You’ve heard us say over and over again that your grinder is the most important piece of equipment in your Arsenal.
With every article, we have tried to point you in the right direction based on your preferences and budget.
Then we looked at the ins and outs of flat and conical burrs. We found that they are equal in quality, but have different strengths.
From here, we discussed whether or no you would benefit from a doser built right into your grinder. If you’re an espresso fanatic, these are truly worth your buck.
Now we want to present you with the final and ultimate grinder choice: stepped or stepless?
What is a stepped grinder?
“Steps” are the pre-determined settings that manufacturers decide upon during product development.
The head-Hacho designers at equipment companies know their coffee.
They set suggested grind levels for different brewing methods. They decide how wide or narrow they want their grinders’ range to be.
I find it helpful to envision a ruler when you’re thinking of stepped grinders. Each inch is a step geared toward cold brew, french press, pour over, drip or espresso, and the centimeters are the preferential settings in-between.
Those decisions are relayed to the factories that etch them into the burrs.
There are two types of stepped grinders: self-holding and lever release.
Most stepped grinders available on the market are self holding. They are marked by the clicking sound you hear when you adjust the grind by turning a knob or twisting the hopper.
Lever release grinders take a little more effort. You push the knob in to release the internal lever and twist until you reach your desire number. When you release the pressure that lever snaps into place.
We’ve mentioned numerous examples of stepped grinders in our education section. But let me show you a few of our absolute favourites.
So which is better?
Lever release machines are usually seen as higher quality because they are more sturdy and reliable than self-holding grinders, which have a tendency to drift as they age.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at some examples of both kinds of stepped grinders.
My absolute favourite stepped grinder is thebaratza encore.
It’s the Baratza Encore and it’s perfect for home cafes that aren’t looking to pump out pounds of grounds during the day.
It has a straightforward design.
Twist the hopper and hear the self holding steps click as your choose between its 40 settings.
It’s comical stainless steel burrs produce even grinds within its suggested settings’ range from French press to espresso.
But it does get more consistent the finer you grind.
The click tells us that this is am self-holding set-up. But when maintained and cleaned on a regular basis, this sturdy piece of machinery will last you years.
Another perfect example of a lever-release grinder is the Rancilio Rocky.
This beauty is a smidge more expensive, but it is tried and true.
Since it’s release it hasn’t undergone many changes, except the doser add on. So you know they are confident in their product.
The Rocky is commercial grade, so it’ll hold up well in small coffee shops, but it is still a great addition to your home cafe.
It’s armed with tamped steel flat burrs, so it won’t require too much maintenance other than a good wipe down once a month.
To set your grind level, just push and twist it’s nob and choose between 55 grind settings, then release the pressure, popping that lever back into place.
The Rocky grinds slowly so that the beans do not experience any damage as breaks down from whole bean to coarse for a cold brew all the way to powder for a Turkish coffee.
Now that we have our minds wrapped around the workings of a stepped grinder, let’s move on.
What is a stepless grinder?
Stepless grinders are often called “infinite grinders” because there are completely devoid of the helpful notches that stepped grinders have.
Their nobs, or screens if you get a fancier set up, do not offer you any advice.
You may be wondering, “why would anyone want a stepless grinder?”
The answer is simple: control.
With a stepless grinder, it’s easier to make minute to minute tweaks.
That being said, these grinders are designed primarily for people who prefer 1-2 types of brewing methods.
Ideally they would be used for minor changes between espresso shot pulls or pour over doses.
Since there is no clicking of set grind levels, so you have complete control over the smallest of changes. This is not easy, by any means.
Stepless require a certain amount of skill and patience. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional barista or a coffeeshop owner to benefit from a stepless grinder, but you have to be as meticulous and devoted as one to really get your money’s worth.
Purchasing a stepless grinder is probably the ultimate act of commitment to the world of coffee for two reasons: #1 they’re spendy #2 you will never go back to lesser grinders.
Enough talk. Let me show you a few examples of stepless grinders that you will love.
The most commonly known among stepless grinders is the Mazzer Mini.
It’s reputation for consistency that proceeds it holds up every time.
It’s flat burrs run at the lowest possible rotations per minute (RPM,) keeping beans cool during the break down.
It’s got some bells and whistles that attract the espresso fanatics.
Its huge hopper can hold up to 1.3 pounds. It’s equipped with a doser that can be programmed do either 5-8g, depending on how strong you want your shots.
But it is not only geared toward espresso lovers, the Mini grinds well for drip coffees as well.
The stepless grind design is especially helpful for cafes that focus primarily on pour over to espresso.
Stepless grinders don’t really get any better than the Rocket Fausto.
It’s flat burrs produce incredibly consistent grinds in half the time that its predecessors.
It’s hopper holds about a pound of whole beans.
You can program 2 standard doses for 2 different cups of coffee. So you don’t lose your perfect single shot when you dial in for a double. With the push of a button, you can switch and make adjustments.
To adjust grind size, you simply turn it’s little knob and pull to set it in place.
This flawless machine only has one “con,” and that is the fact that it is designed solely for espresso.
So if you want a range, this is not the grinder for you.
Everyone deserves great coffee. And a great grinder is arguably the most important decision you’ll make in coffee culture.
So depending on your tastebuds and pocket book, you now know the differences, pros and cons to stepped and stepless grinders!
You can click any of the product picture to make your purchase today (and have great coffee for the rest of your life)
Any of the grinders I’ve included in this article are easy to use and easy to love.