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What's your price range? When you say "brew decent coffee at school" I'm imagining you brewing regular drip coffee and not espresso. I'm also imagining that you're either going to be in a dorm room or you work in some department at school which means that an expensive one is not an option (what with theft and abuse etc.).
That being said, a burr grinder in that price range will work no better than a decent whirly blade. Trust me, I've tried a few of the low cost ones and they either break after 30 days (black and decker) or are difficult to clean which results in the coffee being irregularly ground anyway.
For work, I went to Target (a big box store) and bought one of these. It's cheap enough and does the job well. It has to be the most well intentioned whirly blade out there -- it times the grinding so the base won't heat up to evaporate the coffee oils and the hopper pops off so you don't have to make a mess pouring the coffee into the filter basket.
It also has these little scraper thingies that you move back and forth that will scrape the bottom of the hopper bowl so you won't have coffee stink finger from running your finger over the bottom to get the stuck on bits (it's also more hygienic that way).
If you have your heart stuck on a really good burr grinder (and it just has to be a burr grinder) less than $300 USD then go on ebay and buy a used Zassenhaus hand cranked grinder. That will work far better than any electric burr grinder under the $200 mark.
Myself and two of my friends have this. It's cheap and works fine. A burr grinder is nicer, but you say you're poor, so buy a blade grinder. [link]
The smaller pours definitely sounds like the problem. It was the first time trying smaller pours and the difference was noticeable. I'm glad saying "dry" was enough! I took my first drink and felt like I had just trudged through the desert.
I put handground, but I am really using a cheap Mr. Coffee grinder I was gifted so that might not be accurate. But this time I was using a "medium" grind.
This is the grinder I was using. A lot of left over ground coffee on the walls and top piece as well. I would rinse it after every use because I thought leaving it on there might be bad for future cups. Not exactly sure what you mean by chafing, sorry.
I haven't actually checked how most coffee machines do it but I am assuming some kind of dripping system? When you mention clever or bonavita are you taking in consideration coffee machines or only manual methods? Just to be clear, you are saying that there are no extra performance/health benefits from doing it manually compared to letting a machine using Kcups do it for you?
Thank you very much for the reply and help, I really appreciate it!