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Cheap Coffee Grinders Buying Guide

Serious coffee aficionados may prefer a seriously expensive coffee grinder. High-priced models are typically burr grinders, which produce uniform grounds by grinding the beans between two wheels.

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With burr grinders you're guaranteed results that meet your specification: if you want a coarse grind, all the grounds will be coarse; if you want a fine grind, all the grounds will be fine. Expensive burr grinders also feature a range of settings that produce specific grinds for different types of coffee makers.

Cheap coffee grinders are blade grinders; that is, they chop the beans with stainless steel blades that rotate at high-speed. Blade grinders are less precise than burr grinders and often fail to grind beans to a consistent size. In particular, budget blade grinders struggle to deliver the coarser grinds that are preferred for French press coffee makers and percolators. That said, inexpensive coffee grinders effectively churn out the medium to fine grind required for drip coffee makers and espresso machines. (A fine grind is best for drip coffee makers with paper cone filters and for espresso machines; a medium grind is best for drip coffee makers with flat-bottomed filters.) Another common use for discount coffee grinders is grinding spices and nuts; most low price coffee grinders we reviewed work very well for this purpose.

The major manufacturers of coffee grinders are Krups, Mr. Coffee, Jura Capresso, Proctor Silex, Toastmaster, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, and Black & Decker. These companies offer a range of models at different prices, including some cheap coffee grinders that meet consumers' expectations for performance, ease of use, and durability.

Our research identified two cheap coffee grinders for our "best" category: the Krups Fast Touch 203-42 (starting at $19) is a simple, reliable, no-frills blade coffee grinder that's proven popular for years due to its solid performance; the Mr. Coffee IDS77 (starting at $18) offers some appealing frills, including three automated grind settings that time the grinding action so you don't have to. For the "good" category, we picked the Jura Capresso 501 Cool Grind (starting at $20), which grinds more slowly than other discount coffee grinders to prevent heat build-up, and the Toastmaster 1119 (starting at $12), which users say does a particularly fine job grinding seeds and nuts. We also found two cheap coffee grinders -- the Black & Decker CBG (starting at $20) and the Cuisinart DCG-20 (starting at $20) -- that garner complaints about design and malfunctions.

Operation.

Cheap coffee grinders, like the Krups Fast Touch 203-42, Jura Capresso 501 Cool Grind, Toastmaster 1119, Black & Decker CBG100S, and Cuisinart DCG-20, are blade grinders. They're powered up with a simple push button that sets blades whirring inside a small chamber where the beans go. Grinding time varies from five to 15 seconds depending on the amount of beans you're grinding and how finely ground you wish them to be; the Capresso 501 Cool Touch may take a few seconds longer owing to the low-heat motor that's intended to minimize the loss of flavor during a slower grinding process. Most inexpensive coffee grinders feature a push-and-hold control button and clear plastic top (for viewing) that let you decide when to stop the machine. Directions for some discount coffee grinders, like the Capresso Cool Grind 501, Toastmaster 1119, and Black & Decker CBG 100S, recommend using a pulse action for the most even grind.

The Mr. Coffee IDS77 times the action electronically. Just choose from among three settings -- coarse, medium, and fine -- and the number of cups you'll be brewing, and this coffee grinder determines when to shut itself off. You have to keep your finger on the control button throughout, but you can short-circuit the action by letting go if you decide the grind is fine enough. The most sophisticated cheap coffee grinder we found is the Hamilton Beach 80365 (starting at $17), which provides hands-free operation: choose from among the five grind and four cup settings, push the start button, let go, and the coffee grinder stops when the grinding is complete.

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Capacity.

There's a noticeable difference in the stated capacity of the cheap coffee grinders that we researched. Some are designed to grind enough beans for a small crowd, while others can only handle enough for a few people. At the high-capacity end, the Capresso Cool Grind 501, with its oversize 3.5-ounce grinding chamber, and the Krups Fast Touch 203-42, with a three-ounce chamber, can theoretically grind beans for up to 15 cups of coffee at one go. The Mr. Coffee IDS77, Hamilton Beach 80365, and Black & Decker CBG100S claim to grind up to 12 cups worth of beans, although we didn't find information about the size of the grinding chambers. Moving down the capacity spectrum, the Cuisinart DCG-20 features a 2.5-ounce grinding chamber and the Toastmaster 1119 includes a two-ounce chamber; retailers' specifications for both say the container holds enough for 12 cups of coffee. We found discrepancies among vendors concerning the maximum number of cups advertised for several models, and users assert in discount coffee grinder reviews that the cup maximums are way overstated for all models.

If you expect to prepare just one or two cups of coffee in the morning, though, you might prefer one of the smaller cheap coffee grinders. Although the high-capacity coffee grinders may not specify a minimum number of cups, grinding beans for less than four cups (about two mugs) might produce unsatisfactory results. Despite the difference in capacity among low price coffee grinders, there's little difference in price and overall size.

Cleanup.

Grinding coffee can be a messy business, so it's good to know how to keep your coffee grinder clean. The Mr. Coffee IDS77 and Hamilton Beach 80365 are the easiest to maintain. Both models have a removable grinding chamber that can be placed in the dishwasher. The Mr. Coffee IDS77 goes one step further by providing a proprietary semi-automatic cleaning system called the "chamber maid cleaning system" -- press a lever and three plastic bars move around the grinding chamber to remove residue. You can clean the other discount coffee grinders on our list with a damp cloth or dry brush (some users recommend a small paint or pastry brush).

Cord and Storage.

If you have a cluttered counter or prefer to store your coffee grinder when not in use, the length of the cord and where it goes matter. The Mr. Coffee IDS77 provides recessed storage so you can easily tuck away the cord and move the coffee grinder out of sight. Other cheap coffee grinders with recessed cord storage include the Capresso Cool Grind 501, Toastmaster 1119, and Hamilton Beach 80365. The Krups Fast-touch 203-42 has a very short cord with no recessed storage, so you may need an extension cord for this model. The Proctor Silex E160B (starting at $12) features an unusual (for discount coffee grinders) retractable cord.

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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