We've tested quite a few electronic burr grinders, and we previously weren't too involved with hand grinders because we were content with the results we were getting.
Ultimately, we realized that while electronic grinders do offer convenience, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for manual grinders in our kitchens.
In fact, manual grinders have a lot to offer, and they do have an almost completely different set of benefits compared to the more hi-tech grinders. Granted they aren’t the most flashy, but you can still get great results.
For one, manual grinders require no electricity. If you need a coffee grinder for camping, then this would be right up your ally. (There’s no reason you have to suffer through drinking instant coffee!).
Manual grinders are also portable. You can literally store them in a bag and carry them with you when you’re traveling. Hi-tech grinders generally do not offer that level of portability.
Another thing you might find attractive about manual grinders is the fact that they are much more affordable than electric grinders. They make the ideal gift for someone who enjoys coffee but doesn't want the commitment of operating and maintaining a full-blown coffee bean grinder.
ceramic typically maintains its performance longer
the price fairly matches its reputation in the industry
our rating, based on our sound and impartial assessment
Today, we’re going to take a look at the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill (AKA hand grinder). This ceramic hand mill claims to give its users both convenience and quality performance, so we put it to the test. Let’s review our findings and see if this is the grinder for you.
We have to admit, it felt somewhat like a downgrade to try out a hand mill after trying out some of the top-performing coffee grinders that we could find. It’s also a bit intimidating at the same time, not having to rely on the machine settings nor experience the ‘press-a-button-and-wait’ setup that most of us are used to. However, the Hario Skerton certainly offers a delightfully unique coffee grinding experience.
As with other hand mills, the Hario Skerton is extremely lightweight and portable. It’s made of sturdy materials, which is something you might like if you love coffee and traveling. It’s also adjustable, which gives you a bit more freedom when grinding coffee beans.
For a portable hand mill, has a 100g capacity. The hopper lid is a great addition that prevents the beans from falling out of the container. It’s also worth noting that the bottom chamber is made of glass, so there’s a possibility of breakage if not used carefully.
Aside from these things, the Hario Skerton still has more up its sleeve. Let’s take a look at what else it has to offer. It’s important to bear in mind, though, that we'll be judging the features of the Skerton based on its being a hand mill, and will be making comparisons with other hand mills as well.
Generally, all hand mills are pretty easy to operate, but we have to point out that the Skerton’s design makes it not only easy to use, but easy to handle as well.
Unless you’re a hand grinding pro, sit down and place the grinder between your thighs, then grind away, because it will keep the grinder in place and you’ll be able to switch between hands more easily. That being said, I’d say the Skerton is still pretty stable when you use it on a counter or table top because of its rubber base.
Additionally, if you’re not too fond of the bottom chamber, the top half screws safely onto similar-sized jars. This means you can use the coffee grounds for later, if that’s your preference, or if you’re making a bigger batch of coffee and would like to set some aside to complete a batch.
The collar has notches that let you adjust the settings. It’s pretty straightforward, but if you want to optimize, you might want to remove the bolts and nuts to calibrate it.
I’ve experimented on its settings a little bit and found the following settings for different methods:
The Skerton is much better for home or office use – or if you’re not traveling with a lot of stuff in your backpack. While there isn’t very much glass on the Skerton, you should be be cautious if you plan on traveling with it. The last thing you want is you have shards of glass mixed in with your camping gear.
This part gets a bit tricky. On its own, the Skerton produces grounds that are above average in consistency. However, as we’ve said, you may need to upgrade and tweak it a little bit in order to optimize the results. We find that you can definitely use the Skerton to grind beans for range of coffee types, whether they're beans for espresso or even coffee beans for French press.
Some users opt to buy the upgrade kit to make it more versatile. We've tried out this kit and found that it also makes the lower burr much more stable.
At first, we didn’t like the output of the Skerton when it came to coarser settings, but the upgrade kit can definitely fix that. Honestly, the upgrade kit is very inexpensive, so buying it should be no brainer.
I live in a small apartment in Manhattan, so I have a growing distaste for noisy coffee grinders. The last thing I want to listen to (or be the cause of) is loud, unpleasant noises coming from a grinder.
If you have 5 to 8 minutes to spare, you can finish grinding a batch on the Skerton. Of course, hand mills, grind much slower than electronic ones, but if you’re sensitive to the noise, then the quietness makes up for it.
One of the Skerton’s contenders is the JavaPresse, another hand mill that has been a popular choice among buyers. They are both lightweight and easy to use, as the controls are pretty similar to each other.
The JavaPresse has 18 click settings, which makes it more customizable. There’s no need to pay extra for an upgrade kit. Also, the JavaPresse isn’t made of glass. We find it easy to just toss it in a backpack and not worry about any glass parts breaking, unlike with the Skerton.
On the other hand, the Skerton, once optimized, can provide quality that is comparable even to some electronic grinders. Also, it works much faster than the JavaPresse.
So, if you are looking for a traveling companion, the JavaPresse might be the more suitable option for you. However, if you value quality and if you’re primarily going to be using it at home or the office, we think Skerton is the better choice.
Another contender against the Skerton is the Japan-made hand mill, the Porlex Tall. While both hand mills are durable, there are more than a few things that set them apart.
The Porlex Tall is another hand mill that is great for both home and outdoor use. It’s not made of any glass parts, but of metal. It’s also easier to carry around in your backpack when traveling.
When it comes to taste and consistency, the Skerton and Porlex Tall are almost at a stalemate. However, the latter has nothing to an upgraded Skerton. Despite the added cost and effort, in the end, a modified Skerton wins when it comes to that category.
The capacity of these two hand mills isn’t really comparable. The Skerton’s 100g capacity beats Porlex Tall’s 30g. While we agree that the Porlex Tall can definitely get the job done at faster rate, the difference in capacity plays a role when it comes to convenience.
It’s also worth mentioning that the price price difference of an upgraded Skerton and a plain Porlex Tall is only a few dollars. If you are thinking about making a more meaningful investment based on their differences, we'd recommend sticking with the Hario Skerton with the upgrade kit, especially since it's great for home-use. If you value portability and if you’re not interested in making bigger batches of coffee, though, then the Porlex Tall may be the better option for you.
Granted that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ hand mill, the Hario Skerton is one of the finest manual grinders available. It might not be the best choice if you primary need coarser grinds, but it is a tremendous all-around hand grinder with impressive durability and versatility.