Are hand crank grinders any good for grinding beans very fine (for espresso or turkish coffee)? Because they seem to be quite a bit less expensive than electric grinders, and I'm not too worried about the work involved. I'm just wondering about their quality.
A lot depends on the grinding mechanism. The hand crank grinders I have seen use a system similar to a pepper mill, which beats the pants off a blade system.
In addition to the grinding system is the quality of construction. I have seem new hand crank machines on the market and they look adequate, but not particularly high quality. I think more are sold as decorations than functional units.
I have a neighbor whose house if off the electrical grid and he uses a hand crank grinder. I've had coffee at his house. It was OK, but there is no question - I make better coffee on grid with a Solis Maestro Plus.
Zassenhaus is the brand to get. There are look-alike hand grinders that are cheaper but don't grind consistently enough to deliver good results in an espresso machine. Check Sweet Maria's at http://sweetmarias.com
I'd like to see hand grinders come into mainstream just as much as manual espresso machines, there is nothing better then going back to your roots and doing things old school. Let us know what you come up with, I've done a little research into them, so far, they seem nice for decoration, but there are a few craftsmen that specialize in them.