Herb grinders (also known as a tobacco grinder, pot crusher, etc.) are devices that are designed to grind your medicine (or any one of a number of other plant-like substances) into smaller pieces. While there are several different varieties on the market, the most common is the circular or ‘wheel’ grinder. It’s a small device that’s somewhere between 1.5 and 4 inches in diameter that uses a circular rotation to grind the material.
The Major Benefits of Using Herb Grinders
If you’ve never used herb grinders before you may not know some of the major benefits. Below we’ll take a look at the major benefits.
There really isn’t a quicker way to grind herb outside of using herb grinders. They’re incredibly fast. It’s as simple as inserting your material into the top compartment, turning it back and forth a few times and then taking it out. Super simple, super fast.
Comfort (i.e. Less Pain)
For those of you who’ve spent 10-20 minutes picking apart your material by hand, you know what a pain that can be. Literally – your fingers will hurt afterwards.
Herb grinders let you grind up your herb with no pain at all. Even those who have pain in their hands, wrists or arms (which might be why you’re medicating in the first place) can use an electric grinder to get the job done (more on those later).
Depending on the blade distribution of your herb grinder, you might have to separate your bud into smaller chunks in order to get it to fit. Other than that though, everything is hands off and pain free.
Ability to Catch Kief
If you’re not sure what kief is, the short version is that it’s basically super concentrated, super powerful herb. The technical name for it is trichomes which hold the resin containing the cannabinoids like CBD and THC. You can sprinkle it over your regular standard bud or collect it for a while and then smoke it all at once. Three chamber set (a.k.a. four piece grinders) will have a specific area in the bottom of them with a filter designed specifically for catching kief.
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The Best Herb grinders
If you want to dive deeper into the type of herb shredder you should buy, I encourage you to check out the info farther down in the article. I go into the different types of materials, the number of chambers and other variations/advancements grinder manufacturers have come up with.
If you’re just here to look through my top picks though, take a look right below. I’ve tried to include options that will appeal to all sorts of users, including those focused on their budget, catching kief, portability and the absolute best you can buy regardless of price. Let’s start off with my #1 pick.
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Types of Herb grinders
As I mentioned above, there are several different variations of herb grinders out there. For the purposes of this guide we’ll mainly stick with circular or wheel grinders. First, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the different number of chambers.
Single Chamber Herb Grinders
Single chamber herb grinders are the most basic and simple products out there. They feature one grinder that will come apart into two pieces. Usually, both the top and bottom section will have teeth on them, allowing you to rotate them against each other to grind up your herb.
The major disadvantage of single chamber herb grinders is that it can be very difficult to get your herb out. Especially if you’ve got a stickier, more moist strain the ground up material tends to stick to each other and to the teeth themselves. You also won’t have the ability to catch kief with a single chamber unit.
Most people who have a single chamber grinder got one out of convenience or because it was given to them. If you’re out to get yourself a brand new herb grinder to grind up some herb, I’d recommend against getting a single chamber product (or double chamber for that matter). As you can see above, there are plenty of bud grinders in the $10-20 range that have four chambers and work extremely well.
Single chamber herb grinders tend to be at least $5, which is just too expensive for the limited use in my opinion.
Double Chamber Herb Grinders
Double chamber herb grinders (three piece grinders) are a bit more advanced, but not by much. The top chamber includes the two sections with teeth, just like you’d find in a single chamber piece. The second section will simply be a storing area for your ground up herb. Once ground up in the top section, your processed bud will fall through the holes in the floor of the top chamber into the herb collection chamber.
Having a section that’s specifically designed to hold your ground up bud is a huge step up – it makes getting your herb out of the herb shredder and into/on whatever you’re using it for about 100 times easier. It’s definitely worth the increase in price in my opinion.
The huge downside with a two chambered piece is that it doesn’t have the ability to catch kief. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of products available that allow you to catch kief for a minor increase in price. In fact, there are plenty of three piece options that are more expensive than four piece grinders. So again not really worth stepping down to a 3 piece over a 4 piece.
All in all, if you’re looking to pick up something new, I’d say don’t go with a three piece. The only big advantage you’ll get using a three piece instead of 4 is more portability. Some of these will fit in your pocket pretty easily, but there are plenty of ways around that. Many grinders give you the option of taking out sections and downsizing if you need to. Get one of those for a bit more instead of a three piece.
You’re most likely just limiting yourself and saving a few dollars. You can get four piece sets for under $10.
Three Chamber herb grinders
I’d suggest getting a three chamber grinder for 90%+ of the people out there. Many of them are reasonable price, they’re not too big, they work really well and they’ve got the maximum amount of functionality. In addition, most manufacturers know that four piece grinders are the most popular, so you’ll see the most advancement in this part of the market.
These work the same as three piece sets except the bottom of the collection chamber will have a fine mesh screen. This screen will filter out all but the tiniest of particles. That’ll make sure that the majority of what falls through are the trichomes, meaning you’ll have a nice pile of kief at the bottom of your grinder after a few users. This, in my opinion, is the single biggest reason to get an herb grinder in the first place. Everything else is mostly convenience, but the ability to gather kief can have a major impact in your smoking/consuming experience. It’s very much worth the price.
Aside from that, four piece grinders will definitely see an increase in size – not only in height but diameter as well. While you can buy small and medium sized grinders that have three chambers you’ll also see the largest diameters in this category. Some of them can get up to 3+ inches, which makes them pretty massive. With that increase in size is the ability to grind more herb at once – more on that later though.
While four piece sets are likely to be more expensive than two and three piece kits, that’s not true a lot of the time. Since three chamber herb grinders are the most popular the pricing between them is extremely competitive. There are plenty of options out there that cost less than two trips to Starbucks.
And with that, there’s really no reason to get any other option. You’re almost certainly going to see the best value out of three chambers.
Quad Chamber Herb Grinders
And finally we’ve got quadruple chamber herb grinders (aka five piece grinder). When I first heard about these I thought they were going to be awesome. I’d read about people who really thought they were great, but after looking a bit more into I’ll admit that I’m pretty disappointed. Unless you go with some of the super expensive specialty options, most of these are pretty cheap. They use the idea of an extra kief chamber to draw people in, but my opinion is it’s more of a novelty than anything else.
If you’re really into gathering kief then you can get some use out of these. Basically, at the bottom of the first kief chamber is second, even finer mesh filter. This will allow only the tiniest of particles through meaning that when it’s filled up you’ll have a nice pile of super fine, super high quality kief.
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Another big factor in choosing herb grinders is the type of material you can get it made out of. There are three major areas here: plastic/acrylic, wood and metal. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons below.
Plastic and Acrylic Grinders
I’ve lumped these into the same category because they basically are the same thing. Acrylic is a type of plastic that’s a big higher quality and a bit harder. Other than that they’re pretty well the same.
You’ll find plastic sets make up most of your low end/low quality options. Plastic is a lot cheaper to make but it’ll also wear the fastest, grind poorly and break more easily. In addition, most plastic grinders are either two or three pieces which means you’re also losing functionality.
We also have the potential health concerns. I’ll admit, I haven’t found any evidence that strictly shows this to be a danger and honestly, I don’t think there’s much to be concerned about it. But, under the right circumstances plastic and acrylic can melt from the heat of even a simple lighter. When heated, both can give off toxic fumes which aren’t healthy to consume.
Again, I personally don’t think this is a big deal, but there are those who are worried about it. But that along with the other issues that come along with plastic make it a much less attractive option.
If you want to get an herb grinder but you absolutely cannot spend a lot of money, you’ll want to look towards a plastic set. Otherwise, my suggestion is to stay away from both of these and go for wood or metal.
Concerning the viability, most wood grinders these days come with metal teeth, so they’ll work pretty well. That said, a lot of them are also single chamber, which isn’t as nice. But that’s fine, you don’t get a wood set because you’re looking for the best possible grinder. You get one because it adds to the ambiance.
Will you really use all of those major perks that come from the more technologically advanced option? Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe you just want something that does its job and looks good while it’s doing it. That’s the difference between a wood grinder and a metal grinder.
It’s totally up to you what you want – just keep in mind that both these materials fill a certain niche.
The two most common materials here are aluminum and titanium, however there are others such as zinc that make an occasional appearance.
Metal grinders will generally give you the best grind and have the most advancements. The ability to use CNC machines to create a device with precision along with the strength of metal has a lot of advantages. Aluminum and titanium grinders will see significantly less wear and will often times have much sharper and much more effective teeth for grinding.
Metal also allows you to add complexity such as magnets that hold grinder sections together, rounded kief trays and removable mesh screens.
Between the two, aluminum and titanium have a lot of similarities and a few differences. The biggest of which is erosion/rust. Titanium will be free from any sort of degradation for its entire life. That along with the fact that it’s an incredibly light material and an incredibly strong material make it the superior of the two.
There’s also the issue of aluminum flaking. This isn’t as big of an issue now but a few years ago there were a lot of problems with aluminum grinders leaving tiny flakes of metal in people’s bud after grinding. This was due to manufacturers using cheaper aluminum that wasn’t as strong. Now-a-days most aluminum used in grinders is aerospace grade which means you won’t have any issues with flaking. Just make sure to check the type of aluminum the grinder is made of before you buy.
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Major Features to Look Out For
Beyond the materials and the number of chambers, there are plenty of other features to be on the lookout for when choosing the best herb grinder for your purposes. This section contains what I think are the most important ones to be aware of.
Size (Diameter and Height)
While most grinders only vary in size by a few inches, that ends up making a big difference. Want to stick your grinder in your pocket? Good luck trying to do that with a three inch grinder. Need to grind up an eight of herb real quick? Have fun doing that with a mini grinder.
So the size really depends on your purpose, the number of people/quantity you need to grind for and if you’re looking to take it from place to place. Below we’ll take a look at the major sizes and what they’re good for.
Mini (< 1.5 inches)
Mini grinders are seriously tiny. They’re fantastic if you need to stick on in your pocket or a small carrying bag. They’re awful if you’re regularly grinding up lots of herb. You’ll end up only being able to grind about one bud at a time, sometimes less than that depending on the type of herb you get. If you’re regularly consuming with friends or a larger group this probably won’t be what you want to get.
Great For: The Traveller, The Occasional Consumer, The Budget Enthusiast
Not Great For: The Mass Producer, The Entertainer, The Regular User
Small (1.5-2.0 inches)
Once you up the size by half an inch your usability goes up dramatically. While small grinders are still pretty tiny you get a pretty reasonable amount of space to grind with. If you usually entertain larger groups you’ll probably want to get something bigger, but this size works well for the single enthusiast who consumes occasionally. And they’re still small enough to travel around
Great For: The Traveller, The Occasional Consumer
Not Great For: The Mass Producer, The Entertainer
Medium (2.0-2.5 inches)
Again, another half an inch makes a big difference. Something of this size will be able to easily grind up a few grams at once, no problem. Once you get into the medium range you really start to get a bit of bulkiness, especially if you’ve got three or more pieces. A three chambered grinder that’s got a diameter of 2.5 inches is pretty damn big. You’ll be able to fit it in your backpack but definitely not in your pocket.
If you regularly consume with a group this size will be great. You’ll be able to grind up enough bud for several people in one or two uses. Those who consume by themselves regularly will also appreciate the added space for more grinding.
Great For: The Regular User, The Entertainer
Not Great For: The Budget Enthusiast, The Traveller,
Large (2.5+ inches)
Once you get beyond two and a half inches you’re looking at some big fucking grinders. These are best left sitting on your shelf or in a drawer. They’re made for grinding larger amounts of herb (more than a few grams) at a time, will be the most expensive and are obviously the largest.
I’d really only advise someone who consumes a lot of herb on a regular bases to get one of these. If you’re regularly throwing parties or smoke in groups frequently you’ll get a lot of value out of this. Even if you’re a regular consumer you’re probably going to be just fine with a smaller size than large.
Great For: The Entertainer, The Mass Producer
Not Great For: The Occasional User, The Traveller, The Budget Enthusiast
The other component to size is the height of your set. The major contributor to the height of your grinder is the number of chambers. Obviously, the more chambers it has the taller it will be. If you absolutely need to be travelling around with your grinder you might need to sacrifice usability for a smaller size.
Once you get past two chambers it’ll be pretty hard to fit this in your pocket or a small carrying bag. Another thing to keep in mind is as your height increases the amount of storage space you have increases.
This might not be a big deal when you’re grinding regular bud, but if you’ve got a kief chamber on the bottom you might get some use out of a greater storage capacity. That’ll help you build up a huge stash of kief that you can save for a Master Smoke at some point.
Even amongst wheel grinders there are a few different shapes you’ll find. The big thing to look out for here are grinders that have indentations that’ll make it easier to rotate. Some of these things are smooth as a baby’s bum which makes it super frustrating to get a grip sometimes.
If you’ve got a hard time getting a good grip on your grinder, try to find one that’s got a gear like setup (like the Cali Crusher) to make it easier to use.
The number of teeth in your grinder plays a big part in two ways: the usability of the set and the type of grind you get.
First is the usability. While having a set with a crazy number of teeth (like the Space Case) may seem like a good thing, it can end up being a huge pain in the ass to actually get your bud in there. That means you’ll have to pre-chop your bud. This adds time and effort, two things the grinder is supposed to reduce.
The other big thing is the type of grind you get. While the shape and sharpness of your teeth also play a big part here, more teeth usually means a finer grind with more slicing/dicing and less fluff. If that’s your thing, cool. Otherwise it might be smart to opt for a grinder that uses fewer teeth. If it doesn’t matter you’ll generally find that sets with fewer teeth are less expensive.
In addition to the number of teeth is the shape and distribution of them. While a lot of manufactuers like to use smaller, peg like teeth there has been a lot of experimentation lately. Some teeth will be longer, taller, shorter or wider or any combination.
While it’s hard to make any hard-and-fast rules about the type of grind you’ll get based on the shape of the teeth, in general you’ll that more teeth equals a finer grinder. Smaller teeth will also result in a finer grind while larger teeth will tend to pull your herb apart leaving you with larger, fluffier chunks.
You also have to account for the shape of the blades on the teeth. There’s been an escalation of sorts on how sharp teeth are and it’s been getting pretty extremely lately.
The sharpest teeth I know of are probably the one you’ll find on Masterdam’s set – the lions teeth shape. These will literally slice right through your herb. On the contrary, a grinder that’s got larger, wider teeth like the Cali Crusher will pull your herb apart as opposed to slice it.
A quick note regarding kief: those who want an increased kief output should look towards less sharp teeth. The pulling motion of larger more dull teeth will give the trichomes more opportunity to disconnect from your bud and fall through into the kief chamber. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s definitely there.
Number of Holes and Pattern
I feel obligated to mention the filter holes and their patterns, however I don’t personally find this to be a major factor in the quality of the herb grinder. Take note, this only applies to units that have two or more chambers.
The top chamber of your set is where you’ll be grinding your herb. Once the bud has been processed to a point where it’s small enough it’ll fall through the holes in the floor of the grinding chamber. The size of these holes will determine how finely ground your bud must be before it falls through and doesn’t get ground up any more.
Generally speaking, the more holes and the larger the holes, the less ground your bud will get. If you prefer larger chunks you’ll want to opt for a design like that. Otherwise, smaller holes and fewer holes will result in a more finely ground product.
Overall most grinders have similar sized holes, although you will see some that have way more than others. Like I said, I don’t find this to be a huge factor but it’s something you should be aware of.
One of the big things that’ll add to the lifespan of your grinder is how well you take care of it. A big part of that is keeping your mesh screen free from clogs and jams. Have no mistake, as you use this your grinder the tiny slots in the mesh will get filled up with crap – you’ll want to make sure you’re regularly cleaning it.
It’s about a bigillion times easier to clean the screen if you can take it out. A removable mesh screen means you can easily soak it in some cleaning fluid, use a brush to clean it out and dry it off more easily.
It’s not a necessity by any means, but it just makes life easier. There are only a few products out there that have this option so if you find one that doesn’t have a removable tray and want to grab it, go ahead. It’s just a nice thing to have if it works out.
Rounded Kief Tray
For those interested in The Great Hunt (for kief) you’ll want to be on the lookout for grinders with rounded kief trays. These make it way easier to get those tiny little particles out of the bottom compared to trays that aren’t rounded.
Same as above, it’s not a necessity but it’s something that separate the good sets from the great.
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Finally we come to all the tiny details that I don’t think makes a huge deal. Everything above will impact your use at least a little bit. The stuff down below probably won’t. But there’s more to herb grinders than its functionality (which is obvious coming from the guy who has a strange fascination with less effective, wooden grinders).
Simply put, a bud grinder that uses magnets is a lot nicer to use than one that doesn’t. Beyond that though, I don’t find a ton of difference in the types of magnets that grinders have. A lot of them will boast about the crazy neodymium, core-of-the-earth, less-by-druids-and-Gia magnets that they use.
As far as my opinion goes, they either work or they don’t. Those with more attention to detail might disagree though. Even still, you’ll probably want to make sure that some type of magnets are used (even if they’re not blessed by Gia).
Okay, this is something that is a big deal to me. If you’re gonna drop a wad of cash on a nice bud grinder it’s gotta look cool. I don’t know who decided that 90% of grinders need to be black or chrome but I’m pretty stoked that we’re finally getting out of that phase.
Bring on the neon colored grinders. My personal favorite is orange but I’m okay if you choose the ice blue instead. Those of you opting for the brown color can just get out. Right now.
This can easily be replaced by a small brush or a little bit of plastic, but having a purpose specific scraper to get your kief out of the tray can be nice. That goes double for sets that don’t have a rounded tray.
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Manual vs. Electric Grinders
If you’re having any issues with your manual grinder you might be interested in looking at getting an electric herb grinder. While you’d expect a lot of these to be more expensive, most of what you’ll find on Amazon are a lot cheaper than most manual grinders. I’ll be honest though, not a lot of them are great.
If you’re looking to pick up a higher quality grinder, I’d suggest either looking at coffee grinders (they really do work) or higher end grinders off of third party sites.