If you’re a home barista wanting to make cafe-quality espresso in your own kitchen, you want a coffee grinder that gives you a consistent grind at various grind sizes.
You need to be able to fine-tune the grind size and be sure that your grinder will consistently produce uniform grinds to extract the best flavor from your espresso beans. That’s what separates an entry-level home espresso grinder from a high-quality one.
As two of the most popular home coffee grinders on the market, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro and the Niche Zero are both highly-adjustable and deliver a consistent grind. But they each come at a very different price, with the Smart Grinder Pro coming in for around $200 while the Niche Zero is offered in the $600 range.
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So how do you choose between a jack-of-all-trades grinder that outperforms its price class and a premium prosumer grinder with a premium price tag?
We’re here to help you decide whether to grind it out with the Breville or if it’s worth the splurge on the Niche. Read on for a breakdown of the Breville Smart Grinder Pro vs. the Niche Zero.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro Overview
Breville is an Australian home appliances brand that started in the 1930s manufacturing radios. They now make a wide range of kitchen products and boast over 100 patents and dozens of product design awards.
Over 20 years ago, they began making home espresso machines. They offer a range of coffee products, from super-automatic espresso machines to capsule-based pod coffee makers.
The Smart Grinder Pro is a high-tech burr grinder that aims to give you the perfect grind for espresso and the versatility to grind for other brew styles. It’s a durable and reliable machine with stainless steel conical burrs, programmable grind settings, and easy operation. It offers nearly the same performance as more expensive grinders.
Things we like
- Highly adjustable, making it suitable for all sorts of brew styles. It has 60 macro grind settings that can be fine-tuned with ten step-micro adjustments.
- Better grind consistency than most other grinders in its price class means better tasting brews.
- An all-around coffee grinder that works well for most brewing methods, including espresso.
Things we don’t like
- The machine uses a time-per-dose grinding system that can be confusing and tedious to circumvent.
- Its consistency falls off a bit at larger grind sizes, so if you mostly make french press or percolator coffee, it might not be for you.\
Check out this video review of the Smart Grinder Pro.
Niche Zero Overview
The Niche Zero grinder bridges the gap between commercial and consumer-grade grinders.
The brand began with a very successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017, which generated a lot of buzz in the coffee world. It’s designed by Martin Nicholson, who has worked in the industry for 30 years with brands like Braun, Kenwood, and Russell Hobbs.
Nicholson designed the Niche Zero to be a home grinder that gives the grind consistency and durability of a commercial grinder. He wanted it to be quiet, great looking, and easy to use and clean while still providing an exceptional grind quality.
The Niche Zero grinder’s claim to fame, backed by coffee experts, is that it retains practically zero grinds. This ensures the freshest possible coffee and minimal waste. Experts like Dave Corby, James Hoffman, and Scott Rao endorse it as one of the finest grinders for home use.
Things we like
- Since it doesn’t retain any grinds in the chamber, you won’t waste coffee when you dial in your grind or switch between brewing methods.
- Its outstanding grind consistency leads to well-extracted brews and better-tasting coffees.
- Its sleek, minimalist design looks great on a kitchen counter.
Things we don’t like
- It’s expensive and often sold out, with long waiting lists to buy it.
- It only grinds a single dose at a time, which can be frustrating when you want to grind larger quantities
Breville Smart Grinder Pro vs Niche Zero: Head-to-Head Comparison
|Breville Smart Grinder Pro||Niche Zero|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||22 x 16 x 39 cm||12 x 21 x 31 cm|
|Burrs||38 mm stainless steel conical burrs||63 mm hardened steel conical burrs|
|Grind Settings||600 (60 macro settings each with 10 micro settings)||Infinite dial adjustment|
|Motor Speed||450 rpm||330 rpm|
|Capacity||Hopper holds up to 18 oz (510 g)||No hopper; 50 g dose capacity|
|Noise during grinding||80dB||72dB|
Wide range of grind settings
Both of these grinders have a virtually limitless range of grind settings. They can grind from very fine to very coarse, making them suitable for all types of brew styles.
The Niche Zero has an unlimited grind range. It uses an intuitive dial at the collar of the hopper to adjust the grind settings. It is well-built and holds its tension with meticulous tuning and high-quality components.
Likewise, the Smart Grinder Pro has a practically limitless range, with up to 600 different grind sizes. The side dial allows for 60 macro grind settings, which can be further adjusted by ten smaller increments. The Smart Grinder Pro has a digital LCD display that allows you to see the current grind setting and grind tip.
Good grind consistency (for fine to medium grounds)
A good espresso grind should have a consistency like powdered sugar, without variation in the size of the grinds. With uneven grinds, water will channel around the larger particles in the portafilter and extract the flavor too quickly. This will lead to bitter and sour coffee.
The Niche Zero delivers excellent grind quality, thanks to its large, commercial-grade burrs. The burrs on this grinder spin at a low speed with strong torque, so they don’t pulverize the beans and produce an exceptionally consistent grind. This will give you better flavor than other grinders can deliver.
The Smart Grinder Pro delivers consistent grinding for fine and medium grounds, which means better-tasting espressos and pour-overs. Its consistency drops off a bit at the coarser end of the spectrum. You might find more fines floating in your french press, leading to over-extraction in those brews.
Easy to clean and maintain
Both machines are a breeze to clean. The Niche Zero comes with a screwdriver and a brush. To clean residue grinds from the inside chamber, you unscrew one bolt and remove the disc, collar, and burr. Then it’s a matter of brushing it out and reassembling it.
The Breville Smart Grinder Pro is similarly easy to clean and maintain. If you have beans in the hopper when you’re ready to clean the machine, use the lock switch to stop the beans from flowing when you remove the hopper. You can then remove the top burr by hand and brush it out using the provided brush. To clean beneath the bottom burr, you’ll need a 10-millimeter socket wrench to remove the nut.
Burr size and quality
The Smart Grinder Pro and the Niche Zero have conical steel burr grinders, but the Niche’s burrs are significantly larger and made of hardened steel.
It’s an open debate about whether burr size has much of an effect on the taste of coffee. People in the bigger-is-better camp say that since larger burrs don’t take as long to grind and produce less heat, the coffee retains more of its flavor.
The Niche Zero’s larger burrs allow it to grind more coffee at a lower speed, which leads to a greater grind consistency.
The Smart Grinder Pro has a hopper that can hold more than a pound of beans. The hopper is UV-protected and has an air-tight lid to help keep the coffee beans fresh.
It does coffee with programmable grind times that you can adjust in 0.2-second increments. The beans channel smoothly through the burrs. You can dose directly into your portafilter or a larger dosing cup.
The Niche Zero emphasizes freshness, using a single dose system. Rather than storing beans in the hopper, you measure each dose and dump it into the grinding chamber when you’re ready to grind. This helps ensure that each dose is as fresh as can be.
A downside of single-dose grinding is that the beans may hop around like popcorn on the burrs without the weight of the beans above them. Niche has addressed this popcorning issue by slowing down the grind and placing a disc over the burrs that keeps the beans from jumping around.
Size and design
Both of these machines are durable and reliably built, but the Niche Zero is in a different class regarding aesthetics and the components’ quality.
The Niche has a compact, minimalist design with solid oak features and a sleek aluminum body. It takes up little space and tucks easily away.
The Smart Grinder Pro is somewhat squat and utilitarian by comparison, with a bigger footprint. It’s handsome enough, with its brushed steel finish and clean lines, but the Niche Zero has the appearance of a premium designer product.
If you make espresso at home, you know how vexing it can be to waste a quarter of a new bag of beans trying to dial in the grind size.
Niche claims to avoid the problem most burr grinders face where small amounts of ground coffee are left behind in the chamber or the spout. When coffee grinds are retained in the grinder, it’s necessary to purge the grinder after each grind size change.
Niche’s zero retention means no purging and no waste while dialing in or switching between brewing methods. If you make espresso in the morning and pour-overs in the afternoon, you can change the grind setting without ending up with espresso fines in your V60.
The Smart Grinder Pro offers good grind consistency and versatility for its price class, but operating its time-based dosing system can be a bit frustrating if you’re used to dosing by weight.
It’s easy to use, affordable, and delivers a precise grind, especially on the fine to medium end of the spectrum. This makes it a great choice for someone who wants to get into home espresso but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a grinder. If you’re looking for a high-quality all-around grinder for all kinds of coffee, it’s a good choice.
The Niche Zero is a more finely-tuned machine with a price tag that matches its higher-end components. It’s an outstanding grinder that’s easy to use and adjust and can be used for espresso and other brewing methods.
If you’re a home barista looking for a high-performance machine that will give you more control over your grind — and you don’t mind ponying up the higher price tag — the Niche Zero is for you.