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If you asked about my version of a perfect day, I would probably regale you with a tale of a day spent exploring a remote and breathtaking area of central Guatemala. It was, for me, the absolutely perfect day. I bet many of your perfect days have been travel days as well—and we all know the perfect day starts with the perfect cup of coffee.
There’s no need to settle for weak or bitter hostel or conference room coffee, or to choke down instant coffee while camping anymore. Great coffee on the go is not only achievable, it’s easy and affordable.
Perhaps you’re already in the habit of bringing a percolator or AeroPress traveling with you, but if you grind your beans at home and then wistfully lament as their freshness evaporates, leaving you with an increasingly lacklustre brew as the days pass, there is an easy solution.
The best way to up your travel brew game is to add a portable manual grinder to the mix. If this seems like an unnecessary waste of precious luggage space, never fear—we’ve rounded up the best and most compact travel grinders to ensure you never have to start your perfect day without the perfect cup of coffee again.
If you’re already savvy on the general particulars of coffee grinders and you’ve used a manual grinder before, you might want to jump down to our picks for the best travel coffee grinders. They are:
- Best All Around: 1Zpresso JX
- Best Budget Option: JavaPresse Manual Burr Grinder
- Small But Mighty: Porlex Mini Portable Hand Grinder
- For the Jet-Setting Connoisseur: Orphan Espresso Lido 2
- Tried and True: Hario Mini Slim
- Best Camping Grinder: Shanik Portable Burr Grinder
If you need a bit more guidance, let’s walk through some coffee grinder basics, and features you’ll want to consider as you embark on your travel brewing adventure.
Blade grinder or burr grinder?
Although an affordable blade grinder can produce a decent cup of coffee if you use quality coffee beans and a trusted brew method, any sophisticated coffee drinker knows burr grinders are the way to go. The main reason burr grinders win the day is because they produce a consistent grind, resulting in a richer, more balanced flavour profile. An uneven grind leads to over- or under-extraction, often resulting in either a bitter or thin finish.
If you’re someone who invests in quality beans and you’re meticulous about your brew process, you will certainly want to invest in a burr grinder. The barrier to entry for most people is the high price tag on electrical burr grinders. Manual coffee grinders, however, are almost exclusively burr grinders, and they are both affordable and great for travel.
Why use a manual grinder?
Manual grinders designed with travel in mind are compact, sturdy, and durable. Most have stainless steel or plastic components rather than glass, and those with glass components are thoughtfully crafted and built to endure a fair amount of handling. As mentioned, manuals are almost exclusively burr grinders, providing a consistently rich and delicious brew for a fraction of the cost of most home burr grinders.
The most obvious upside to manual coffee grinders is that they don’t require a power source. You can grind the perfect cup anywhere, anytime. Manual grinders are also extremely quiet compared to electric coffee grinders, so if you’re in close quarters you can wake your travel companions with the tantalizing smell of coffee rather than the jarring sound of an electric grinder.
Features to consider
Manual coffee grinders vary in design, quality and price, so how do you know which one will best suit your needs? There are several things to consider as you browse. Here are some of the most important:
Size and weight
The most important consideration when choosing your travel coffee grinder is its portability, so size and weight will be a top priority. You want something that can fit easily into your carry-on or backpack, without adding extra bulk. Luckily there are several slick designs to choose from. We’ll dive into our favorites shortly.
Steel or ceramic burrs
This is a tense battle, and the jury is still out. Both have their strengths and their drawbacks. Steel burrs are much sharper, so they grind your coffee beans more quickly (something to consider when you’re doing the work by hand), and with more precision. That being said, steel burrs, although sharper when new, are also quicker to dull.
Ceramic burrs are longer lasting and usually more affordable, but you’ll be putting in some extra wrist work to get your desired grind. Most steel burr manual grinders will grind a full dose in a minute or less, while the ceramic style run about 2-3 minutes per grind.
Since you’re going to be trucking this bad boy around the globe (or at least your local mountains), you’ll want to find a travel grinder that is made of sturdy material, such as stainless steel or reinforced plastic. Some have beautiful glass canisters that allow you to watch your grind in action, and while this can be helpful for visually perfecting your grind, they are more likely to break during travel. You might also want to consider whether your grinder’s components are easily replaceable. This will extend its lifespan.
Many travel grinders have limited capacity. Most will only grind enough for a single brew at one time. This can be fine if you’re a solo traveler or have time for multiple rounds of grinding, but if you’re looking for something that can grind several cups at once, you might want to consider one of the larger models. You’ll lose a bit of suitcase space, but there are still a few great, fairly compact options.
Even if you’re a diehard AeroPress user and don’t see yourself changing anytime soon, you know you still need that perfect grind. Not only do you want to ensure you get the grind that’s right for your brew method, you want to be able to adjust on the fly if you’re not quite getting the best out of your beans. You definitely want something with several adjustable settings. As you’ll see below, everything on our list is adjustable and there are a range of options to choose from.
There are a couple of budget travel coffee grinders that absolutely get the job done, but they tend to take a bit longer to grind, might not have the most precise and consistent grind, and may not last as long. As with most things, you get what you pay for. When you look at investment over time, it might be worth shelling out for something mid-range if you can. That being said, there is something for every budget.
With all that in mind let’s breakdown our top picks.
Our picks for the best travel coffee grinders
Best All Around: 1Zpresso JX
The 1Zpresso JX is hard to beat. Slick, sturdy, and efficient, this mid-range, stainless steel, portable coffee grinder sports 48mm steel burrs for a consistent and speedy grind every time. With 40 easily adjustable click settings, you get the precise grind you need whether it’s for a French press, AeroPress, or even espresso (something many of the more budget-conscious options cannot achieve). The handle shape and rubber grip on the body combine to allow a smooth and easy grinding experience, and a consistently excellent brew. With a 35-gram capacity, you can grind enough for multiple cups of coffee. The tradeoff is its 650-gram weight. It’s one of the heavier of the bunch.
- efficient steel burrs
- ergonomic handle design
- 35 g capacity
- 40 click settings (including espress)
- a bit heavy
- higher price point
If you want the features of the JX, but are looking for something a bit smaller and lighter, 1Zpresso’s got you covered with their Q2 Mini. It has all the great components of the JX but with a 20-gram capacity, for nearly half the weight, coming in at only 385 grams.
Best Budget Option: JavaPresse Manual Burr Coffee Grinder
If you’re on a budget, or just need something for the odd camping trip and don’t want to invest the big bucks, the JavaPresse manual grinder is a reliable option. It has a slender stainless steel design, with a removable handle for even easier storage. This ceramic burr hand grinder won’t be as high-performance as some of the pricier options, but it might just be enough to suit your needs. With 18 click settings, you still get a range of grinds, but it tends to be less consistent with coarser grinds, and it won’t facilitate espresso. It does, however, offer a 40-gram capacity at only 266 grams of weight. At this extremely economical price point, the JavaPresse is a decent choice.
- budget conscious
- 40 g capacity
- slender design
- removeable handle
- only 18 click settings
- no espresso option
- longer to grind
- less precise
Small But Mighty: Porlex Mini Portable Hand Grinder
The Porlex Mini punches far above its weight class. The smallest of the bunch, with a removable handle, this little stainless steel beauty can fit right inside your AeroPress, saving even more precious space in your luggage. With ceramic burrs and only 13 grind settings, it won’t be quite as fast as some other options, but it still provides a consistent grind, including a fine espresso setting. Its small stature means it also has a small capacity, only 20 grams, but it’s the lightest of the bunch at only 226 grams. If you’re looking for something compact that still performs well, this is a great mid-range option.
- small and lightweight
- consistent grind
- espresso option
- only 13 grind settings
- longer to grind
- only 20g capacity
For the Jet-Setting Connoisseur: Orphan Espresso Lido 2
The largest, heaviest, and most expensive of the group, the Lido 2 is for the serious coffee drinker. Although admittedly more complicated to adjust, the steel burrs offer a speedy and concise grind. Made from aluminum, steel and PBA-free plastic, the Lido 2 is sturdy and long-lasting, but customer feedback is that the short handle may be a bit awkward for some to grip.
With a 70-gram capacity, the Lido offers a lot of flexibility for brewing quantity, but the tradeoff is the 1,538-gram weight, by far the heaviest of the group. Long heralded by coffee lovers as one of the top manual grinders, the high price point and heavy design make it more appealing for the jet-setting crowd than the backpackers.
- efficient steel burrs
- 70g capacity
- short handle
Tried and True: Hario Mini Slim
Hario is an iconic Japanese brand that balances style, performance, and affordability. One of the most budget-conscious choices, and one of the smallest, the Hario Mini Slim would be great to toss into your carry-on or backpack. Made of extremely durable plastic, and with a removable handle, this guy goes the distance. The ceramic burrs, although less speedy than stainless, still offer a consistent grind and long lifespan. With a 24-gram capacity it offers a bit more flexibility than the Porlex mini, and still only weighs 317 grams. If you’re looking for consistent performance from a trusted brand, at a great price, the Hario Mini Slim could be for you.
- slim and durable design
- consistent grind
- longer to grind
- only 24g capacity
- plastic canister
Need to brew for your whole crew? Then check out Hario’s flagship grinder, the Skerton Plus. With its slightly bulkier style and glass canister, I don’t personally think it’s the best choice for travel, but it’s still fairly lightweight at only 500 grams, and you get a 100-gram grind capacity. The hopper of the Skerton can even be attached to other storage devices such as a glass jar or plastic canister in a pinch, or for ease of transport. The Skerton is a great manual grinder for the home that could certainly hit the road for the occasional outing.
Best Camping Grinder: Shanik Portable Burr Grinder
The rugged style of the Shanik Portable Grinder immediately signals that it’s ready for adventure. Made with durable brushed stainless steel and a generous rubber grip, this adjustable grinder was built for camping. It’s easy to use and comes with a suite of great accessories including a replacement ceramic burr, a silicone lid to store unused coffee, and a velvet carrying bag to make it even more convenient for travel. The Shanik has a 35-gram capacity, and although it’s clearly sturdy it only weighs 318 grams, making it ideal for backpacking.
- great accessories
- 35g capacity
- longer to grind
If you’re ready to up your travel coffee game, I can’t recommend a manual coffee grinder enough. They’re affordable, portable, and plain fun to use. The travel coffee grinder you choose will depend on your specific needs, style, and budget. As you can see, there is something to accommodate everyone.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Porlex Mini because it suits my needs at an excellence price point and I love that it fits right inside my AeroPress, creating the ideal travel brew setup. Next time you’re about to set out on a potentially perfect day, make sure you start it with the perfect cup of coffee.