Weed 101: What Are Electric Weed Grinders and Should You Buy One?
Grinding cannabis by hand is so last year.
Published on February 6, 2020

Sticky Fingers isn’t just a killer Rolling Stones album. It’s also what one can expect to occur without the aid of a grinder. Long considered an essential of the stoner’s toolkit, grinders help us break down nugs of flower in preparation for rolling a joint or blunt, as well as packing a bong or bowl.

As anyone who has attempted to get that job done without a grinder can attest, using rolling papers (as well as lighters, cell phones, car keys, etc.) when your fingers are caked in sticky trichomes can feel like a Sisyphean task. Thankfully, we have grinders to assist us in our quest for a smooth smoke sesh. Though grinders are traditionally manual devices made of plastic or metal, the advent of smart technology has left its mark on this ganja gear, as well.

Today, enterprising rolling enthusiasts can purchase high-tech grinders that will roll a joint for you, automate the grinding process, and even electronically disperse your ground flower into a chosen vessel. As the price tags on grinders continue to rise, some fail to see why anyone would pivot away from the cheaper, simpler alternatives that have served cannabis enthusiasts well for decades.

In order to make a fully informed choice, it’s important to start by understanding the two types of grinders that have long been the only kids on the block.


The Grinder Old Guard: Plastic and Metal

Prior to the age of electronic grinders, there was really only one choice to make: plastic or metal?

In truth, little separates the two options in terms of the end result. One point in favor of metal grinders is their durability when compared with plastic alternatives. With plastic grinders, the risk of its “teeth” (i.e. the spikes on the lid) breaking off is substantially greater. Thus, plastic grinders are often reserved for on-the-go use or in situations where the probability of losing your property is high.

There is also an argument to be made that metal grinders are more efficient at their main task, owing both to the heightened strength of the materials in grinding cannabis flower, as well as the inclusion of kief-catchers and screens. Some plastic grinders do incorporate these elements, but the vast majority of grinders manufactured in plastic are simple two-piece designs.

After decades of living in a “manual-only” world, however, there are a number of new models powered by more than sweat and tears.


What Are Electric Grinders? 

One might assume that electronic grinders refers solely to grinders that automate the process of grinding cannabis flower, but, in fact, there is a wider variety of options to behold.

To be certain, grinders that meet that description do exist. If searching on Amazon, you’ll need to phrase your query as “electronic herb grinders.” But provided you do, the variety is impressive. With some models retailing for under $20, the concept behind this type of grinder involves the user placing their flower in a detachable cup that is then securely affixed to the unit (many resemble flashlights) with a grinding blade at the end.

Ideal for tackling small amounts of cannabis without any excess flourishes, “electronic herb grinders” are a solid choice for casual stoners who want to give their wrists a break.


There are also grinding devices that will also roll your joint for you. Usually priced above $100, these units usually require only that one place a nug of cannabis into the device and press a button. From there, the grinder does the rest. In the case of the Otter Grinder from Banana Bros., the “rest” includes a nifty second function in which the device can be inverted and used to precisely fill a pre-roll cone with your newly-ground flower.

Lastly, there are also electronic grinders that leave the actual grinding to you but provide an assist when it comes to dispersing the final product. The Tectonic9 Auto Dispensing Grinder from Cloudious9 is one such device. Users put their flower in and grind it by hand before unlocking a spigot attachment and powering the device on. From there, the grinder slowly and steadily disperses its contents into the rolling apparatus, bowl, or chamber of your choosing.

Should I Get an Electronic Weed Grinder? 

Compared with other advances in the field of cannabis (including lighters, vaporizers, and edibles), there’s really no wrong grinder to own. The argument can be made that plastic options are the least eco-friendly, as well as the least functional, but in the choice between a “manual” metal grinder and its more expensive, electronic counterpart, it really just comes down to what appeals to you.

If you enjoy the ritual of rolling a joint, it’s plausible that automating the grinding process would be a detriment to your experience. Conversely, for those suffering from arthritis or limited mobility, the option to avoid unnecessary muscle strains is sorely welcomed. Thus, whatever you decide, just make sure it's filled with top-notch flower. And, if you do opt for an electric model, it always helps to keep it charged.

Follow Zack Ruskin on Twitter

Zack Ruskin
Zack Ruskin is a cannabis and culture journalist living in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter: @zackruskin.
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