We Tested 9 Handheld Coffee Grinders—These Were Our Favorites

Our favorite handgrinder is the 1Zpresso JX Manual Coffee Grinder.

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a collection of handheld grinders arranged in in three rows

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Straight to the Point

While the 1Zpresso JX Manual Coffee Grinder excelled at ease of use, grinding speed, and flavor quality, the Comandante C40 MK4 won on brew quality alone. For a more entry-level option, the Timemore C2 Max Manual Grinder delivered usability and flavor with a more approachable (under $100) price point.

When I used to train baristas as my full-time job, I traveled a lot. Some months I would fly off to three different cities, and every morning, even when I was going straight to an espresso training, I made sure I packed my trusty handheld grinder and a pourover rig so I could enjoy a morning coffee on my own time. 

Or, maybe, enjoy isn’t quite the right word. I’ve had the same handheld grinder for almost a decade, and while it does the job, the resulting coffee is just passable. But, as I said, it’s been a long time since I bought that little, portable grinder. It was time to evaluate the advances in portable grinder technology.

When I set out to start testing these handheld coffee grinders, I knew there would be a wide variety to choose from. Because people might have different motivations for purchasing a handgrinder, I tried to select a variety of coffee grinders at different price points. Given my history with handgrinders, I was skeptical that any of these models could achieve cup-quality that rivaled my Virtuoso+, which also happens to be our top burr grinder. After the first few rounds of testing, however, I was ready to eat my words, or rather, I suppose, grind them up, brew them hot, and drink them. 

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Handheld Coffee Grinder: 1Zpresso JX Manual Coffee Grinder

manual coffee grinder against a white background

Not only was the 1Zpresso JX Manual the fastest grinder I tested, but the cup quality matched that of our favorite motorized burr grinder. With sturdy materials and precise manufacturing, the 1Zpresso JX Manual was easy to grind with and simple to adjust. 

The Best Splurge Handheld Coffee Grinder: Comandante C40 MK4

Comandante Grinder

The Comandante C40 MK4 is pricey, but for serious coffee folks, it may be worth it. The Comandante boasts custom designed burrs made out of a high-nitrogen steel and the coffee grounds it produced brewed some of the best-tasting coffee I’ve ever had.

The Best Budget Handheld Coffee Grinder: Timemore C2 Max Manual Grinder

the Timemore grinder against a white background

For people looking for a grinder that produces great-tasting coffee at a price point lower than most motorized grinders, the Timemore C2 Max was easy to use and nearly matched our overall pick in every test. 

The Tests

a handheld coffee grinder lays open next to a coffee sifter, kettle, and electric grinder

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

  • Consistency Test: In order to evaluate the consistency of each grinder, I used a Kruve sifter to assess particle distribution, just like in our motorized grinder review. The Kruve uses different screens with varying hole sizes rated by micron. Based on our previous testing, a range of 600-800 microns is more ideal for drip and pourover coffee brewing. I selected a smaller screen at 500 microns to sift out fines, and a larger screen at 1400 microns to sift out larger boulders. I ground 30 grams of coffee in each grinder and then sifted the results, weighing out total particles above 1400 microns, between 500-1400 microns, and less than 500 microns. The top-performing grinders were then re-evaluated after being dialed in to produce better tasting coffee.
  • Speed Tests: In order to test the speed of each grinder, I ground 30 grams of a medium roast coffee and timed the results. I then ground 30 grams of a light-roast single origin coffee and timed the results. Lighter roasted coffee tends to be denser, and handgrinders can sometimes get caught briefly on a dense coffee bean, slowing down the total grind time and even dislodging the handle from your grip. I noted the grind times for each coffee along with how many times the grinders got hung up during both tests.
  • Pourover Taste Test: To evaluate taste, I made a pourover from each grinder with the medium roast coffee. I followed our standard pourover guide, using 30 grams of coffee and 500 grams of water, and made note of how quickly the coffee brewed, overall flow of the water through the coffee, and tasted the results to evaluate which grinder brewed the best-tasting coffee. The top-performing grinders were also re-tested with grind adjustments in order to dial-in the absolute best pourover for each grinder. 
  • Cupping Double Blind Taste Test: In order to further evaluate taste, I created a double blind cupping taste test. Cupping is a simple immersion brew method that allows you to brew multiple cups at the exact same time under the same circumstances, making it the industry standard for coffee flavor evaluation. A double blind cupping would both let me taste coffee from each grinder side-by-side without knowing which grinder I was tasting, and would also do a solid job at mimicking how each grinder would perform when brewed as a French press. Each grinder was assigned a number, and each corresponding glass was labeled with that number on its base. I weighed out and ground 12 grams of the medium roast blend into each 7-ounce glass and then shuffled the glasses until I couldn't remember which one was which. Each glass was then assigned a letter, and then I filled each glass with water just off the boil. At four minutes, I broke the crust with the back of the spoon and removed any floating coffee particle, and began evaluating each cup for flavor at the 15-minute mark. After taking notes, I tied each letter to the number on the bottom of the glass, and assigned the flavor notes to each grinder.
  • Usability Tests: Each handgrinder was evaluated for how easy and intuitive the grind adjustment mechanism was, how well each piece fit together, and how easy each handle was to crank. Overall materials, weight, comfort, and portability were also examined.

Why Does a Good Coffee Grinder Matter?

a gooseneck kettle spout pours water over coffee in a pourover dripper

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The most important piece of equipment in brewing coffee is a high-quality grinder. And as a 16-year veteran of the specialty coffee industry, it’s the same piece of advice I give to anyone who likes to brew coffee at home. There’s a major reason a great grinder matters, and it’s related to how they work. While part of coffee grinding is breaking down big, rounded beans into particles in order for the brewing water to dissolve solids out of them more easily, it also matters a great deal how those beans are broken down. 

One major facet of coffee grinding is achieving consistent particle sizes, and this is something that gets harped on a lot when comparing a burr grinder to a spinning blade grinder. Blade grinders tend to pulverize more than cut, which works well for spices you want to turn into a powder. Coffee, however, does not want to be a powder. Because every coffee bean contains tasty acids and sugars and un-tasty bitter and astringent compounds, pulverizing coffee ensures more of those unpleasant flavors are going to end up in your cup. Stop short of completely dustifying your coffee in a blade grinder and you’ll notice your grinds contain plenty of large, jagged pieces (boulders) along with super-fine dust-like particles (fines). While there is always going to be some level of varying particle sizes in a grind profile, the extremes a blade grinder produces gives you underextracted, sour flavors from the boulders along with super-bitter and dry flavors from the fines. 

Burr grinders operate with two adjustable burrs: one static, and one that spins. These two burrs feature a variety of teeth and can be adjusted closer or further away from each other, ensuring that as coffee passes through them and is ground up, every particle is relatively the same size. But that’s not the whole story. 

A good-quality burr grinder doesn’t just break up particles into similar sizes, it actually cuts the coffee with sharp, cutting edges on the burrs themselves. There are plenty of cheap burr grinders out there and even commercial, crushing burr grinders that are designed to, again, pulverize coffee, only this time into a more consistent particle size. When coffee particles are crushed instead of cut, they have jagged inconsistent surfaces that extract unevenly, making it harder to get just the sweeter, more balanced flavors out of each particle. Coffees brewed from these grinders tends to be muddled and murky, losing all nuance and taking on a dry, ashy finish. Clean, complex flavors require precision, and that concept—precision—is a great segway into discussing handgrinders. 

Why Buy a Handheld Coffee Grinder?

a hand is cranking a handheld grinder

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

There are a lot of reasons to consider a handheld coffee grinder—a lot of models are cheaper, they’re usually much smaller, and they’re way more portable than their motorized counterparts. And for many years, the handgrinder was the favorite of backpackers, old-school collectors, and budget-savvy coffee nerds looking to improve their home game without breaking the bank. These days, there’s a new view on what handgrinders are capable of: precision. Motorized grinders can heat freshly ground coffee, causing the quality to degrade. Most good motorized grinders advertise high-torque motors that can grind slower for this reason. Handgrinders, however, generate way less heat and don’t need half as much torque to get through coffee. Because of this, there’s a new wave of precision-designed handgrinders that are advertised as the ultimate grinding platform for consistency and quality, besting some of their motorized counterparts. 

It's worth noting that we still recommend motorized grinders for daily coffee brewing, based on ease of use, grind quality, and the ability to adjust grind settings easily. A handheld coffee grinder can be a great addition to your coffee shelf, however, especially if you love to travel, are on a budget, are short on space, or are just looking for the occasional arm workout. 

What We Learned

Particle Distribution Can't Always Predict Flavor Quality

a coffee tasting set up with short glasses filled with coffee and water
A double blind cupping was key to identifying the grinder that produced the best tasting coffee.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The best tasting coffee came from the Comandante C40, which consistently had the lowest percentage of fines amongst all grinders tested, around 3% by total weight. It also produced the highest percentage of coffee particles in the ideal drip range, 500-1400 microns. But that didn’t carry over for our overall pick, the 1Zpresso JX, or our budget pick, the Timemore C2. 

Both of those grinders performed great in our taste tests, but neither of them mirrored the particle distribution of the Comandante. Over half of the particles produced by the 1Zpresso JX were considered boulders, or larger than 1400 microns, and the fines produced averaged 7% by total weight. While the Timemore C2 produced fewer fines the 1Zpresso JX, it still ranked third in taste tests, showing that the raw data doesn’t always correlate to flavors in the cup. 

To make sure this wasn’t a fluke, I tested my Baratza Virtuoso+, our top motorized pick, as a control grinder. The Virtuoso+ excelled in every taste test, going head to head with the Comandante C40, but its grind particle distribution chart was all over the map. It produced a whopping 7.5% fines by weight, and only 33% of the coffee was in the ideal pourover range

Like I mentioned in the intro, it’s not just particle distribution that has a bearing on cup quality—the style and quality of the grind itself matters. The Hario Mini Mill Slim had the highest percentage of particles in the ideal 500-1400 micron range during our first round of testing at 61% with 6% fines by weight, but in both the pourover and cupping taste tests, coffee from this grinder tasted dull and murky. The minutiae of coffee grinding can be really hard to parse out by data alone, and there so many factors in grind quality from burr design to burr material to how the burrs are seated and how the drive shaft is attached that it’s tricky saying for sure why one grinder performs a certain way in particle distribution tests and a different way during taste tests. But it’s also a great reason why I weighed taste tests higher when choosing our winners.

It’s Very Difficult To Gauge Grind Size By Sight

a white piece of paper has coffee grounds lined up on it side by side to compare sizes
White paper comparison tests were helpful, but didn't tell the whole story.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The human eye is pretty amazing, but my first few times trying to gauge a standard grind size to test each grinder with were all over the map, and particle distribution data showed me why. Even when coffee from two different grinders looked identical on a white paper test, the particle distribution might show that one grinder produced way more boulders than the other in a way that was imperceptible by sight alone. That even begs to question: what is a grind size measurement? If every grinder is going to produce a variety of coffee particles of varying sizes and different concentrations, can one even measure two different grinders against each other and claim that you were using the same grind size for each one?

The scientific answer is, of course, no. The realistic kitchen testing answer is, well, sure: the overall average particle size distribution might have been slightly higher or lower for each of the three categories separated by the two sieve filters, but across the board, every grinder produced a grind that was around 40-60% above 1400 microns, 40-60% between 500-1400 microns, and around 3-7% below 500 microns. These are very, very small measurements, and so the granular level of precision evaluated in these tests will likely have very little effect on anyone's actual usage of these grinders to brew coffee. In fact, what these tests have proven is that all of these grinders can produce a fairly accurate particle distribution test and operate with a baseline precision that many lower grade motorized burr grinders or spinning blade spice grinders can’t.

A Dual Ball Bearing Drive In The Crank Was An Absolute Necessity

a hand held coffee grinder lies on a counter separated into its three parts
The ball-bearing driveshaft kept grinding from being a chore.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

All three of our winning grinders featured a dual ball bearing system in the hand crank assembly, and to be absolutely honest, I would never consider using a handgrinder without this feature ever again, even if it produced the best-tasting coffee I’ve ever had. While most standard grinders require a bit of force and effort to get the handle to turn at all, the ball bearing cranks are able to spin freely in a circle multiple times just with a light push. And when coffee starts to add resistance to the cranks, it’s easy to build momentum and power through even the densest, light-roasted single origin coffees without breaking a sweat. The same can’t be said for our lower scoring grinders, with both Hario grinders and the Porlex leaving me a little warmer and short of breath after a marathon grinding session.

Our Three Favorite Grinders Had Extremely Similar Design Features

the grind adjustment lever of a handheld coffee grinder
Almost every grinder featured a manual click wheel adjustment on the underside of the burrs, but our three favorites had clear illustrations indicating which direction was coarser or finer.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

When it came to user experience, some grinders (like the two from Orphan) had needlessly complicated grind adjustment systems. At the same time, the 1Zpresso K-Max should have been an upgrade over the JX Manual, but I found its external grind adjustment ring too easy to accidentally adjust, and the magnetically attached grinds bin felt like an accident waiting to spill coffee all over the floor. The three winners, however, all featured an offset crank with a large round handle that attached to a hexagonal drive shaft mounted on two ball bearings for easy cranking. Each of these grinders also featured a firmly held in place spinning burr that doesn’t wobble side to side. Other models had a bit of give, which could cause the grinding burr to lean left or right slightly and create more inconsistencies in particle size.

All three of our winners also featured a basic, cylindrical form with a textured body for easy grip and a screw-in grinds bin to stay firmly attached even during the most aggressive cranking. And finally, all three of our winners featured a clicking adjustment lever on the underside of the burrs, both ensuring that the grind size can lock into place easily and not be accidentally moved when picking up and putting down the grinder.

The Criteria: What to Look for In a Handheld Coffee Grinder

Our favorite handheld coffee grinder with text points around it

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub / Grace Kelly

A truly excellent handgrinder will deliver amazing-tasting coffee for any drip or immersion brew method. It should be easy to gauge a general grind adjustment to make it simple to dial in to your preferred brew method and offer high-precision at a variety of grind settings. The best handgrinders are made out of sturdy materials and should have simple, easy-to-crank handles and a grinds catching bin that sturdily screws into the underside of the grinder. And to make sure that a great handgrinder is a tool designed for consistent usage, the best handgrinders can grind through coffee quickly and with very little effort.

The Best Handheld Coffee Grinder: 1Zpresso JX Manual Coffee Grinder

manual coffee grinder against a white background

What we liked: Grinding with the 1Zpresso JX was a dream, and it consistently worked 40-50% faster than it’s competitors. The rubber grip on the body of the grinder made it easy to hold onto when grinding, and the large rounded wooden handle on the crank provided great leverage. On top of its high performance in both the pourover and cupping taste tests, the 1Zpresso JX was just a simple and intuitive grinder to operate with very few moving parts. Its grind adjustment wingnut was easy to read and locked into place, firmly securing your selected grind size, and its grinds catching bin was perfectly machined to screw onto the base of the grinder tightly. While the price point might seem high to some, the grinder felt extremely high-quality. It’s my personal opinion that because a grinder can have a such a dramatic impact on the quality of coffee in your home, it’s a worthwhile investment. 

What we didn’t like: The biggest downfall of the 1Zpresso JX Manual is that it didn’t fully live up to our motorized control test grinder, the Virtuoso+. That makes sense: the Virtuoso+ is a precision grinder and a workhorse in a higher price category. I don’t think that’s a huge knock against the 1Zpresso JX Manual: if I was perfectly pleased with the quality of the cups I was brewing from it, most home coffee users will be too. The only other potential downside is its weight: at 1.5 pounds, it’s a substantial piece for any home, but for weight-skimping backpackers, it might tip the scales during long haul hikes.

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 30-35 gram hopper and grinds bin
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Height: 7 inches
  • Burrs: 48mm stainless steel
  • Time to grind 30 grams of coffee: 23 seconds
a handheld grinder stands upright on a counter

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The Best Splurge Handheld Coffee Grinder: Comandante C40 MK4

Comandante Grinder

What we liked: The Comandante C40 MK4 delivered one of the best-tasting coffees I’ve brewed, ever. It’s a premium grinder at a premium price point, but it delivers. Winning out multiple pourover taste tests as well as skyrocketing above the competition in the double blind cupping taste test, the Comandante was the only grinder tested that rivaled the Virutoso+ and even in some cases excelled above the motorized grinder’s performance. Operationally, the Comandante was easy to use with a dual ball bearing hand crank, and featured a simple grind adjustment knob. The really great innovation here is the burr set: the Comandante uses an in-house designed burr set made out of a custom-selected high-nitrogen content stainless steel. While it might be easy to write off this marketing material as hype for the grinder, the reality is that the Comandante is fantastic. It’s truly a uniquely precise grinder the delivered the lowest percentages of fines in every particle distribution test. 


What we didn’t like: The biggest issue with the Comandante C40 MK4 is the price point. It’s hard to recommend a grinder this expensive to anyone but true coffee folks, and at the same time, ignoring its dominance in our testing just because it was pricey felt disingenuous. While no one really needs a grinder that performs this well for themselves, some people might want a grinder this precise, and for those people who are prepared to pay for it, the Comandante will deliver.

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 30-35 gram hopper and grinds bin 
  • Weight: 1.25 pounds
  • Height: 6.3 inches
  • Burrs: 39mm patented high-alloyed high-nitrogen stainless steel
  • Time to grind 30 grams of coffee: 42 seconds
a handheld grinder is being held and cranked by hand

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The Best Budget Handheld Coffee Grinder: Timemore C2 Max Manual Grinder

the Timemore grinder against a white background

What we liked: Nearly a clone of our overall top pick, the Timemore C2 Max delivered the same great grinding experience and simple design I’d gotten used to. The slimmest and lightest of our three winners, The Timemore C2 Max is the best pick for campers, and the textured cylindrical body is both extremely eye-catching and provided excellent grip while grinding. Sporting taste test results that nearly matched that of the 1Zpresso JX, most home coffee drinkers couldn’t pick up on cup quality differences unless they were doing a side-by-side taste test. And at a more approachable price point seemingly without sacrificing sturdy construction, The Timemore C2 Max feels like a solid deal all-around. 

What we didn’t like: It may be picky, but the grinds bin screws on in the same direction of the hand crank, and because the grinds bin is textured like the body of the grinder, it’s easier to accidentally loosen it when grinding. The Timemore C2 Max also had more dryness and less complexity than our other winners in the taste tests, but the differences were minimal.

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 30 gram hopper and grinds bin
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Height: 7 inches
  • Burrs: 38mm stainless steel
  • Time to grind 30 grams of coffee: 28 seconds
a handheld grinder is being held and cranked

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The Competition

  • Porlex JP-30: The Porlex has been a standard for lightweight travel for years, but its crank design was difficult to use and the coffee it produced was flat, dry, and lacked sweetness. 
  • Orphan Espresso Fixie: Though it brewed a nice coffee, the Fixie uses a series of disc spacers added to the drive shaft to adjust the grind size. With an odd side-loading system and a fixed handle that wasn’t easy to remove, it was a baffling user experience that would be hard to recommend. 
  • Orphan Espresso Lido 3: Large and bulky, the Lido 3 from Orphan Espresso had a difficult to manage series of grind adjustment rings along with a short crank that lacked the leverage other models had. The cup quality was good, but the user experience was not. 
  • Hario Mini Slim Plus: Lightweight and small, the Mini Slim Plus seemed like another good travel option but produced dry, flat, and chalky-tasting coffee. 
  • Hario Skerton Pro: The bulbous design of of the Skerton Pro made it hard to grasp onto, and the cup quality was also lacking. 
  • 1Zpresso K-Max: Advertised as an upgrade to the JX Manual, I found the K-Max’s external adjustment ring too easy to accidentally adjust, losing your preferred grind size. I was also wary of the magnetic grinds bin instead of a screw-on type: it seemed too easy to accidentally bump and drop onto the floor. 

FAQs

Is a handheld coffee grinder worth it?

In the wide array of burr grinders, many manual handheld coffee grinders can offer a high-quality precision grind for a lower cost than their motorized counterparts, and are easier to store for people with limited counter space. A handgrinder is especially useful for people who travel often. Handgrinders are easy to pack, and are great for hotel room mornings, cabin getaways, and extended hiking and camping trips.

How long does it take to grind coffee with a hand grinder?

In our testing, high-quality handgrinders could grind 30 grams of coffee between 22 and 45 seconds with minimal effort. The worst performing grinders were difficult to crank and sometimes took up to two-and-a-half minutes. A well-made handgrinder will feature a dual ball bearing system in the drive shaft, making it easy to crank and grind coffee quickly.

How long does a manual grinder last?

The burrs in most high quality handgrinders are rated for around 1500 pounds of coffee before they would need to be replaced, which could be anywhere between five to 10 years for most coffee drinkers. While high-quality handgrinders are made out of sturdy materials with precision manufacturing, it’s best to contact the manufacturer about repairs or burr replacement. In comparison, our favorite motorized grinders from Baratza are designed with easy replacement parts in mind and can be repaired at home easily.