is that because they are so much smaller than the other coffee grinds they tend to over-extract which leads to an unpleasant bitter taste.
The more high quality the grinder the less fines it will produce while the cheaper the grinder the more fines and uneven sized coffee particles. All of the grinders we recommend we believe are of a sufficient quality to consider buying and using for French Press, however the more expensive automatic grinders will produce a more even grind than the hand grinders. So if you are a coffee geek (a compliment not an insult) and want your coffee to be the best it can be, then it might be worth investing in one of the automatic grinders.
A common question when choosing your first grinder is how many different grind settings do I need? Is the 13 which the Porlex offers sufficient or do I need the 60 of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro?
And the answer as you may have guessed is it depends. The main thing that it depends on is whether you will just be using this grinder for French Press or are intending to use it across a range of different coffee brewing methods. If you are just using it for French Press then 13+ will be sufficient. It will however mean that you can’t really experiment with grind size; you will have one or two coarse settings but that is it.
If you are planning to use it across a range of coffee brewing styles then we recommend 40+ grind settings. This will mean that you can grind for almost any brewing style (with the possible exception of espresso and turkish). The other advantage of more grind settings is that you can play with grind size. This is both enjoyable and especially helpful if you are using a range of single origin coffees that may have been grown at different altitudes and roasted differently to each other. It will mean that you can change the grind setting more carefully to get the best flavor out of your beans.
Another important consideration when buying a grinder for plunger coffee is how much time and effort you want to spend cleaning. As a rule of thumb automatic or electric grinders are harder to clean than manual grinders. This is because there are simply more parts to clean and more places that coffee dust and particles can get into.
For either type of grinder regular cleaning is important to keep the grind quality high and to preserve the life of your grinder and burrs. When grinders aren’t cleaned regularly then old and stale coffee grinds end up making their way into the French Press which negatively impacts the flavor of the coffee.
The final important consideration is how much coffee will you need to grind at a time for your French Press. This will really impact which coffee grinder you should go for. If you are always making just a single serve for yourself then you could easily get away with a hand grinder. But if you tend to make larger batches of French Press either for a range of people of just for yourself then a hand grinder probably won’t cut it and it will be far simpler to just buy an electric grinder.
The Verdict: The Best Coffee Grinder For French Press
So our recommendation is that the Baratza Encore is the single best coffee grinder for French Press. It is an excellent grinder with a powerful motor, great grind consistency, more than enough grind sizes, and the ability to cater for either single serve or larger batches of coffee.
Alternatively, if you are looking for something cheaper and mainly just make small batches of French Press then the Porlex Mini is a great option!
We hope this article has been useful in helping you take the next step in your coffee journey.