A quality grinder is essential to ultimately pulling a good shot of espresso. With so many different types [and threads debating it online], it can get pretty confusing to know which grinder is best suited for your machine and your lifestyle. I’m going to explain the main styles and what they offer to try and make your decision a bit clearer.
The first question I ask someone calling in about a grinder is: Do you grind exclusively for espresso, or do you also often grind for drip, pour over, french press, etc?
If the answer is that you use multiple brew methods, my go-to brand is Baratza. They’re compact grinders intended for home use, but they don’t cut corners on quality as far as the burrs are concerned. The Virtuoso Preciso is going to have both macro and micro adjustments, that means you’ll be able to adjust your grind within two grind settings. So if you’re stuck between macro adjustments, you can simply start adjusting on the micro side to continue fine tuning your grind across a total of 440 grind settings. It’s also going to come with a portaholder and grounds container that slide in and out, allowing you to swap easily between brew methods.
If you’re interested in programming options, I always recommend the Vario and Forte AP. They’re both going to be able to be programmed to remember dosages to keep things simple for you. Also, they’ll both have the same basic features and accessories the Preciso has: micro and macro adjustments, and . The Forte is going to have a touch screen, so it’s simpler to navigate, plus it has upgraded ceramic burrs that won’t heat up during grinding.
For those grinding for espresso specifically, there are two ways to go: stepped or stepless. Similar to the Baratza grinders, the Quamar M80 is going to be stepped across 60 grind settings; however, those grind settings don’t start coarse for drip like the Baratza grinders, they go from fine to finer. The M80 also has similar dosing programing options as those Baratza machines, and commercial size burrs.
The stepless options like Ceado and Mazzer are popular among cafes and commercial environments. They’re going to offer you nearly infinite grind settings, as the burrs slide freely as opposed to cycling through steps. Stepless grinders offer you the most “grind settings” in this sense; however it’s more difficult to return to a grind setting once you’ve moved on, because there are no finite settings. So, if you’re switching between beans often and want to be able to get back to your grind setting more easily, the stepless grinders are going to be more explorative trial and error, while the stepped grinder will be as easy and turning the dial to 25 [this is an arbitrary number to denote any grind setting that corresponds with a particular roast].
There are tons of options, so it can be difficult to decide. The good news is each of the grinders I just mentioned [among others] are going to grind consistently and offer plenty of flexibility to fine tune and get the best possible shot. It really comes down to your preference and specific needs.