I used to confuse coffee and espresso grinders, but I learned there’s a huge difference between them. This post is a combination of all the information that I found.
You’ll find the following information throughout this piece:
Keep reading to learn more.
- Espresso grinders have unlimited grind settings, while coffee grinders don’t.
- Coffee grinders are cheaper due to having lower-quality parts.
- Coffee grinders are better for multiple brewing methods, while espresso grinders are optimal for espresso and Turkish coffee.
- Espresso grinders typically require more than 1,000 RPM.
- Coffee grinders use burrs or blades, espresso grinders always use burrs.
Differences Between an Espresso & Coffee Grinder Summarized
Coffee grinders have stepped settings, which prevents them from grinding as fine as coffee grounds. Because of this, they’re suitable for coarse coffee grounds.
Espresso grinders have stepless settings, giving the user unlimited options. That makes them excellent for espresso and Turkish coffee.
“Optimal” is the word I’d use to differentiate espresso and coffee grinders. Both grinders can grind coarse and fine grounds. But coffee grinders are optimal for coffee, while espresso grinders are vice versa.
Keep reading to learn how one would define an espresso grinder.
What Is an Espresso Grinder?
An espresso grinder is a device that manufacturers designed to spit out fine, consistent grounds. It often features burrs, not blades. Their burr design, a deliberate choice, ensures a more uniform grind compared to blade grinders.
Adjustability in these grinders is critical, allowing precise control over the grind size. Espresso grinders have micro-adjustment settings (stepless) for grind size control. This allows baristas to fine-tune the grind precisely for optimal espresso extraction.
Burrs grind beans evenly, which is critical for consistent espresso quality. That results in a grind that allows water to extract your coffee beans’ flavor evenly.
High-quality espresso grinders typically include features and design choices to minimize heat and static, preserving coffee’s freshness and flavor. For instance, they’ll include low-speed motors and gear reduction in these grinders to reduce heat and static.
This preserves the coffee’s essential oils and flavor, enhancing the espresso experience.
Now, what’s a coffee grinder?
What Is a Coffee Grinder?
Coffee grinders typically have less precise adjustment options for grind size (stepped). This is fine for various brewing methods like drip or French press since they don’t require such fine grinds.
Their design, often featuring blade or less precise burr systems, results in less uniform grinds compared to espresso grinders. The focus is on versatility rather than the fine precision needed for espresso.
Most standard coffee grinders don’t include specialized features to minimize heat and static, which are more critical in espresso preparation. These grinders are designed for general use, balancing cost and functionality for everyday coffee brewing.
That isn’t enough details? Explore more differences between these grinder types.
Espresso vs. Coffee Grinders
Here are all the areas that coffee and espresso makers differ in:
|Grind Size Consistency
|Better for espresso
|Worse for espresso
|Speed & Heat
|More potential damage to beans
|Better at retaining bean flavor
|Burr Type & Quality
|Better at separating flavors
|More forgiving on preparation
|Less precise dosing
I’ll expand upon these points further throughout the following sections. Use everything that I teach you to help you determine which type of grinder you’ll need.
Let’s do this.
1. Grind Size Consistency
- Espresso grinders focus on fine grinds.
- Coffee grinders focus on coarse grinds.
Espresso grinders focus on fine grind consistency. They often feature flat or conical burrs made of hardened steel or ceramic. These burrs ensure a uniform and very fine grind, ideal for espresso extraction.
The fine grind is crucial for creating the resistance for water passing through the coffee at high pressure. This process extracts rich flavors and creates the signature espresso crema.
Espresso grinders usually offer micro-adjustments. This allows baristas to fine-tune grind size for optimal extraction.
Coffee grinders, designed for various brew methods, offer a wider grind range. They cater to methods like French press, drip, and pour-over, which require coarser grinds.
These grinders might use blade or burr mechanisms. Burr grinders provide more consistency than blade grinders. However, they often lack the fine-tuning of espresso grinders. This is suitable since methods like French press are less sensitive to minor grind variations.
I mentioned “micro-adjustments.” Here’s more of an explanation for that.
2. Adjustment Precision
Stepped grinders are better for coarse grinds. Brewing methods like French press or cold brew use these grinds. These methods are less sensitive to minor grind size variations. Many stepped grinders will have 10 to 40 settings.
The fewer settings a machine has, the cheaper it is.
Stepped settings provide consistency and ease of use since you can switch between different brew methods. This makes them ideal for everyday use in diverse brewing environments.
Stepless settings suit espresso and Turkish coffee well. These methods need precise grind sizes. Even slight changes affect flavor and extraction quality.
These grinders typically cost more due to requiring more moving parts to allow for so many grind sizes.
Stepless grinders allow baristas to fine-tune the grind. This precision is key for the high pressure used in espresso machines. It’s also vital for the extremely fine grind required for Turkish coffee.
It isn’t just the number of sizes that you can choose that’ll impact your bean’s consistency. The burr type will, also. Keep reading to learn more.
Summary: Stepped grinders have fixed settings, common in coffee grinders. Stepless grinders, often found in espresso grinders, offer infinite adjustments.
3. Burr Type & Quality
With coffee grinders, you’ll pick between conical burrs and blades. Espresso grinders have the choice between conical and flat burrs.
What are burrs and blades? Here’s a summary:
- Blade Grinder: Use a spinning blade to chop coffee beans into smaller pieces, resulting in an uneven grind. Such grinds aren’t ideal for coffee because water doesn’t flow through the beans evenly.
- Cheapest option.
- Conical Burr: A cone-shaped burr that fits into a ring-shaped burr
- Low heat retention, quiet, and affordable, but isn’t as consistent.
- Flat Burr: 2 parallel rings with serrated edges that grind the coffee beans.
- Produces more consistent grinds, better at separating flavors, and more expensive.
Blade coffee grinders are the most affordable of the grinder types and don’t require as much space as burr grinders. But they always produce uneven coffee grinds, making them terrible for espresso.
Espresso grinders will always use burrs.
Conical burrs are quieter than flat ones and produce less heat. That means many conical burr coffee grinders will last longer than flat ones. They’re great for folks looking for a balance between grind consistency and minimal heat impact on the beans.
Because high-heat environments in grinders can also strip your beans’ flavor and make them more bitter.
They’re also more forgiving with puck preparation. If you’re preparing an espresso puck and make a mistake, you’ll have less of a chance of experiencing espresso channeling. Flat burrs aren’t as forgiving.
They will separate flavors better, making them optimal for intermediate and expert baristas who know what they’re doing. And so long as your machine has features in place to reduce heat, or large burrs, then heat won’t damage your beans.
By the way, larger burrs produce less heat due to having a larger surface area.
Once you decide on a type of burr or blade you want in your grinder, you’ll need to select a material. Most coffee grinders will use a variation of steel burrs or blades. This material will keep the blades sharper for longer.
Some types of steel (e.g., tool steel), will result in longer-lasting burrs due to having increased hardness (45 to 65 HRC) . But they’re typically overkill for home use. However, if you want a grinder that’ll last forever, go for it.
Burr grinders could also have ceramic burrs. These tend to chip easier, but they produce less heat. If you want a material that’s more durable and heat-resistant, go for titanium coating. The downside with these burrs is the coating.
It’s rare, but the coating could chip off of the burrs and get into your beans.
Most home users will want to opt for conical burrs on their coffee and espresso grinders to balance cost and flavors. Folks who want to take this hobby to an unhealthy level—in a good way—should opt for flat burrs.
While we’re optimizing espresso and coffee grinding, let’s dive into the next point. RPM.
Summary: Cheaper coffee grinders will use blades. Higher-quality coffee grinders and regular espresso grinders will use conical burrs. Higher-end espresso grinders will use flat burrs. The better the burr, the more even the grind. This makes the flavor better.
4. Speed & Heat
Machines with more than 1,000 revolutions per minute (RPMs) will generally produce finer, more uniform grinds. Because of this, such machines are better to use when grinding for espresso and Turkish coffee.
I keep mentioning Turkish coffee. Why? Because it requires super fine grinds (200–225 µm). Whereas, optimal espresso grinds are between 20 and 40 µm .
Here’s a visual representation on what sort of RPM you’d need for different grind consistencies:
|Cold brew, French press, and filter coffee
|Moka pot, pour-over, drip coffee, and cold brew
|Espresso, pour-over, and AeroPress
|Turkish coffee and espresso
This chart doesn’t say that getting “espresso” grinds from a machine that has under 1,000 RPM is impossible. For instance, the Baratza Sette 270 has 650 RPM. However, it’ll still produce grounds fine enough for espresso.
You’d want to be anal about the RPM range if you’re an enthusiast who wants OPTIMAL consistency and flavor. The Baratza Forté AP has 1,950 RPM and provides espresso grinds that result in a much better flavor.
However, it’s much more expensive than the Sette. Thus, the higher-RPM machines will have a much higher price tag—at least more than $700.
If you’re using the machine for a coffee shop, then you cannot go under 1,000 RPM for espresso grinds. Unless you like mistreating your customers by giving them sub-par coffee.
Machines using higher RPMs will typically generate more heat. This heat will put stress on your grinder and reduce its lifespan. Unless you get a prosumer model.
These will come with built-in cooling units, like fans, to prevent your machine from sustaining damage. It’ll result in a pricier machine, but you won’t have to replace it as often.
Now that I’m done making you feel like you have to spend more money, let’s look into dosing.
Summary: Espresso grinders typically have more RPM than coffee grinders.
Espresso grinders focus on precision dosing. They regularly feature doser or doserless options.
Doser models collect ground coffee in a chamber and release it in measured doses, usually around 7 grams per pull. These suit busy coffee shops, ensuring consistency and speed.
Doserless models grind directly into the espresso machine’s portafilter. This method is fresher and more precise, preferred by specialty café and enthusiasts. It allows for the exact measurement of each dose, which is crucial for high-quality espresso shots.
Coffee grinders, used for various brewing methods, often need more precise dosing features.
They may have timers or scales for approximate dosing. However, the focus is less on precision and more on convenience and versatility. Users typically measure coffee by volume or weight separately.
This approach suits methods like French press or drip, where exact dosing is less critical compared to espresso.
Summary: Espresso grinders prioritize precise dosing due to espresso’s sensitivity to dose variations. Coffee grinders focus on versatility and convenience, with less emphasis on exact dosing.
Manual coffee and espresso grinders will cost the least due to having no electricity and no features. But they produce the lowest-quality grinds.
Espresso grinders will always cost more than coffee grinders. I’ll explain in the next section.
And here are factors that’ll differentiate beginner, intermediate, prosumer, and commercial grinders:
- Brand: More reputable brands cost more for various reasons (e.g., better customer support).
- Features and Design Choices: Intermediate and prosumer machines have more features and more ergonomic designs.
- Commercial machines have features and design choices to withstand serving hundreds of customers daily.
- Materials: Entry-level machines will use the lowest-quality materials; commercial and prosumer devices will use the highest-quality.
- Burr Type: Low-cost machines use conical burrs or blades; pricier devices will use flat burrs.
Manufacturers want to save the most money when producing entry-level or beginner machines. Thus, they’ll use whatever means possible to cut costs (allegedly). Intermediate machines are more forgiving and will include better materials.
Prosumer machines are the same as commercial machines, but for home use. They use the highest-quality parts and include features most would consider overkill.
Here’s why espresso grinders are so pricey.
Summary: Espresso grinders cost more than coffee grinders.
Why Are Espresso Grinders so Expensive?
Here are all the factors that contribute to espresso grinders being more expensive than coffee grinders:
|Not as many buy espresso grinders, thus, they’re priced higher.
|More reputable brands charge more for espresso grinders.
|Features like digital timers, programmable dosing, and touchscreen controls increase costs.
|Stepless settings require complex mechanisms, adding to the cost.
|Parts that result in more consistent grinds lead to increased costs.
14% of home baristas in the USA brew espresso drinks at home . 33% use drip coffee. This suggests that not as many people will use espresso grinders as they will coffee ones. Thus, manufacturers need to profit somehow.
With a smaller market, you’ll have increased prices.
Lower-end espresso grinder brands, like Niche and Eureka, will offer grinders for under $1,000. But when you start looking at grinders from brands like Mahlkönig and CEADO, you’ll see grinders more than $2,000.
Espresso grinders typically have more features to cool your machine, provide more consistent grinds, or give you diagnostics. Such features require more electronics and moving parts. Resulting in a costlier machine.
I shouldn’t need to explain why a machine with unlimited adjustments costs more than one with 10–40 settings.
And many espresso grinders will use hardened steel or ceramic burrs. These burrs add more costs to manufacturing, thus resulting in a higher-cost product.
Now that you’ve decided whether you want a coffee or espresso grinder, you’ll need to know what to consider when buying either. Keep reading to learn what criteria you should follow.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for a Coffee & Espresso Grinder
If you’re shopping for a coffee or espresso grinder, you’ll need to consider these factors:
|Why it’s Important for Espresso
|Why it’s Important for Coffee
|Controls heat, affects flavor preservation.
|Impacts grind speed and consistency.
|Conical vs. Flat Burr
|Influences grind uniformity and flavor extraction.
|Determines grind consistency and quality.
|Affects durability and heat conduction.
|Manual vs. Electric
|Dictates control level and effort required.
|Balances convenience with grind quality.
The following sections will expand upon all the points above. I’ll explain factors common in each type of machine. For instance, I’ll explain what type of materials coffee grinders and espresso grinders typically use.
A lot of these points will parrot what I mentioned earlier. Thus, I’m not going to dive too deep into most of these factors (e.g., RPM).
Let’s go shopping.
- Espresso Grinders: 1,000–3,000 RPM
- Coffee Grinders: 0–999 RPM
Higher revolutions per minute (RPM) result in finer, more consistent grinds. This improves the flavor. However, it’s still possible to achieve espresso grinds without having more than 1,000 RPM. Your grinds won’t have optimal consistency, though.
Only stress about RPM as a factor if you’re serious about the hobby and have disposable income. Because higher-RPM devices will cost much more (more than $700).
Don’t get lazy when shopping, though. Look up whether the specific grinder you’re considering is great for espresso. RPM isn’t the only answer to this question, but it’s part of the answer.
Here’s another factor that’ll determine whether your grinder’s good for espresso.
2. Conical Burr vs. Flat Burr
- Espresso Grinders:
- Beginner and Intermediate: Conical burrs
- Advanced Users: Flat burrs
- Coffee Grinders:
- Budget: Blade
- Not Budget: Conical burrs
Low-cost coffee grinders will use blades instead of burrs (>$50), but the resulting drink from these aren’t that good due to doing a bad job at separating flavors. I don’t recommend blade grinders at all, since it’s possible to find conical burr grinders for under $50.
Conical burrs are a perfect middle ground for coffee and espresso grinders. They preserve bean flavor due to generating less heat, don’t require as strict of puck preparation, and do a decent job at giving you flavorful coffee.
They don’t separate flavors as well as flat burrs, though. Though, that isn’t as important of a factor unless you’re serious about brewing the “best” espresso. Since flat burrs will produce a more consistent grind.
And now that you have a burr type chosen, you’ll need to decide on your material.
Summary: Most folks will do fine with a conical burr coffee or espresso grinder. Get a flat burr espresso grinder if you have disposable income and are serious about your drinks’ flavor.
3. Burr Material
- Espresso Grinder: Ceramic
- Coffee Grinder: Steel
Most folks who buy coffee grinders will just want to go with steel burrs. Ceramic burrs will generate less heat and last longer—they’ll grind 750–800 pounds versus the 500–600 pounds steel burrs grind .
Steel burrs also often result in uneven grinds, which is better for coffee-brewing methods like drip coffee or cold brew.
Ceramic burrs cost much more and are super fragile if something like a pebble got into your beans.
This material doesn’t absorb flavors like steel does and does a better job with not heating up, but it’s rare to find an espresso grinder that uses this material. For instance, most grinders from noteworthy brands like Niche or Fiorenzato will use steel.
Summary: Most home coffee users should opt for steel burrs. It’s difficult to find ceramic burr grinders.
4. Manual vs. Electric Grinder
|Multiple grind settings, timers, hoppers, etc.
Manual coffee and espresso grinders cost much less than their electric counterparts (<$100). However, with less cost comes less consistency and features. Plus, they’re manual. Every time you use it, you’ll be working out your arms.
I don’t recommend manual grinders unless you’re one of these people:
- Travelers and Campers: The portability and compact size of manual grinders make them ideal for those who want to enjoy fresh coffee while traveling or camping.
- Budget-conscious Buyers: Manual grinders are more affordable, offering a lower-cost entry into the world of freshly ground coffee.
- Limited Space: Ideal for individuals with limited kitchen space or those who prefer a minimalist setup.
- Quiet Environment: Beneficial in settings where noise is a concern, such as early mornings in shared living spaces (e.g., dorms).
- You Have Time: You’ll need more time to grind your beans.
- You Live Off the Grid: You’ll need to cut your electrical usage.
These grinders only work well for folks with limited access to electricity, a lot of time on their hands, and don’t have much money. However, many knock-off brands, and even trustworthy brands, offer electric coffee grinders for under $50.
I’ve covered all the differences between coffee and espresso grinders. Let’s explore some examples.
Summary: Don’t get a manual coffee grinder unless you live in an area with limited electricity access. Or if you’re camping.
Examples of Espresso & Coffee Grinders
Based on all the differences mentioned, here are examples of coffee grinders and their espresso counterparts:
|Baratza Sette 270
RPM doesn’t make the most significant impact on whether one would define a grinder as espresso or coffee. But it’s a factor that will impact whether you’ll have more consistent grinds.
The Niche Zero is a popular model among enthusiasts but requires “mods” or additional equipment to produce higher-quality espresso. It costs around the same as the Mahlkönig X54, but doesn’t include a flat burr. You’d need to get the flat burr mod.
Almost all the espresso grinders on this list have stepless settings, except for the Sette. Baratza’s grinder can technically produce espresso grinds all these machines can.
However, it won’t match the quality you’d get from the Zero or X54.
The Niche Zero and the Mahlkönig X54 are the most expensive on this list—more than $500. But they’ll produce the highest-quality espresso grinds (for home brewing). Meanwhile, these machines will also do a good job producing coarse grinds.
Though, you may notice more fine grounds in your coarse grounds when grinding. The espresso grinders could also grind coffee, but it’s not optimal.
You’ll also need additional accessories and devices to optimize your home espresso or coffee brewing. Keep reading to see what I mean.
What Else You’ll Need for Your Home Espresso Bar
You may have read this guide because you don’t know whether you want a coffee or espresso grinder. However, if you’re trying to set up a coffee or espresso area in your home, you’ll need other accessories and devices like:
|For Coffee Bars
|For Espresso Bars
|Description (If Applicable)
|Reduces static in grinders.
|To make coffee or espresso.
|Can’t have coffee without beans.
|To store coffee beans.
|Coffee bean scale
|To weigh coffee beans.
I list a ton of other items you’ll need for home espresso and coffee bars in a separate post. And if you’re a business, I have a checklist to also help get you started.
This list is to help ensure you don’t forget anything when setting up your coffee- or espresso-brewing area.
Otherwise, that’s it for all the differences between coffee and espresso grinders. If you still have questions, check out the next section for frequently asked questions.
FAQs for Espresso & Coffee Grinder
Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about the differences between coffee and espresso grinders.
Can You Use a Regular Coffee Grinder for Espresso?
Yes, you can use a regular coffee grinder for espresso. However, it’s challenging to achieve the fine, consistent grind needed for espresso. For optimal results, a dedicated espresso grinder is preferable.
Do You Really Need an Espresso Grinder?
You should get an espresso grinder if you have the extra money because it’ll result in better-tasting espresso drinks.
Coffee grinders typically have limited settings and are better used for brewing methods that require coarse grinds. Espresso grinders have unlimited settings, which makes them optimal for producing fine grinds.
Now that you know the differences, you’ll need to find a grinder. We have separate guides that recommend the best coffee and espresso grinders. Check them out.