Best 4 Grinders Under 500$

BY BORIS POVOLOTSKY - 28 Jul 2023

Up Your Espresso Game With Affordable Precision

Best Value
product image
DF64 Coffee Grinder

The best value for your money. There are a lot of community mods and options to upgrade this machine to an ultimate beast.


As home baristas, the most exciting toy is our espresso machine, no doubt. However, whenever we’re looking into enhancing our coffee quality or trying to fix the miserable espresso that consistently makes us want to spit it into the sink, we face the most common suggestion: make sure we have a good grinder. Why is that?

Let’s assume you’re using the perfect beans and have the perfect puck preparation routine. You’re left at the mercy of your grinder and your espresso machine, which one has greater effect? your grinder. Therefore, it’s well worth it to invest in a good coffee grinder before spending all of your fortune on a high-end espresso machine.

That being said, a good enough grinder doesn’t have to cost too much, relatively speaking. I have gathered a list of 4 grinders, each of which will be a great fit regardless of your espresso machine. I don’t think you need a larger list than that, as that’ll confuse you further.

Let’s examine each grinder’s capabilities, and features, and hopefully help you decide and settle on the best grinder for your espresso journey.

Baratza Sette 270/270Wi

The Sette 270 should be granted an award for standing the test of time, given the great, affordable grinders that have been released in recent years. It is a stepped, programmable presets, well-built grinder that will grind consistently great coffee for you, and it’ll last a long time. If you can grab yourself a Sette 270 and you don’t mind too much the ancient (comparatively) aesthetics, it’d be your best bet.

Differences between Sette 270 & Sette 270Wi

The major difference between the two models is 270Wi’s ability to grind by weight, therefore eliminating the need for a dedicated scale or timing your doses. If you’re single dosing, it isn’t much of use either. I should state that both models are great in terms of accuracy, speed, and overall quality.

Retention

Baratza claims the grinder yields almost zero retention, however, users across the globe report a different picture. It’s realistic to have retention ranging between 0.5-1.5g which isn’t terrible, but don’t be disappointed to find that out.

Speed & Noise

The Sette is quite loud due to the design of this machine, but it also grinds quite fast, consistently, and results in a quality ground coffee. However, if you’re looking for a silent grind (there isn’t one) this isn’t the best pick for you. In comparison, the Sette grinds much faster than the Eureka Specialita, but the Specialita is much quieter.

Burrs

The Sette has conical burrs that are made from steel, they are long-lasting and reliable. The Sette features 40 mm sized burrs. Those aren’t the largest burrs, obviously, but that doesn’t restrict this grinder from producing consistent results. Also, due to the design of this unit, it’s quite manageable to switch burrs all by yourself in case you want to use different burrs. Why one might want to do that? well, if you want to swap for burrs made for brew coffee, for instance.

Operation

Seamless operation featuring a stepped system adjustment. It has 9 macro steps and then you can use micro adjustments to fine-tune your grind. While a stepless system might provide ever so subtle adjustments, it isn’t a realistic limitation for the average user. Moreover, it’s easier to remember specific settings when you have a stepped grinder so you can switch coffee beans with ease.

The Baratza Sette has a hopper and it isn’t designed for Single Dosing, although you can use it as such without issues. If you want a dedicated SD grinder, though, you might want to look into other grinders.

DF64 Coffee Grinder

A decade ago you would struggle to find a capable home espresso grinder without breaking the bank. There are a few from brands like Baratza, Eureka and Rocket, however, none of those include features home baristas were longing for (hint: Single Dosing) until the Niche Zero was invented. The Niche has opened the door for startups to innovate in the scene of affordable home grinders. The Niche is ground-breaking and widely popular, however, due to limited availability and higher price tag, there was a space to be filled by machines like the DF64.

Overview

The DF64 grinder is invented by a Chinese company named FL Coffee, it was released in September 2021 and gained a lot of buzz around it, probably for being a serious competitor for the revolutionary Niche Zero. Now, take the Niche Zero, cut the price in half, add massive manufacturing resources and what do you get? A grinder that is not only talked about by everyone but also actually utilized. Let’s take a quick look and see how well it competes with the rest of the contenders on our list. Long story short: It’s a great grinder but will soon require modding and the cost will climb up, so take that into consideration.

Retention

The design of the single dosing DF64 grinder ensures a minimal amount of retention. However, the grinder does not quite live up to the official claims of zero retention, the DF64 has low retention when you don’t use the bellows.

Speed & Noise

This grinder also isn’t the most silent machine you can get for your household. The noise level also depends on which burrs you install, the SSP multipurpose burrs will be Sette’s equivalent in terms of noise.

Speed wise, it’s not a fast grinder but it isn’t terribly slow either. Depending on how fine you grind, the range is between 1 to 2 grams per second.

Burrs

The stock DF64 features 64mm flat burrs which many espresso lovers absolutely favor for its taste. There are many available options to fit your preference. The flavor is great and pretty much indistinguishable between Niche Zero and stock df64.

Operation

It’s a stepless all-purpose grinder with numbered settings for easy transitions between different brews. You can rest the portafilter on the forks of the grinder without balancing with your hands, however, some users say those forks don’t always hold up under the weight. The latest models include a cup riser to help with cleanliness. It’s advised to push the bellow gently to avoid retention.

One of the best features of this grinder is the modding capability and the range of burrs you can easily swap. An additional feature I really like is an auto-off feature which I miss with my Eureka Specialita.

Major static issues require a RDT to solve it.

Eureka Specialita

The Specialita comes from a respectable Italian brand Eureka established in 1920 which specializes in grinders. They have a range of commercial grinders as well as great home barista options.

The Specialita isn’t as groundbreaking as DF64, Niche, and others, so the question is: Is it still relevant in 2023? Yes. It holds up against the revolutionaries quietly with no bells and whistles, offering great features and excellent quality, and all of that for an affordable price.

Overview

The Specialita comes in various beautiful colors to fit your kitchen design. It rocks a useful touch display with 2 configurable presets, along with a continuous mode that isn’t restricted by time. The grinder is relatively fast and quiet. Stock, it comes with a hopper, restricting the Single Dosing capability, but there are plenty of useful mods you can get on Etsy.

Retention And Single Dosing

Unfortunately, this machine has quite a significant amount of retention, requiring a 3rd party bellow to eliminate this issue. Personally, I learned to live with it. You can load the hopper with additional 2 grams and throw the first 2g into the bin.

When Single dosing with Specialita you have what’s called popcorning, which is a phenomenon that occurs when the beans come in contact with the spinning burrs and they fly out, resulting in an effect similar to popcorning.

Speed & Noise

The Specialita shines here. I really like the noise level and speed of this grinder. It’s as quiet as a grinder can get, which means it isn’t silent, but it’s quiet compared to monsters like the Sette. The decibel reading is approximately 72db.

Again, depending on the settings, it can grind very fast. With coffee beans that require very fine settings, I can grind 14g in about 12.3 seconds. With most, beans I get even faster grinds.

Burrs

54mm flat burrs that produce evenly distributed, consistent coffee with great clarity. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty positive that there aren’t burrs upgrade options.

Operation

As stated, you have a large touch display with 2 configurable presets which come in handy as well as a manual operation. The grinder comes with forks to rest your portafilter, but to be honest I never used that. I hold the portafilter to avoid messy surroundings because I haven’t purchased a dedicated waste/bin holder as I had with the Profitec M54.

The solid build quality of this grinder, the ease of maintenance, the noise (72db) and speed levels and on top of it all, the coffee quality, are all the reasons I chose to stay with this grinder. However, if I had to buy a new grinder today, I’d probably choose a Single Dosing grinder like the DF64 or even a Niche Zero, had the budget allowed it.

And The Winner Is…

No, no winner, sorry. Personally, I think those 3 grinders are the best espresso grinders under 500$ (give or take). If you get yourself one of those, you can focus on saving up money for your dream espresso machine without your grinder bottlenecking you.

There are other notable mentions, but they aren’t better in any significant area. For example, the LAGOM mini is a beautiful minimalistic piece of technology that only costs 374$, but falls short in various areas, it’s better suited for filter coffee. Additionally, there are cheaper Eureka Mignon models such as Manuale and Silenzio that you might want to check out if you don’t fancy the LED touch screen.


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