Here we are, back again to talk about – what else – coffee grinders! We’ve done a couple of other lists for different price points, including the best coffee grinder under $50, and the best burr grinders under $200. Now, we’re going to look at grinders that come in under $500.
Each of these grinders is perfect for espresso lovers, as grinders at this price offer speed, control, and consistency. These grinders have proven themselves to be quite popular time and again, and so right now we’re going to share with you reviews of 5 grinders that we love and that we think you’ll love too!
Let’s get started!
In terms of its form, the Baratza Virtuoso coffee grinder has a very pleasingly rounded look, or you might even call it “organic”. Even the hopper has a rounded appearance. The Baratza Virtuoso has a mix of steel and hard black plastic, and the overall presentation here is that of a cool, calm, and collected grinder that looks like its ready to take on any job you give it. But that’s just the looks, how about the action?
Grinders at this price ought to have a certain type of burr that will allow it to control the grind of your beans effortlessly, and sure enough the Virtuoso has that – as in, professional-grade, conical steel 40 mm burrs. As the price of a coffee grinder goes up, we expect to see bigger burrs, and 40 mm is nothing to scoff at for a home grinder.
The conical burrs on the Baratza Virtuoso also use a precision mounting system to increase grinding accuracy, which also lends to a smoother and more consistent grind.
The Baratza Virtuoso actually uses a few different in-house technologies to achieve their renowned smooth, consistent grind, making them one of the coffee industry’s go-to grinders.
If you have the timer set for a longer grind time, the high-torque, DC motor along with Gearbox 2.0, keeps the RPMs down to 450, meaning less heat and less static build-up.
With this particular grinder, is Baratza’s Gearbox 2.0 offers re-tooling of their grinders’ drive transmission to increase power and durability, while also keeping the grinding cool and slow.
Check out this review video on the Barazta Virtuoso (starting at 2:28) to get a closer look at the unit.
In terms of how the grinder is laid out, its fairly simple. On the right side of the Baratza Virtuoso we have our timer, and on the front of the machine we have our grind-on-demand button. Some people prefer more buttons, knobs, and dials to play with, while others like it to be as simplified as possible. That’s what this coffee grinder is all about. The hopper and grind receptacle are both UV-protected, which means you can leave beans and grinds in there slightly longer and they’ll stay a bit fresher. Not a substitute for a good airtight coffee vault, but a nice add nonetheless.
For cleaning, getting at the inside of the machine its as simple as removing the hopper to expose the dust shield and upper burr.
From there, you take your small espresso brush, vacuum, or whatever you normally use, and do your maintenance. From there, reassembly is fairly straightforward.
Again, we do enjoy the effort put forth by Baratza to keep things simple enough for even us non-mechanically-inclined folk when it comes to using and maintaining the Virtuoso.
There are 40 grinder settings to play with here, but no micro-adjustments. That said, for the home user, 40 is a good number of grind settings for all your desired grinds, from French Press to espresso. This is called stepped grinding and, generally speaking, most users only do stick to a few specific grind settings to make their favorite brews, but having 40 gives the grinder a nice versatility. That said, the Virtuoso is generally closer to$200 than $500, and closer to $500 is where we start seeing more micro-adjustable grinders, which we will be talking more about later in this review.
Overall, the Baratza Virtuoso is a sturdy, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing coffee grinder. Grinds are consistent, operation is smooth, plus Baratza has great customer service and there is a one year warranty if anything goes wrong.
Gaggia 8002 MDF
Gaggia is an Italian company and it makes professional coffee machines, including this piece of work, the 8002 MDF coffee grinder. Its what you might call “swanky” and the type of grinder that you’d see in a posh Italian café. We mentioned dosing earlier, and the Gaggia 8002 MDF has a doser included and so this is a highlight.
This grinder may not be steel, but it is made from impact-resistant hard black plastic, and so it is quite durable. For those looking for more steel, this may not be the one for you but we still think its a beautiful machine.
Since once again we are talking about a grinder which is closer to $200 than $500, the grind settings are “limited” to 34, which isn’t a small number per se, but, again, this is not a micro-adjusting machine nor a stepless machine. Plenty to work with though, if you are wanting to try out different brew styles!
The dosing chamber on the front of the Gaggia 8002 MDF allows the user to pre-measure out the grinds going into the porta-filter by way of the pulling little black handle on the right side of the machine. This is done in the true espresso grinder style of more expensive machines like the Macap M4.
Now, because this isn’t a super high-priced grinder, Gaggia is leaving a few things up to you, such as purchasing a decent porta-filter. There’s a porta-filter holder, yes, but not a porta-filter. This isn’t exactly meant to be a tease, because none of the grinders we’re listing come with a porta-filter. Generally, that is something to be purchased by the user on its own, like a quality tamper. Still, the holder is there, waiting for a tamper, so you’ll be needing one. Especially since there is a dosing chamber, which is something you’d get for dosing out espresso shots, and again necessitating a porta-filter.
We ought to mention that the Gaggia 8002 MDF, since it has the dosing chamber and the porta-filter holder, basically is saying “I am an espresso grinder, use me for espresso!” Because you actually are required to use the dosing chamber, this grinder really does make the most sense as an espresso grinder, as that is what its set up for, but of course you can use it for whatever you want.
In terms of durability, many users have reported their Gaggia 8002 being “in the family” for upwards of a decade, so this machine really does offer quite a lot of bang for your buck as you invest under $300 and you keep it for a decade or so. Not bad, but not too surprising either as Gaggia is one of the old hats in the coffee world and they know what they’re doing.
Part of the reason it is such a workhorse is due to its 50mm flat tempered-steel burrs hard at work inside the unit.
These powerful burrs, with the help of its 120 watt motor, gear reduction system (they don’t call it a Gearbox, but essentially the same thing), and Gaggia 8002 MDF‘s overall interior design workmanship, make for a slow, steady, low-static cool grind that is the reason for its great consistency; a fact which many owners of the Gaggia have expressed their appreciation for over the years.
The unit comes with an 8 oz ground coffee container, which you can vacuum seal to keep grinds fresh. There is even an air removal pump to make sure the container is air-tight. It also looks nice. It also comes with a one-year warranty and has a relatively small footprint in your kitchen.
KitchenAid Pro Line
With this KitchenAid Pro Line steel burr grinder, we see a fairly large increase in price from the last two we looked at. A leap like this one would hope would have some great features to go with it. Let’s dive in and take a look!
So what do we get in return for our hard-earned dollars with this grinder? Firstly, we get easy-to-clean, die cast black steel construction, which is certainly a cut above plastic in many ways, no matter how durable that plastic is.
In addition, both the hopper and the carafe are very roomy, plus they are made of pyrex glass, which adds to the KitchenAid Pro Line’s stylish look, and is heat resistant. This also contributes to less static build up, which the previous grinders we looked at had to use special plastics to avoid the static. Here, with the KitchenAid Pro Line, static just isn’t a big deal because they used better materials that are naturally static free.
Its worth mentioning that because there is a lot of glass, one false move and the glass components of this grinder are history. It would be a sad day, but, really, its like anything that we own which is fragile so we can’t really fault KitchenAid for using glass when it looks this nice. (Still, be careful!)
In terms of performance, the KitchenAid Pro Line provides a consistent grind time after time, from coarse to fine. It has 15 grind settings, which to some might seem like not too many compared to the previous two units, but it does what it does very well, and still offers some versatility. Technically, there are less grind settings than both the Baratza Virtuoso and the Gaggia 8002 MDF. This is not a stepless unit, that’s for sure.
At 10 lbs, the Pro Line is built to last and while the glass components are comparatively lighter, the main body of the unit is a bit of a hulk.
Users report that this unit can go for well over a decade if taken care of, with many people reporting that they’re just as good as the day they were purchased at the 10-year-mark, which is quite impressive.
Plus, you get a two-year warranty, and KitchenAid has a great reputation with regards to their customer service, unlike some other grinder manufacturers who haven’t been in the coffee game as long. Because this is a “Pro Line” product, even after the warranty expires, you still get special treatment because you’re part of the family.
The word among users is that this is a drip coffee grinding machine. Espresso, while it can be done, isn’t so much the focus. The KitchenAid Pro Line does come with a detailed instruction manual for recalibration of the burrs, so if you really want to fiddle with it, you can. That said, if you are an espresso fan but not so much a fan of taking apart grinders, we might suggest looking to another grinder. As we said, it does have 15 settings but its forte is really drip coffee.
Another great thing about this grinder which is particular to the KitchenAid Pro Line is that KitchenAid has designed it such that the motor and heat is kept separate from the burrs. The metal housing
has holes on either side acts as a cooling mechanism, which means the coffee grinds at a cooler temperature and the resulting coffee will retain much if not all of its original flavor. This design is rather ingenious and we’ve got to hand it to KitchenAid here.
One of the things we really like about this grinder is that while other grinders are “kind of” quiet, this one is actually rather quiet when it does its job. So, if “quiet” is one of the main things you’re looking for, you’ll find it here in the KitchenAid Pro Line coffee grinder.
Overall, yes, this is one of the more expensive models, but we do think that its worth it for the value KitchenAid offers here with their Pro Line coffee grinder.
Here we have yet another Baratza coffee grinder. This time its the Vario, model 886, which is an updated model (from the 885), and a popular one at that.
The Baratza Vario grinder is a real gem, and so we’ll just gloss over its impressive appearance for a moment and mention that it has 54mm Mahlkönig ceramic burrs. If you’re in the coffee business, you may know the name MAHLKÖNIG as one of the finest German coffee companies, with their coffee grinders being extremely heavy duty and quite expensive. As such, users report consistency of grind with this unit to be top notch, putting the Vario in a whole other class of grinder where consistency is unquestionably great due to its special burrs.
The high-torque DC motor for the Vario 886 is belt-driven, which means its all around cooler when it comes to grinding. The larger ceramic burrs also make for a super efficient, cool, and slow grind, which ultimately does favors for the flavor of your coffee and / or espresso. All of this technology is extremely well-built, so we’re talking a very long lifetime for this grinder.
Add to that that the Baratza Vario grinder has 230 grind settings, which are extremely precise and allow for a consistency of grind that will blow you away. Its the next best thing to a stepless grinder, and you will definitely notice the difference that having this much flexibility and micro-adjusting can make with your cup of coffee. So whether you are a fan of espresso, drip coffee, or french press, the Vario 886 can more than handle the job and not break a sweat.
Back to the look of this grinder, which we initially skimmed over. We think it is quite a nice looking model, offering a smaller footprint on your counter. It has a good amount of metal casing on display, but there is a fair bit of hard plastic too. However, the Baratza Vario grinder is designed very to be very functional more than anything, and so we can forgive it for not being a big hunk of metal, as it focuses on the functionality of grinding and so it needs all of those plastic components for a reason.
Here’s a quick look at the Vario in action…
Another great feature that Baratza Vario grinders possess is that they are quite programmable, with a timed dosing feature, as well as several other functions thanks to the computer that you see on the front of the unit. Once you get the hang of how to operate this grinder, its perfect for basically any job you give it. The shots are always delicious and the adjustable up-and-down porta-filter holder along with the Baratza signature porta-filter (included this time) make the one-touch dosing a snap.
People do complain about this machine, believe it or not. One qualm that seems to be that the display is hard for some people to read on this machine if they are not precisely at eye level. This, we agree, is a bit annoying. Another thing lacking in this grinder is its lack of locking mechanism on the hopper. This is when you can take the hopper right off the grinder without the beans spilling everywhere. For this price, it would be nice to see, but alas.
With Baratza, the customer service is consistently excellent. There is a six-month warranty with the 886, which really isn’t that long, but luckily, this grinder is exceptionally well made so its not such a huge concern.
Ultimately, we think that the Baratza Vario 886 is a versatile, sophisticated, and durable machine that grinds consistently for any type of brewing method you’d want to use it for.
It has a lot of features which make grinding easy and dare we say fun, like the hands-free, one-touch grinding, porta-filter, adjustable porta-filter holder, automatic dosing, and even a grinds bin for storage.
Its heavy duty where it counts without having too much of a huge footprint in your kitchen. Easy to store, easy to clean. Its best feature we think is the number of grind settings, which basically trounces each grinder we’ve featured so far, but when you look at the price tag, it all makes sense. Definitely one of the best burr grinders on the market for under $500 right now.
Last, but surely not least is the ever-popular Rancilio Rocky. For those who are well versed in the art of coffee grinding, seeing the Rancilio Rocky here on this list is no big shock. Why? Because this coffee grinder is simply known for being the Italian Stallion of grinders, and a real go-to for coffee aficionados everywhere.
Let’s talk about the fact that this doserless grinder has a very short path between the 50 mm commercial grade steel burrs and the blue-ish chute which dispenses your coffee directly into your porta-filter. That means there is less nonsense with beans or grinds getting stuck anywhere in the mechanism. A quick tap-tap and your machine’s all metal exterior and you’re all-clear and good to go again, to grind up to 7.7 lbs of beans per hour, as Rancilio says, in case you need that much coffee for some reason. This propensity to grind is maybe more of a commercial grinding feature, but suffice it to say that if you need your grinder to have oomph, the Rocky has it in spades.
At 18 lbs, this is no lightweight machine. It is built to impress, and that’s generally the spell it casts on people. Its hefty, and extremely solid, but also looks classy. The Rancilio Rocky has been in the coffee game for a long time now, ever since the 1920s, and its a trusted name in the industry. It almost goes without saying that having a Rancilio Rocky coffee grinder on hand will take your coffee making status among friends and family to a whole new level; or at least, the possibility to do so is most certainly there.
The operation of this machine is equally heavy duty, with its direct-drive, 166-Watt motor giving you plenty of power at 1725 RPMs. You really get the sense that this machine could be in your favorite coffee shop as it could on your countertop, so having one at home is like having a special guest. When it grinds, the motor runs cool due to ventilation holes on the sides of the machine.
Adjusting the grind is really easy as well. Just unlock and turn the tinted bean hopper and away you go. With 40 grind settings, there’s plenty of leeway to get a great espresso setting, french press, or drip. Granted, its not as precise as the Vario 886, but you can still get grinds fine enough for great espresso without too much effort.
The hopper is roomy with a 0.65 lb bean capacity, and fairly easy to clean, although it is non-removable.
In fact, the Rocky in general is easy to maintain, and it is another one of these high-quality grinders that, if you keep it in good working order, it will last you a good decade or more. It also has a 2-year warranty in case something happens.
In terms of grind quality, the Rancilio Rocky coffee grinders are renowned for being able to deliver any type of grind you want, from coarse to espresso fine grinds. It really does the full gamut of grinds well, which is one of, if not *the* reason, that we consider it the best grinder for your money you’ll be spending.
Here’s a quick video of the Rancilio Rocky in action…
Did we mention that there is also a dosing version of the Rocky? Slightly different, but the same great quality and worth checking out as well. We wanted to include it on the list as well, but its basically the twin brother and we prefer the doserless model ourselves.
The porta-filter holder is easily removable, and there isn’t much to it. Its just a metal bar, so it really can accommodate a range of porta-filter sizes. Otherwise, you can just grind down into a vessel underneath the chute and grind on demand.
Underneath the porta-filter holder is a platform which is also removable, but can snap easily back into place. If you’re doing french press, or drip, its easy enough just to set your receptacle onto this platform and grind on demand.
Once you’ve set the grind settings, its as simple as pushing a button with the Rancilio Rocky. Its definitely on the level of professional coffee grinders, although we can’t call this a truly commercial model, because it isn’t on the level of a Mazzer or a Macap. Its a home unit at heart, but a very good one.
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