Manual Coffee Grinder Review: Packable Stainless Grinder

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MANUAL COFFEE GRINDER REVIEW

I'm becoming a low-budget coffee snob.

I used to buy morning coffee at local bakeries and bagel places whenever near one while traveling. They usually fresh-grind whole beans every day and often have different types of coffee available. The difference in taste over small town convenience store coffee can be remarkable.

While camping or away from town, I'd brew coffee with a scoop of pre-ground from bags bought in a grocery store. I made my coffee that way for years, even at home. Then I thought, well hell, I'll get whole beans and an inexpensive manual grinder for that bakery freshness. The only difference would be not chatting up the locals.

Whole beans stay fresh far longer than ground coffee, especially when making only one travel mug a day. Even the aroma from fresh-ground beans is richer, and it's an even bigger difference in taste if what you're used to in camp is instant coffee or coffee bags. Man, most mornings the smell of just-ground coffee beans as I'm grinding them starts waking me up before I even get a cup brewed.

I started using the small manual grinder on the left in the image below. There are dozens to choose from. Though most seem identical, they can vary widely in price.

c-coffee-grinder_5899-700.jpg

It's a great little grinder, with seven adjustable settings from fine through coarse, and works really well for the effort.

I liked the manual grind enough I started poking around for a grinder that would pack easier and weigh less for overnights with my bike or canoe. I enjoy experimenting with bushcraft style camping and self-sufficiency, whether in the mountains or desert, and great coffee with breakfast cooked outside often starts off that kind of day just right.

I'm not a hard-core backpacker concerned about every fraction of an ounce, though am conscious of unnecessary weight and overall space used. I found these nifty little two-piece stainless manual grinders that seemed would fit the bill. I'm sure they've been around for ages; I just never looked.

Like the glass and plastic manual grinder, they have ceramic burrs (far better, it's said, than metal burrs for grinding because they don't heat up); have multiple settings in grind from coarse to fine, and take a little effort to grind enough for the day. It's become a welcome part of my morning routine.

There are a bunch of these little stainless guys to choose from, and like the glass bottomed grinder, many of them appear to be the same exact thing, perhaps even made in the same place and just private labeled.

c-coffeegrinder_5896-700.jpg ... c-cowboycoffee_5889-700.jpeg

The one I ended up with was only 20.95 USD, though I see it's already been reduced a couple bucks. It came with a scoop that doubles as a clip for your bag of beans. The clip, though, is kind of gimmicky and seems more suitable as a way to not misplace the scoop than it is for effectively keeping a bag of beans well-sealed. I don't think I'll be packing the scoop/clip, not even for basecamp use.

There's one of these stainless grinders out there that looks identical to mine--though not branded, does not include the scoop/clip, and has a plastic knob instead of stainless on the crank--on amzn right now for 9.99 USD. It pays to keep an eye on pricing and a variety of sites for the best deals on most products these days. They can fluctuate daily and will disappear at times, then sometimes return.

Here's the difference in size between the two small manual grinders I've been using. I like that the stainless bottom half of the new grinder has Tbsp markings and windows. Having a window on each side makes it easier to see through and gauge amount of grounds.

c-coffee-grinder_5901-700.jpg ... c-coffee-grinder_5917-700.jpeg

I have a ziploc of whole beans--enough for four or five days, probably--stuffed in the bottom half in the image on right. That's my Colador coffee sock under the grinder halves, which helps complete my packable coffee kit. I wish the halves of the grinder would nest, so I could pack it even smaller.

c-coffeegrinder_5922-700.jpeg
Overhead view, showing size difference.
..

c-coffeegrinder_5986-700.jpg ... c-coffeegrinder_5988-700.jpeg

The stainless grinders are 7" tall, same as my travel mug, which is the only thing I've used for daily coffee in years. I even take it in places when ordering at a bakery and it helps reduce waste, too.

The grinder won't fit in the travel mug when halved and side by side, and sticks up a bit when in the travel mug whole. I'll have to experiment with how it fits in my Billy pots and bushcraft gear for more efficient canoe and bike trips.

I've been using this new little manual coffee grinder for a week or so now. I thought I'd be packing it in addition to the glass bottomed grinder; one for basecamp and van and one for canoe and bike trips, though can see it works so well I won't need the glass one at all.

All in all, I'm really happy with both, though the stainless one will be far more convenient when adventuring.

========

The travel mug is from CoffeeGator, who has a bunch of products for brewing and storing coffee. Their site has a great guide on How To Drink Better Coffee that includes helpful tips.
The bag of coffee seen in the images is from Cowboy Kent Rollins, whom I've linked to before in these forums. He has a very engaging youtube channel full of cooking tips, recipes, and cast iron care.
I have no affiliation with either outfit.

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grubworm

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Excellent info...

we pretty much always buy ground coffee and recently the wife read an article about how ground coffee contains pieces of roaches and mouse droppings, etc. i had read a similar article many years back about that with cereal and oatmeal and the like...never thought about that with coffee. obviously its part of the manufacturing process and probably nothing that can be done about it and why the FDA allows for so many mouse turds and roaches without it being a problem. anyway, the wife wanted to switch to whole bean coffee and we are looking for a grinder to take camping....

 
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egilbe

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My favorite coffee is from Carrabassett Roasters in Kingfield Maine. Its worth a special trip to go hiking and buy a couple pounds of coffee. $9 a pound for freshly roasted coffee is a bargain.
 
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Road

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Excellent info...

we pretty much always buy ground coffee and recently the wife read an article about how ground coffee contains pieces of roaches and mouse droppings, etc. i had read a similar article many years back about that with cereal and oatmeal and the like...never thought about that with coffee. obviously its part of the manufacturing process and probably nothing that can be done about it and why the FDA allows for so many mouse turds without it being a problem. anyway, the wife wanted to switch to whole bean coffee and we are looking for a grinder to take camping....

.
Thanks, @grubworm, and well, dang - I hadn't considered the possibility of insect parts or other debris in pre-ground coffee. I imagine it's still possible, though nowhere near as much, with whole bean packaging. I guess the next step is start growing my own coffee :smirk:.

Manual grinders aren't as quick or easy as an electric one. They take a little effort and time, especially if you want a finer than medium grind. The stainless grinders have more settings than the glass-bottomed ones. I'd check the reviews for end-user comments to see what might fit your needs best. Some folks don't like one aspect or another. I've found it to be easy.

As much as I'm enjoying morning coffee now from whole beans I just ground moments before, I can't believe I waited this long in life to grind my own.
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My favorite coffee is from Carrabassett Roasters in Kingfield Maine. Its worth a special trip to go hiking and buy a couple pounds of coffee. $9 a pound for freshly roasted coffee is a bargain.
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Good to know. I'll keep an eye out for it when up that way, hopefully later this year. Where I'm at in Portland has some good local roasters, too, and there's a few spots in places I frequent around the country that have local roasters I'll try out now, too. My favorite for camping for the last couple years has been Café Olé's Texas Pecan, with a hint of caramel, that I like to get when near an HEB. Too expensive to buy through amzn, though looking it up right now I see there is a Texas Pecan from Alamo Pecan & Coffee that has pieces of pecan right in with the whole beans. I might have to try that, too.
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I picked up a manual grinder a while back. The idea being I sometimes find a local roaster with great coffee that I may want to enjoy before I get back home.
 
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I have been grinding for years with electric grinder. Then, I started researching and decided the ceramic hand grind might be an improvement. Glad I did. Now I have to refrain from stocking up on too much and different kinds of beans. I have cut back my consumption a tad from when I was in an office most days. But, then I got a bigger cup. Vicious cycle! The smell of fresh ground coffee has to be in the top five favorite smells.
 

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This one is really interesting to me as I am never the sole drinker of coffee when I am out (or if I am it is seems to be on the motorcycle and then it is instant - ya I know...) and all of these hand crank grinders (Snow Peak, VSSL, etc) seem to only have capacity for one cup of coffee which means I would be grinding multiple batches to make a pot of coffee. So my solution is always to grind a pound at home before I leave then put it back in the original bag and take that. If I need more find a local shop and ask them to grind it for me.

Am I wrong on this capacity thing or are these hand grinders really designed for one cup of coffee?
 
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Road

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This one is really interesting to me as I am never the sole drinker of coffee when I am out (or if I am it is seems to be on the motorcycle and then it is instant - ya I know...) and all of these hand crank grinders (Snow Peak, VSSL, etc) seem to only have capacity for one cup of coffee which means I would be grinding multiple batches to make a pot of coffee. So my solution is always to grind a pound at home before I leave then put it back in the original bag and take that. If I need more find a local shop and ask them to grind it for me.

Am I wrong on this capacity thing or are these hand grinders really designed for one cup of coffee?
.
Both the glass bottomed grinder and the stainless grinder that I have hold plenty beans for more than one cup; in the upper working half and in the receptacle.

The glass-bottomed grinder holds a full cup (16 tbsp) of whole beans.
The stainless grinder holds a 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) of whole beans.

grinders_6015-700.jpeg....grinders_6018-700.jpeg

The glass-bottomed grinders generally come with an extra glass bottom for storing just-ground coffee when you make extra. I'd keep it out of the light if storing grounds longer than needed the day of grinding.
The stainless one I have has front and back windows with measured Tbsps marked on one side, up to four, though will hold eight Tbsps of just ground.

Beware when shopping online for these grinders; like so many other products these days, from rooftop tents to food, it appears that many of both types of these grinders are made by the same couple manufacturers and then private-labeled. Sometimes they're exactly the same; sometimes they have minor differences like the measured markings, handle knob, or finish. Prices can vary widely for essentially identical items.

==============

I know it's not what you are asking, but I'll include this info for other readers of this thread--who may be new to grinding their own coffee--on amounts typically ground and most common types of coffee:

Coffee Amounts:
Our local popular roaster, Coffee By Design, says on their whole bean bags: "If you scoop - 1-2 Tbsp per cup. If you measure - 1/2 oz of coffee per 10oz of water."
A much larger brand, available in chain groceries around the eastern US, Cameron's Coffee, says on their bags "1-2 Tbsp per 6oz cup."

That's a big spread. A lot depends on what type of whole beans you like and how strong the coffee beans are. On top of that, everyone develops their own routine and preferences.

I like a level 2 Tbsp of ground for my 16oz travel mug, though can always tell the difference between different beans and brands and how much caffeine they have. Once I try a new coffee, I adjust accordingly. I now keep a cheap longer handled plastic 2Tbsp scoop in my coffee kit instead of just using a kitchen spoon and guess-timating.

Like I wrote in the original post; I'm becoming a low-budget coffee snob. Cheap plastic scoop, inexpensive reusable cotton Coladors to filter, small low-cost manual grinders, and the same travel mug every day. Other than good beans, that's my whole coffee kit.

Coffee Types:
- From CoffeeAffection.com: "There are two major types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee is considered much higher in quality... Raw Arabica beans contain 1.2% caffeine or 12 milligrams per gram. Raw Robusta beans have almost twice as much caffeine, at 2.2% or 22 milligrams.

- More on the difference between Arabic and Robusta from PerfectDailyGrind.com: "Let’s state it clearly: when it comes to flavour and aroma, Arabica has more complexity than Robusta. This is partly because the two species are different at a chemical level." More details on the differences at the link.

.
 
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1. Any coffee is usually better than no coffee. Especially if the last dose was/is approaching 24 hrs. previous.
2. Fresh roasted and ground coffee has more flavor.
3. Refer to #1.

There is a fundamental difference , to me, in making one cup vs. multiple cups at once and I usually only have one cup once or twice a day. I do occasionally make multiple cups and use a thermos when I know it's going to be a long busy day...like fishing! Allowances may need to be made for the varying circumstances. I don't measure that closely except to go stronger in the morning than the afternoon. Pert-near measure is good enough for me and strong is better than weak. Caffeine, like any useful drug, must be administered in the dose that provides the optimum effects. A mild addiction can be expected. Refer to #1. Withdrawals are not good. With me it resembles the beginnings of the flu. I like different brews but medium to dark bodied Columbian is my go to. I've occasionally been know to add a small slash of Bailey's when the weather turns. Now, it's time for my nap. Then, I'm going to make a cuppa.
 
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