Coffee 101: To Burr or Not to Burr

Quick Summary

To Burr or Not to Burr, That's the Question! By now you've probably heard a lot about burr coffee grinders. But what's the fuss? Is it worth it?

A burr coffee grinder is the best choice for a quality grind. Compared with blade coffee grinders, they produce coffee grounds that are smoother, more uniform, and exactly the consistency you choose. With the same burr grinder, you can create coarse or fine coffee grounds.

Blade grinders are cheaper than burrs, but they chop rather than grind coffee beans. These grinders give an uneven blend that affects the taste of your coffee.

What is a Burr Coffee Grinder?

Best Flat Burr Grinder

Best Flat Burr Grinder

A burr coffee grinder has two stainless steel or ceramic pieces with rough surfaces, or burrs. One burr is stationary while the other revolves with a motor. You can choose from different burr materials, shapes, and sizes to get exactly the grind you need.

Stainless steel grinders are best suited for coarse grinds. They are generally cheaper and become dull more quickly. Ceramic grinders are more expensive but are fragile and can shatter if dropped.

Conical burr or flat burr grinders are the shapes available. The conical grinders produce a more consistent grind. They also have a lower RPM (revolutions per minute), so they create less heat and operate quietly. Conical burrs are usually cheaper and still produce a high-quality grind.

Finally, you can choose between large and small burr sizes that range from around 40 mm to 75 mm. Large burrs are mainly used in commercial settings and can handle large volumes of coffee.

The Good

Burr coffee grinders are known for their consistent, smooth grind. The uniform particles produced by a burr grinder let you extract coffee evenly.

These grinders also have several options to customize your coffee experience. The most important aspect is the ability to adjust. You can change the distance between the two burrs for differently sized grounds, unlike with blade grinders, which generally offer one option.

The Bad

There isn't much to say about the downsides of a burr coffee grinder. However, these grinders are costlier, especially when it comes to high quality models.

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What is a Blade Coffee Grinder?

Best Blade Grinder

Best Blade Grinder

Blade coffee grinders are much like a blender, with blades that spin and crush the beans into grounds. They're powered by an electric motor.

The Good

Blade coffee grinders are easy to find in almost any big box store. They're also much cheaper than a burr coffee grinder. For beginners who have just decided to start grinding their coffee at home, blade grinders can be a good option.

The Bad

There's a reason blade, and burr grinders have a such a price difference. Blade grinders produce inconsistent grounds. The blade chops the beans down at random, so there's no reason to expect uniformly sized pieces.

Differently sized coffee ground particles have different rates of extraction, so it's harder to brew a smooth coffee with them. Small particles extract quickly and are prone to over-extraction, which causes bitter flavors.

There is one trick you can try to make the best use of a blade grinder. To get a more consistent grind, use short bursts of power instead of trying to grind all your coffee at once.

Resources

Coffee Extraction and How to Taste It
Steel vs Ceramic burrs and heat generation