Electric (Automatic) Vs Manual Salt & Pepper Grinders

There are many different varieties of Salt & Pepper Mills with a range of functionalities, design and models. For a good long term purchase that will last; it is important to think about where, for what purpose and how you wish to use your grinder for the best results. Some of the questions you may consider are:

  • Are the grinders for general use in the kitchen, dining room or within a business like a restaurant?

  • How often will they be used?

  • Do you want to have varying coarseness adjustment?

  • What type of style are you looking for i.e. traditional or modern? Wood, metal or plastic?

  • What is your budget?

  • Who will be using the grinders?

Although Salt & Pepper Grinders come in all shapes and sizes they will all incorporate some specific features. There will be the main part of the pot that holds the spice and some type of grinding mechanism that will enable the spice to flow through it onto your food with varying performance depending on the type of grinding operation.

One thing to be aware of is that the grinding of salt requires a different method to that of Pepper. Many salts like Himalayan salt contain moisture, hence a ceramic grinder is more suitable than a metal grinding system but they are not as durable as stainless steel versions.


Electric Mills will have fast results with more precise delivery and also result in less of a mess to clean up afterwards. Manual Grinders rely on the turning action of the crank or spindle. Some can be hard to turn continuously especially for long periods which will require more effort. As they do rely more on human interaction they will be prone to greater damage if not used correctly or clumsily. Electric grinders will also be more beneficial in a busy commercial environment which requires fast, precise, preparation and delivery.


As the operation is generally more streamlined with an Electric Grinder they can have airtight casing which prevents moisture being absorbed by the spice, ensuring longer lasting species and better flavour. With manual grinders, you provide the turning force through a crank or spindle to enable the burrs to rotate and grind the spice. They generally have a screwing mechanism to open and close the mill which if not screwed on properly can result in moisture absorption and under performance.

Noise Levels

Both types of mills have varying noise levels. Electrical grinders tend to be less noisy as the grinding mechanism of the burrs takes over the whirring of the electrical mechanism. With Manual grinders the turning of the crank or spindle can contribute to the grinding noise of the burrs. Although this does make the process of grinding more natural and satisfying.


With both types of Mills you can achieve the same results each time as both should have coarseness adjustments settings built in. But there is considerable differences in the size you can grind down to and whether you can achieve the same results every time for varying coarseness. With Manual Grinders it can be a bit hit and miss as you need to adjust the distance of the burrs from the grinding plate manually. This is fine if you want the same finesse every time you use the grinder but for different variation it can be difficult to get the exact same results again and again. With Electrical Mills they will generally have automated settings which you can select; from fine to coarse. This is perfect for ensuring you get the exact same settings each time as they will have an automated adjustment mechanism which may include a scale.


The cost of Electric Grinders will generally be greater than manuals ones due to the electrical mechanism and additional batteries needed for longer use. It is important to have good rechargeable lithium batteries for Electric Grinders for longer lasting use although replaceable batteries will work fine, they will need replacing more often and will cost more in the long run. So if you are looking for grinders that are small and portable than a manual grinder can be ideal. As with most things, paying that little bit extra for quality & durability pays off in the long run. The starting price for Manual grinders is cheaper as they do not need the electrical mechanism to operate and can be smaller in size. But a good grinding mechanism is also important to ensure that you get the results you want. Carbon Steel Burrs for precise grinding is a must for most species but for salt grinding a Ceramic Burr is required. An electrical grinder with a poor grinding mechanism and a manual grinder with a good grinding mechanism could be on sale for the same price.

Additional Features

Electrical Grinders will generally have more additional features like an LED light that comes on as you grind your spice so you can see how much you need especially over a candlelight dinner. They may also have touch button controls for the required differing coarseness levels. Some have lighting incorporated into the design so that they come on whilst on the dining table.


Perhaps the most important feature to attract you to a particular Salt & Pepper Grinder will be its design and whether it is aesthetically pleasing. They generally fall under 2 types; the electrical grinders generally have a more modern look with a stainless steel or plastic construction, whilst manual grinders tend to be more traditional made of wood and glass.


Perhaps the size of the grinder is something that we don’t consider as we view the pictures of the mills online. This can be an important factor as is will determine the capacity of the mill and how often you need to fill it up. Depending on how much you intend to use the grinder, it is important to bear in mind how long the spice will stay fresh in the pots. Due to the extra capacity required for the batteries of an electrical grinder they will hold smaller amounts of spice for the same size manual mill.