the Coffee Journal

Kalita Coffee Mill KH-3 Retro [REVIEW]

Earlier last week, I found this little gem in a second-hand vintage shop. The little gem is the Kalita Coffee Mill KH-3. As a contributor for this website, and since it’s very cheap (especially when it’s second-hand), I bought it just so I can see how it goes. This is what I thought:


The Kalita Coffee Grinder is a coffee grinder with simplistic designs. It has two parts, a polished wooden container at the bottom and a wrought iron hopper on the top. This coffee mill has an authentic retro look to it. While many carpenters tend to go for a more modern appearance, Kalita stuck to their roots and continued going down the more traditional, handcrafted route.

The Kalita Coffee Grinder is a compact and lightweight grinder; it measures 7.5 x 3.9 x 3.9’ (19.1 x 9.9 x 9.9cm) and weighs 1.3lbs (590g). As for performance, obviously you can’t expect to beat an electric grinder that’s 10x more expensive, but for the price, it performs very well in the fine to medium range – ideal size for espresso or an AeroPress.

Is This Vintage Coffee Grinder Right For You?

The Kalita KH-3 is a very affordable coffee mill; it would be a good choice for people who’s on a budget but don’t want to compromise too much on a budget.

Do keep in mind that the KH-3 Coffee Mill only performs well in the fine to medium range. The burr mill will just fine for an espresso or AeroPress, but it’ll struggle for people who prefer a cup of French press instead. The coarser grinds are just too inconsistent.

Things We Liked The Kalita Mill

When I was testing the KH-3 Retro’s performance, I noticed it was very easy to use. The operation is smooth, and it’s easy to change the settings, simply by rotating the washer inside.

I already mentioned the design already, but the manufacturers really stroke a good balance between the metallic and wooden materials used – it gives off a good vintage vibe to the whole thing.

As a budding barista or home-brewer, then you should know how important it is to clean your coffee grinder. For those who don’t, I’ll summarise it. After using your burr mill, the leftover coffee becomes stale very quick (less than an hour) and if you mix that with your fresh batch, it’ll ruin the entire coffee experience. Luckily, the KH-3 Retro is easy to clean; the burrs are easily accessible.

Since the hopper is made from wrought iron, it’ll rust. You can either read more about how to clean wrought iron here, or go for the effortless Urnex Tablets instead.

Things We Disliked About This Grinder

As for negatives, what I don’t like about this Kalita Coffee Grinder is the hopper design. Even though Kalita designed the appearance quite well, it struggled in terms of functionality. I’m referring to the hopper’s design. I understand that it looks nice from wrought iron, but come on; it rusts when it touches water! Also, why doesn’t this device come with a cover – the bean flies out if you grind too fast…it’s quite frustrating.

There’s more! I think the joint between the hopper and the rest of grinder looks quite weak. The joint is only attached by four very thin screws. The metallic part also looks quite thin and seems fragile.

While I was editing this, I can see myself being a bit too biased. Take note that this is a second-hand grinder, it didn’t break for the previous users and from doing my due diligence online (including Amazon), I’ve not found anyone complaining about this issue so far.

Alternative & Similar Products

At this price range, you might be considering a blade grinder too. If you’re using specialty coffee beans, then I strongly recommend you against doing so. However, if you plan to use the grinder for other spices too, then a blade grinder could work. Currently, the KRUPS F203 and Hamilton Beach 80365 seem to be the best choices in terms of price and functionality.

If you’re looking for other manual coffee grinders that have a similar price point, then you should check out the Hario Skerton. This is the most popular product in the market and is also the blog’s favorite pick.

For those who have a higher budget, but still want to be hands-on with their coffee grinding, you should find out more about the ROK Coffee Grinder.

Lastly, if you’re looking for something for your travels, the KH-3 won’t cut it – it doesn’t have a lid! Check out the Porlex JP-30 Tall instead.

The Coffee Barrister's Verdict [CONCLUSION]

Overall, I think the Kalita Coffee Mill KH-3 is alright. It looks good and gives off a good retro vibe. It performs well in producing grinds for espresso and drip filters. It’s affordable and compact.

However, it’s missing something fundamental like a lid. If you don’t mind finding something else to cover the hopper, or just grind slowly, then this won’t be an issue for you.

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