Manual vs Electric Coffee Grinders

Do you want to know if you should buy an electric coffee grinder or a manual coffee grinder?

Neither of them is better. Each type of grinder has its pros and cons. Also, you need to define your needs and lifestyle before choosing which one is better for you.

In The Coffee Arsenal, you will find outstanding guides that help you to find your ideal coffee gear, and this is not the exception.

I’ve dedicated hours and hours researching the unique characteristics of manual vs electric coffee grinders to create the most comprehensive guide about this topic.

In this article, you will find what are the unique characteristics of these devices, their pros, and cons and finally, I will help you to identify your needs, which you will use later to decide which one is best for you.

Differences: Manual vs Electric Coffee Grinder

Both manual coffee grinders and electric coffee grinders are the go-to tools when we wanna grind coffee beans. They achieve the same goal but they have some characteristics that make them differ.

Here are the main differences between manual vs electric coffee grinders:

  • Manual coffee grinders have a simple mechanism which makes them last longer.
  • The effort you have to apply to make coffee between both of them is the most important difference. A manual coffee grinder requires a bit of effort and a couple of minutes to grind enough coffee beans to make a single cup of coffee. With the electric version, you have to press a button.
  • Decent electric coffee grinders are far more expensive than a manual coffee grinder that can do the same job for half the price (For example $100 vs $50).
  • Electric coffee grinders come with a huge variety of settings to personalize your grind, while most of the manual ones come with a single setting. However, several manual models come with a few different settings.
  • Electric grinders produce a lot of noise when they are working, on the other hand, manual grinders are very quiet (Even more than the quietest electric ones).
  • The electric versions need electricity to work while the manual ones need manual effort and energy.
  • Electric grinders tend to grind too fast. Going so fast creates a lot of friction and heat which cooks the beans. Manual grinders don’t do that because of the time it takes to ground beans using them.
  • Manual grinders are portable, while electric ones aren’t.
  • Hand grinders always have conical burrs. Electric grinders can be flat or conical.
Manual coffee grinder vs electric coffee grinder infographic

What Are Electric Coffee Grinders?

Of course, I cannot continue this guide about manual vs electric coffee grinders without defining both of them. Let’s start by talking about what an electric coffee grinder is.

This is an advanced device that allows us to grind coffee without effort and time. We just have to press a button and we will have perfectly ground coffee. 

At a glance, we can see that the best characteristic of these grinder types is the automation and efficiency that they provide.

High-end coffee grinders are and wonder. They come with tons of settings (+40) that we can use to get any grind that we’d like (From french press to espresso for example).

Several electric grinders have the feature to dose ground coffee automatically according to weight. 

These machines are usually used by a lot of businesses and by professional baristas because of the power and effectiveness they provide.

Despite these machines are so powerful, they have several problems that I have to highlight. 

Let’s start with the noise they produce. They produce a lot of noise when they are working and this can be a huge problem depending on your situation. 

For example, if you live with your family and you decide to grind your beans the most probably is that you’ll wake up everybody.

The next problem with these machines is that the difference between the high-end models and the low-end models is brutal. 

The cheaper models usually produce low-quality grinds and this could affect the flavor of your coffee drinks. Usually, low-end models have not-so-good burrs.

I highly recommend you to buy models from $100, if you do not have that budget you should consider a manual grinder because it will do the job for half the price and it will give you fewer headaches.

Mahlkonig EKK43 electric coffee grinder

Electric Coffee Grinder Pros

  • They are very efficient and can grind lots of beans in a short period (Great if you live with your relatives).
  • You have a lot of grind size settings at your disposal.
  • These devices produce a very consistent grind.
  • They often have a hopper attached that allows grinding coffee without constant refilling.

Electric Coffee Grinder Cons

  • They produce a lot of noise when they are working.
  • Requires a power source (Electricity).
  • The models that are worth it are a bit pricey (+$100).
  • They are usually pretty big, so they are not portable.
  • These grinders are a bit complex to use, especially the ones with the most functionalities, you’ll need to read the instructions very carefully to get the most of them.
  • When you grind beans for a long period, the heat and friction might change the flavor and quality of the beans.

Electric Coffee Grinder Types

There are two types of electric coffee grinders:

Electric Burr Grinders

This is the most efficient kind of electric grinders. They are usually bulky and they need a power source to work.

They are designed with a disc and conical burr system that will provide you with consistent ground coffee.

Electric Blade Grinders

This is a coffee grinder that works using spinning blades. This inexpensive machine grinds coffee beans by chopping them. You can control the grind size by setting longer or shorter periods.

This is the least recommended type of coffee grinder because of two main things.

  1. The way it grinds beans using blades might produce very inconsistent grounds.
  2. Its high RPM rate burns the coffee beans altering their flavor at the end.

How Do Electric Coffee Grinders Work?

This is the way an electric burr coffee grinder works:

  1. You insert the beans into the top of the grinder
  2. Then, you adjust the grinding size (If your machine allows it)
  3. You press the button and the machine starts grinding. (For some machines you only have to press it for a second and it will work automatically or you will have to hold the button pressed)
  4. Finally, you just need to remove your ground coffee from the machine

Here you have a short video about how both burr and blade coffee grinders work.

What Are Manual Coffee Grinders?

Manual coffee grinders are simple tools that allow you to grind measured coffee beans by applying effort using your hand and arms. This kind of grinder usually allows you to grind enough beans to make 1 or 2 cups of coffee.

Using this device you can produce uniform and consistent grounds, which is paramount to get a delicious coffee. You can get a high-quality manual grinder for $20 or $30 bucks, so you can get their benefits for a reduced price.

You should know that the coffee ground size you’ll get at the end highly depends on the amount of energy and effort that you put into this device.

You can get a coarse grind by applying a bit of effort but if you want a fine grind you need to spend more time and effort.

Steel manual coffee grinder and some coffee beans on a white table

Manual Coffee Grinders Pros

  • They are portable.
  • Their simple mechanism and materials make them very durable in the long term.
  • Extremely simple to use. You just need to insert your beans and turn the crank until your beans have the texture you desire.
  • You can get a high-quality manual grinder for a low price ($20 – $30).
  • They are very easy to clean.

Manual Coffee Grinders Cons

  • Most models have limited grind size settings.
  • They can grind beans for 1 cup of coffee (usually), which makes them not ideal for making coffee for several people.
  • It takes some minutes and a lot of effort to grind a single dose of beans.

How Do Manual Coffee Grinders Work?

This is the way a manual coffee grinder works:

  1. Remove your grinder top cap
  2. Insert your desired amount of coffee beans
  3. Re-insert and secure your grinder top cap
  4. (If available) If your hand grinder allows it, you need to adjust your grind size
  5. Secure your hand grinder lever
  6. Turn clockwise your ground lever until your beans are completely ground
  7. Finally, open your hand grinder and extract your ground coffee beans

How Long Does It Take To Grind Coffee With a Manual Coffee Grinder?

In the previous paragraphs, I said that depending on the grind size you want you’ll need to spend more time and effort turning the lever.

For example, if you want a coarse grind it should take between 30 seconds to 2 minutes of work, and if you want fine grounds you will be spending between 2 and 4 minutes of work.

You should keep in mind that you will have to turn the lever slowly and constantly because if you do it too fast it will not work correctly and you will probably not get a consistent ground coffee.

Also, if you do it too fast you could damage several parts of your device.

Disclaimer: The time you spend grinding your beans will vary a lot depending on the quantity of coffee you want to grind and the hand grinder model you’re using. Usually, the high-end ones will take less effort and time.

Which is Better?

Manual vs electric coffee grinder… It could be a real hassle to decide which one is better when you see all the benefits you get with both of them.

Many people prefer to go with manual coffee grinders because they like to feel the sensation of each coffee bean being crushed. Also, they like to bring their coffee grinder everywhere, they are usually people that travel a lot and only want to drink their own made coffee.

On the other hand, some people prefer electric coffee grinders because of their most important characteristic, they are fast and efficient. If you are a businessman or you have very limited time to get out of your house you might like this type of grinder.

Before making a decision, you need to think about your lifestyle. You don’t want to wake up your family at 6 am because of the noise of an electric grinder just to make a single cup of coffee, isn’t it? I wouldn’t want to argue with my partner because of a cup of coffee.

Should You Get an Automatic Coffee Grinder or a Manual Coffee Grinder?

You Should Choose a Manual Coffee Grinder If:

  • You want a durable and efficient coffee grinder under $100
  • You like to brew your coffee while you are traveling
  • You want a simple and easy-to-clean grinder without any fancy settings
  • You want to grind your beans without making noise

You Should Choose an Electric Coffee Grinder If:

  • You have $100 or more to buy a coffee grinder
  • You want to grind your beans in less than 30 seconds
  • You don’t care about the noise that electric grinders make
  • You like to have multiple settings to grind your coffee
  • You have space and a socket to connect a bulky device in your kitchen

Final Words: Manual vs Electric Coffee Grinders

I hope that the information above provides you a clearer picture of manual vs electric coffee grinders.

Each one of them has its unique pros and cons and the ultimate decision should always be taken based on your needs and lifestyle.

If you have very limited time you should opt for the electric grinder, but if you want portability and simplicity you should opt for the manual version.

Leandro Santorsola
Leandro Santorsola

Leandro is the founder of The Coffee Arsenal. His favorite relaxation method is to drink a Cafe Latte in the afternoons.