Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Should you buy a better coffee grinder?

12/19/2021, 9:57:24 PM

tl;dr — unequiocally, yes.

I went back and forth on this decision for awhile, when I started my coffee journey not too long ago. At the beginning, I had picked up a cheap $10 grinder from KitchenStuffPlus, which did the job1. I had been consuming lots of anecdotal opinions online (mostly from /r/coffee), and while there were lots of variables you could tweak to improve the coffee experience, it all seemingly came back to getting a proper grinder to ensure the resulting coffee grounds were as even as possible. Even something as basic as having freshly roasted coffee could play second fiddle to an even grind – poor quality beans (either due to age or other factors) can have their flavour maximized with the proper grind2, whereas a good quality coffee bean could be ruined by an uneven grind.

I ended up buying the Timemore Chestnut C2 from AliExpress3, since this seemed to be best-in-class in the $50-$100 grinder price range. Higher would get me better build quality4, but that probably didn't translate to the actual grind itself. Even higher still, and I'd venture into the realm of electric grinders, which for a single coffee consumer, is probably overkill.

When it came, I immediately compared and contrasted the grinds. Can you tell which ones were from the old grinder, and which ones were from the Timemore?


  • The old grinds (left) were uneven in size, with larger grinds mixed in with very fine grinds (appropriately named "fines"), with the grinds of the ideal size probably making up 40-60% by weight of the resulting output.
  • The new grinds (right) show a marked difference, with fewer fines present, and no overly large grinds present at all. In general, the grinds are of a more uniform distribution.

What does this mean, coffee-wise?

Here comes some anecdotal stuff...

The very first thing I noticed was the clarity of the brew. Where my older cups were very complex and flavourful, many bad flavours (the bitter flavours present in overextracted coffee) were present, along with flavours typically present with underextraction. The new cups were entirely different, allowing me to really taste the flavour of the coffee without having to think as hard about what I was tasting.

The second thing I noticed was the concentration of the brew. I'd been wondering why my ratios seemed to far out of the norm (regularly ending up with decent cups at the 1g coffee to 23mL water ratio, or higher). Every time I tried upping my coffee to hit the 1:17 ratio, the resulting brew was so thick and bitter that I knew I was doing something wrong. Not long after I had my new grinder, I discovered that that even a 1:20 ratio just wan't delivering a cup with enough flavour. It was thin, and moving to a 1:17 ratio immediately improved the resulting cup. It was likely due to the decreased amount of fines, allowing for a better cup of coffee without the fines ruining the flavours due to overextraction, when additional coffee was used.

The third and last difference was simply that the Timemore is a well-made instrument that does its job well. There is very little resistance while grinding, and grinds the beans faster than my old burr grinder. The resistance is so minimal that even my 2-year-old toddler can turn the crank! Say goodbye to sore forearms, especially if you like to grind finer.

So, is it worth it? GOTO tl;dr.


1 Though at that time, "doing the job" meant grinding coffee beans fresh, just prior to brewing.

2 Of course, no amount of superior grinding will make a coffee better than it can be... garbage in, garbage out!

3 Look ma, no referral link! ... but in all seriousness, I recommend buying this one from AliExpress. Timemore is a Chinese company, and it makes absolutely no sense to purchase an item from a middleman (that is, a country-specific retailer) unless you need the item particularly quickly.

4 Basically, more metal parts, and fewer plastic parts.