Electric vs manual salt and pepper grinders

Salt and pepper mills are great tools for adding fresh seasoning to your dishes. Whether you want a fine dusting or a scattering of coarse peppercorns, a pepper grinder can help you pack in more flavor than using pre-ground. But should you go for a manual or electric pepper grinder?

How do manual pepper grinders work?

To use a manual pepper grinder, you usually twist the top or turn a crank to operate the burrs.

How do electric pepper grinders work?

The mechanisms in electric salt and pepper grinders work the same as in manual mills. However, the movement of the burrs is powered by an electric battery rather than a crank.

At Cole and Mason, our Classic mills have diamond-sharp ceramic mechanisms so that you can use both salt and pepper interchangeably. It’s important to remember that salt may damage the metal in steel pepper grinder mechanisms — this is one of the main differences between salt and pepper grinders.

Unlike manual grinders, electric pepper mills operate using a button. This feature means you can use them one-handed — ideal for busy chefs who need to keep stirring with the other hand!


Both manual and electric pepper grinders come in a variety of price ranges. Before buying, it’s a good idea to consider how much you want to spend and set a budget.

On the whole, the cost of electric grinders is generally higher than manual ones because of the electrical mechanisms. You will also need to factor in the price of the batteries required to power them.


Salt and pepper mills are essentials when it comes to adding seasoning during the cooking process. However, they’re also handy to have at the dining table so your guests can add more seasoning if they so wish. If you have salt and pepper grinders at the table, you might like to get a set that complements your kitchen or dining room style.

Whether you’re looking for something traditional or modern, you’re sure to find a pepper grinder to suit your taste.

For a classic option, why not take a look at our manual wooden mills? Available in smooth, dark beech or light and airy ash, these pepper grinders add a fresh twist to a sophisticated design. The capstan form is the quintessential pepper grinder shape.

Alternatively, you might like a more contemporary look. Many electric pepper grinders have a more modern aesthetic. Take, for instance, the Battersea Classic Electronic Salt and Pepper Mill Set, which has a glossy chrome finish and sleek cylindrical shape.

An acrylic manual set not only looks smart but also makes it easy to know when you need to refill your salt or pepper.


The burrs in a pepper mill grinding peppercorns are inevitably going to make a little bit of noise. But isn’t the gentle twist and crack of a manual pepper grinder a part of the seasoning experience? Electric pepper grinders produce a different kind of noise. The whirring of the motor generally covers the sound of the burrs.


The joy of using a pepper grinder is that you can keep your peppercorns fresher for longer. As soon as they’re ground, they start to lose potency. However, keeping the same peppercorns in the mill’s chamber will also lead to some deterioration in flavour.

If you don’t get through very much pepper, you might find it best to buy a small mill to keep your seasonings as fresh as possible.

On the other hand, you could go for an electronic or automatic grinder. Electric pepper grinders have an airtight casing to keep moisture out. Keeping your spices dry and away from oxygen can also help them retain flavour.


In days gone by, peppercorns and other spices would have been crushed using a pestle and mortar. Fortunately, the invention of the pepper mill makes the task quicker and more efficient.

If you’re really in a hurry, an electric pepper grinder can save you even more time. With just one click of a button, you’ll get perfect, consistent results. You may find that achieving a very fine grind with an electric mill tends to take a little longer than a coarse setting.

Questions to consider before buying

Finding the ideal salt and pepper grinders depends on your individual culinary needs. Before deciding which to buy, here are a few questions to consider.

Do you need a pepper grinder for home use or within a commercial kitchen?

It’s worth thinking about how many people will be using your pepper mills and how much you’ll get through. For home use, a small manual grinder can be sufficient for everyday use. If you need mills for commercial kitchens or businesses, you might find it more practical to go for a bigger grinder with a large capacity. Perhaps consider something like our Capstan Wood Pepper Mill, which can add the finishing touch to dozens of dishes.

Manual grinders tend to be smaller and more portable than electric ones. They are a good way of adding extra flavouring to your favourite picnic items and also great for use when travelling - perfect for camping!

Would you like to be able to adjust the grind of your pepper?

An adjustable pepper mill gives you the opportunity to change the coarseness of the grind. With just a couple of twists, you can go from a delicate dusting of fine pepper powder to a more rustic sprinkle. All Cole and Mason salt and pepper mills have an adjustable grind for versatility.

How easy is it to refill?

Salt and pepper mills are an excellent way to get fresh seasoning that's more flavoursome than pre-ground shakers. But there’s no point having an empty grinder sitting on the kitchen side! It’s helpful to look at how the mill comes apart for refilling, especially if you need to top your pepper grinder up frequently. To find out more about how to fill your Cole & Mason mills, contact us or take a look at our helpful Youtube channel.

Whether you go for a manual or electric pepper grinder, it’s a great idea to browse the whole Cole & Mason collection to find the right mill for you.

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