If you’re a real lover of artisanal coffee, you don't want to be using new-fangled nonsense such as so-called 'electricity'. The best hand-cranked coffee grinders are said (by the manufacturers and users of manual coffee grinders) to give a smoother and more even blend of coffee, which consequently tastes nicer.
As with electric burr grinders, manual coffee grinders let you control the coarseness of the grind, so it's suitable for your favoured style of coffee. If you normally have filter coffee or French press, a coarser consistency is recommended, whereas espresso requires a much finer grind and hipster's fave, cold-brew coffee, requires a very coarse grind.
One of the main things to consider when buying a manual coffee grinder is what type of blades you want. The blades are known as the burrs, and a burr coffee grinder works by bringing the blades together to evenly grind the beans, and the distance between the burrs is what changes the consistency of the grind. Ceramic burrs are regards as the best for manual grinding in terms of longevity and quality of the grind. You can also get metal burrs, but these are more prone to deterioration from friction over time. That said, metal was used for decades before ceramic arrived, and it's not like you're trying to crush beans using jelly and cardboard.
The rest is simply down to size and looks. Where and how often do you plan to use your grinder? If you want to take it on the road, for camping trips or travelling, you can get small and compact manual grinders which are lightweight and portable. However, these will usually only hold enough beans for 1 cup. Grinders with a capacity of around 40 grams can usually make around 2-3 cups.
The best manual coffee grinders, in order
This manual coffee grinder from Hunt Brothers is the only one to make it into our overall best coffee grinders list. It looks sleek, and the slim design is perfect for slipping into your bag or suitcase when you’re off travelling, or to work.
the stainless steel container is designed to keep the coffee fresh. The inside has plastic in it, which makes it feel slightly cheaper, but plastic is pretty practical in this context.
The ceramic burrs offer 18 different grind settings which are consistent, and you also get a spare burr should you wear yours out, although this is pretty unlikely any time soon. It is quite a lot of effort, but then so are all manual grinders.
Coffee nerds love this little glass coffee grinder for using both at home and away. All you need is a filter and flask of hot water and you’re good to go, but don’t expect to be able to share with friends as this grinder really only holds enough for a personal portion.
The ceramic blades work very well and you can adjust your grind to the consistency you like, although of course a finer grind does mean more elbow grease. It's also dishwasher safe for easier cleaning, although we think it's fair to say that no real artisanal coffee enthusiast would go anywhere near a dishwasher.
If you want a slightly bigger grinder to produce enough coffee for two people, then this grinder is able to make enough for about one cafetiere. The sleek looking acrylic box has a suction plate on the bottom which is designed to stick to your kitchen worktop and make grinding a one-handed process.
Depending on the surface, some users have found the suction to come loose at times, but other than that find it relatively to grind, and it’s big enough to make coffee for two people.
This little coffee grinder makes for a useful addition to the kitchen and those who bought it love the way it looks, too. This wooden grinder can be used to make enough for a couple of cups of coffee or shots of espresso, and it is also said to be handy for grinding up spices when cooking.
This grinder has a stainless steel burr, which works just as well as a ceramic one, although it perhaps requires a little more effort.
If you want a smart looking grider that you can take on your travels, then this mini wooden manual grinder just might be the one. Despite having a stainless steel burr, those who use this grinder are very happy with the consistency and found it to make much tastier coffee than an electric grinder.
Users love how compact it is which makes it great for taking away with them, the only downside about the style is that it doesn’t have a lid, which means you may lose the odd bean here and there. If you’re looking for a budget grinder, then this is a good place to start.
If you like your antiques, then you may like this 'vintage-style' coffee grinder. This manual coffee grinder isn’t a portable device, but it makes it easy to produce freshly ground coffee, the way the Victorians might have, had they been in the habit of drinking coffee.
The wooden design features a little drawer at the bottom to catch the grind, and a ceramic iron burr with a handle that is sturdy yet smooth. It still takes a little time and effort to grind the coffee, but the sturdy base and handle does ease the process a tad.