If you’re in the market for a manual coffee grinder you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. One of the cheapest and most portable options available is the Japanese made Porlex hand grinder, which is available in the form of the Porlex Mini and it’s slightly bigger brother the Porlex JP-30 (also known as the Porlex Tall).
First Impressions of the Porlex Grinder
The first thing you’ll notice about the Porlex grinder is how small it is. The Porlex mini is only 130mm tall and 47mm in diameter, and the JP-30 is not a huge amount bigger at 185mm tall. The respective capacities of these two grinders are 20g and 30g so if you’re making coffee for multiple people you will need to grind your beans in batches.
The Porlex hand grinder has a thin steel bodied construction with ceramic burrs mounted on a metal shaft and held in place by molded plastic. Aside from the difference in size the main difference between the Porlex Mini and the Porlex JP-30 is that the Porlex Mini comes with a silicon sleeve. This serves as a grip when grinding beans and can also be used to hold the handle when not in use.
The steel body is quite thin, but this keeps the weight of the Porlex Mini down to just over 230g. Apart from the obvious advantage of being more portable this means you can place the grinder directly on your scales, tare them, and add the coffee beans up to your desired weight straight to the hopper. Overall the grinder is quite durable.
Both the box and the instructions which accompany the Porlex grinder are in Japanese, but fortunately everything is fairly self-explanatory. A plastic nut changes the distance between the two burrs (the inner being pushed down as low as the nut allows by a small spring). Little plastic bumps give an indication of how coarse you have the Porlex hand grinder set, which people quote as a number of “clicks” from fully tightened (although this is quite a vague metric to go by).
Using the Porlex Hand Grinder
Grinding difficulty with the Porlex hand grinder varies greatly depending on how darkly roasted the bean is and how coarsely you’re grinding them, but isn’t too strenuous. The small burr size and non-aggressive burr design means it takes little effort to grind the coffee beans, but requires more handle rotations to do so. In terms of output the Porlex is not able to compete with grinders costing four times as much, but is certainly able to hold its head up high.
Coarse Ground Coffee
Grinding coffee for use with a cafetière / French press is quick, taking about 50 seconds to grind 18 grams of city roast beans at 12 “clicks” away from fully tight. The resulting ground coffee is not particularly uniform however, and typically contains a variety of different size pieces of bean and a considerable amount of fines. The reason for this may be the amount of play between the inner and outer burr, which can be reduced with simple modification involving some folded paper or tape.
Fine Ground Coffee
Achieving the correct fineness for espresso with the Porlex is hit and miss, and the stepped nut adjustment method makes refining the grind size tricky. Furthermore grinding beans this finely in a Porlex hand grinder is slow; it took me over 2 minutes to grind 18 grams of city roast beans on 2 “clicks” from fully tight. The quality of the resulting grounds, however, is perfectly reasonable.
Medium Ground Coffee
The Porlex hand grinder excels between the two extremes above; a middle ground grind coarseness for use with brewing methods more forgiving than espresso. The Porlex performs well with an Aeropress for example, and although the detachable handle design means that the handle does occasionally come off the grinder while in use, using a small amount of downwards pressure while grinding will generally stop this from happening.
Cleaning a Porlex Hand Grinder
Cleaning a Porlex hand grinder is easy. Unscrewing the adjustment nut completely allows you to remove the burrs from the body of the grinder. Because the burrs are ceramic you can comfortably clean them in water, using washing up liquid to get rid of the coffee oils. Note that the plastic middle of the inner burr also comes out, and the cavity between it and the ceramic part tends to trap some coffee.
Porlex Hand Grinder Review Verdict
I used the Porlex Mini as my only coffee grinder for over 9 months, and in that time made somewhere in the region of 800 cups of coffee. Overall they were 800 pretty good cups of coffee, so it’s fair to say that the little Porlex hand grinder does a pretty decent job – especially for a burr grinder that costs less than £40 delivered.
The Porlex hand grinder is not without it’s compromises, but for a travel grinder it’s ideal; not too expensive, durable, and (if you take the silicon grip off the Porlex Mini) it fits perfectly inside an Areopress. It also makes a good manual coffee grinder for the home if don’t want to splash out loads of money on something fancier and don’t mind starting your day with a little manual labour.
What are your thoughts on the Porlex hand grinder? Questions? Leave them in the comments below.