Making the perfect cup of coffee at home doesn’t have to be difficult. But it does need the right equipment. Although it may seem trivial, one thing you have to understand is that poorly ground beans will make a bad cup of coffee. And life’s too short to drink a dissatisfying cup of coffee.
Looking for the best way to recreate a coffee shop experience at home? Then get the best coffee grinder. But which one should you get? A blade grinder or burr grinder? One type is cheap and uncontrollable. The other is consistent and produces uniform coffee grounds.
Avoid falling for the trap! To help you find the best kind of coffee grinder, I’ve compared the two for you below.
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Let’s Start with the Blade Coffee Grinder
Blade coffee grinders are designed similarly to your kitchen blender. They are usually cheaper and easy to use, a common option for people just entering the world of making fresh coffee at home.
How does a blade grinder work?
All blade grinders are made with the same design, also similar to a kitchen blender or food processor: double-pronged blade at the bottom center of the chamber that looks like a propeller.
Most of them have a single button that, when pressed, the blades spin rapidly, chopping up coffee beans into different sized pieces. The coffee grounds will come in all shapes and sizes—no option for you to choose the grind size as well. You will never know what size the coffee grounds are going to be.
Why Are Blade Grinders Bad?
Blade grinders offer enough power for faster coffee grinding, but there’s a catch. It results in an uneven size of coffee grounds. And uneven grounds can cause uneven flavor in your coffee because differently sized grounds will brew at different rates. The coarser the coffee grounds are, the longer it brews. And the finer the coffee grounds, the quicker it brews.
Inconsistent grind makes a sad coffee. Essentially, you will taste two different flavors – the bold flavor for the coarse ground coffee and the bitterness of the fine pieces. What you get is an unbalanced coffee flavor that is just disappointing.
Another downfall is when you leave the coffee beans in the grinder too long to try to grind them finer, there will be a significant amount of heat in the beans from the blades. And that can alter the final taste of your coffee. The heat from the rapid blade spinning will remove the freshness of the beans and can give a burned taste to your coffee.
Blade Grinder Hacks to Make Them Grind Better?
To make the best cup of coffee when using a blade grinder, there is basically one thing you want to achieve – a more uniform grind without burning the coffee beans. That might sound a bit of a fuss, but it can be done with a few coffee grinding hacks:
- Pulse the blade grinder one to two seconds at a time and repeat the same process until the beans reach your desired grind size. Instead of holding down the power button for an extended period, pulsing allows the beans to readjust and fall back down the chamber.
- Try giving the grinder a shake between pulses. It will mix the small and larger grounds together before the next round of grinding.
- Sift the grinds to separate the larger grounds. You can regrind those boulders and sift them again until everything is almost the same size.
- Get rid of the superfine grounds. As much as you don’t want the boulders in your final coffee grounds, you also don’t want to leave the super fines there, or you’ll have a more bitter coffee. Try spreading the grounds on a paper towel and then pour it back where it came from. The fines will stick to the towel, leaving you with a considerably uniform ground coffee.
Quite frankly, that is pretty obsessive, and you might be left with boulders that refuse to grind any smaller, as well as the fines that you’re going to throw. You might be left with less amount of coffee grounds you need, and even if you add around 10% more than you need, wastage is still a problem.
The quick solution is to invest in a good-quality burr grinder.
Burr Grinders, What Are They?
While blade grinders chop up beans, burr grinders, also called burr mills, do the “grinding.” Baristas and coffee lovers alike would say that burr grinders are superior to blade grinders in terms of their ability to grind coffee beans into a uniform particle size.
How does a burr grinder work?
Instead of propeller-like blades, burr grinders have two abrasive surfaces called burrs set at a certain distance from the other, either made of stainless steel or ceramic, that funnel the beans through the grinding area. As the coffee beans undergo through the grinding wheel a few at a time, beans get crushed from both sides, giving you a more predictably consistent grind.
Why Is a Burr Grinder Better Than a Blade Grinder?
Burr grinders are infinitely better than blade grinders in several ways. It gives you exactly what you’re after from a good coffee grinder, such as:
- Adjustable. Burr grinders give you control over the grind size of the beans, something you don’t have when using blade grinders. In blade grinders, you only have an option to grind the beans longer and hope for the best that it grinds the beans evenly. But for burr grinders, you can move the burrs closer or further apart to adjust the grind size.
- Even grind. The two sets of burrs grinding the coffee beans from both sides ensures you have a more consistent grind than what you can get from a blade grinder. That makes a balance-flavored cup of coffee, no course grind under-extracts, and no super fine grind over-extracts.
- Durable. Burrs will stay sharp for years to come, something you can’t say about metal blades.
- Very little heat. Burr grinders take more time to grind the beans than metal blades, only grinding several beans at a time, which is not a bad thing in this case. It only means there’s more thorough grinding happening and very little heat generated during the grinding process, which means no burnt taste in your coffee!
Although blade grinders are the cheaper option, these reasons prove why burr grinders are the industry standard and should be at home too.
Are Burr Grinders Really Better?
Blade grinders will improve your coffee if you’ve switched from using pre-ground beans to freshly ground beans when making coffee at home. But burr grinders will totally transform the entire coffee game from the flavors of your final cup of coffee to the opportunity of experimenting with different brewing styles.
What if you want to try making your favorite cup of java using different brewing methods? Life is certainly too short to limit yourself to a single type of coffee maker.
With an option for different grind sizes by adjusting the burrs, you can use different types of brewers. Want to use a French press? Take your burr grinder to a coarse setting. Need a shot of espresso? Adjust the grinder to a fine setting.
Try doing all that with the uneven, inconsistent grind size from a blade coffee grinder.
Is a Burr Grinder Really Worth It?
It really depends. Do you prefer convenience and savings or having a real barista experience at home?
Here’s a breakdown to help you find out whether the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to burr grinders. I’ve included the pros and cons of blade grinders as well.
Price is the main thing that puts coffee lovers off about burr grinders. You can get blade grinders for around $20. But entry-level electric burr grinders can cost about a hundred dollars or thousands for commercial-level varieties. And even manual burr grinders can cost around twice as much as most blade grinders, if not more.
So, a very reasonable question, is a burr grinder worth the money?
My simplest answer is yes. Getting a burr grinder is definitely worth it. They can produce a more consistent, even grind, which is a core necessity for making a good-quality cup of coffee, something a cheaper blade grinder cannot do.
Does a Burr Grinder Make a Difference?
A great coffee grinder can transform your coffee experience in more ways than one. It’s one of the most important coffee gears for a reason. To make your at-home coffee experience an utter success, you basically need three things – a good quality everything: coffee beans, coffee maker, and coffee grinder. And when it comes to coffee grinders, burr grinders are on top of the food chain.
With a burr grinder, you can brew a cup of coffee that can rival the ones from your favorite coffee shop. You’ll be able to experience and appreciate the original flavor and strength of the coffee beans.
The Irrefutable Answer: Burr Grinders Are Better, But Which One?
Now you know that burr grinders are so much better than blade coffee grinders. What’s left is to buy one, grind the coffee beans, and make a cup of coffee. But there are different kinds of burr grinders in the market.
The first thing to consider: manual or electric burr grinder?
- Manual burr grinders: It’s best at handling smaller quantities of beans. Manual burr grinders are very simple to use and quite affordable, too, only slightly more expensive than most blade grinders. They can also give you a more consistent grind size since they grind your coffee pretty slowly, though they may test your patience and hand power.
- Electric burr grinders: This type of burr grinder is ideal for grinding larger amounts of coffee. Electric burr grinders are a lot more expensive but highly convenient.
But the most important thing to consider when choosing a burr grinder is the type: flat or conical burr grinder? What’s the difference?
Conical burr grinders: It’s considered the standard burr grinder in the coffee industry. This type of burr grinder features a cone-shaped burr on the inside and a serrated burr on the outside, facing each other. The unique design makes conical burr grinders heat-resistant and energy-efficient, a good option for home baristas.
On the naked eye, conical burr grinders produce even coffee grounds. But once you put the grind under a microscope, the different sizes of coffee beans will be pretty obvious. Technically speaking, even a small number of uneven coffee grounds can result in some pieces extracting too much and others not extracting enough. However, it won’t have any major impact on the overall taste of your coffee. Not unless you’re making and drinking a shot of espresso and you have a really well-defined palate, then you might be able to taste the difference.
Flat burr grinders: It has two donut-shaped burrs with incredibly sharp edges facing each other. The unique design of the burrs keeps the coffee beans between them until they are symmetrically and perfectly ground up. Unlike with conical burrs, there’s no chance for the beans to shoot out during the grinding process. That’s why you can get a more consistent grind size, and perfect grounds make the perfect coffee flavor and plenty of room for creativity.
The drawback is that flat burrs can be noisy, and they also use more heat and energy for the grinding process. That makes them less ideal for at-home use. But, if precision is your top priority, nothing does it best than a flat burr grinder.
Burrs with better precision and consistency are always the best choice for making a better-tasting cup of coffee.
Do You Really Need to Have a Burr Grinder to Make Coffee?
No, you don’t need a burr grinder to make coffee at home. But with all the advantages you can get from consistent, precise, and uniform grinds, you might as well invest in a good burr grinder. You can expect a café-quality cup of java every time.
Freshly ground coffee beans are awesome. But brewing freshly ground beans from a blade grinder can be a pretty nasty mixture of under-extracted and over-extracted coffee with very little to no quality of flavor. You’re basically doing a disservice to the top-quality coffee beans you’re using.
All that said, a blade grinder is better than nothing. But between a blade grinder and a burr grinder, the fact is, most baristas and coffee lovers will both agree, nothing quite beats the burrs.