Blade vs. Burr, Conical vs. Flat, Manual vs. Electric Grinders
Although it may not seem like it, choosing the right coffee grinder can be a deal breaker in brewing a great cup of coffee (and saving you money). You could buy the highest quality beans and have a mediocre cup by usiing a low quality grinder.
The way you grind your beans has an immense impact on the extraction and flavor of the coffee you brew, and there are many nuances to grinding coffee beans that you should familiarize yourself with before making any rash decisions. Today, we’ll hopefully answer most of your questions regarding coffee grinders blade vs. burr grinders, conical vs. flat, and manual vs. electric grinders.
Burr or Not to Burr? There Is No Question.
One of the most impactful decisions you can make in regards to the quality of your coffee is investing in the right grinder. There are two main types: blade grinders and burr grinders. A blade grinder operates similar to a blender: it uses sharp blades to effectively chop coffee beans into pieces.
Because of this, blade grinders produce grounds that are too fine in the perimeter and often coarse fragments or even whole beans in the center. Not having uniform grounds leads to over or under extraction of the coffee beans, and thus can result in a sour or bitter tasting cup of coffee (see our blog post about brewing the best cup of coffee for more info on extraction). . Finer grounds that desired will also clog your filter (if a filter brewer) or seep into your cup (if a press). Worse, most of the time it means you need to add more coffee than necessary for it to taste good, meaning you go through your beans faster (and are throwing money away).
If you ever put coffee grounds from a blade grinder in your french press, you likely were drinking silty coffee that upset youor stomach.This is why you absolutely must use a burr grinder. Why is this such a big deal? In a burr grinder, coffee beans are effectively crushed between two abrasive surfaces called burrs. The burrs have brilliant geometry that compresses the coffee beans in a uniform way to result in an even, consistent grind, adjusted perfectly for your brew method. You may also adjust the spacing between the burrs to achieve different grind sizes optimal for your brewing method. The burrs can be either metal or ceramic, conical or flat. While flat burr grinders tend to produce extremely uniform grounds, they also waste more grounds, are more difficult to clean, and are more expensive. For now, we recommend conical burr grinders, as these may be the better option for an easier, lower maintenance coffee brewing experience. .
The catch is that burr grinders do typically run up a higher price tag, but we insist they will save you money in the long run.
Electric vs. Manual
Deciding between a manual or an electric burr grinder will depend on your desired coffee-brewing experience and budget. If you’re willing and able to invest in a high quality electric burr grinder and want the ease of fresh ground beans at the push of a button, then electric is the one for you. Entry level electric burr grinders that are worth it start in the $100 range (we recommend a Baratza Encore at $160).
That being said, making an investment that large can be intimidating for starters, and that’s where manual coffee grinders come in. These nifty little devices let you set your grind size manually and come with a hand crank that makes for a fun morning routine (plus you get a bicep workout while you wait for your kettle). Another pro is that most manual grinders are extremely portable so you can have freshly ground beans wherever you adventure, without being at the whim of electricity. High quality manual grinders are still less expensive than cheap electric burr grinders and will produce better results. For a great starting point, we’ve made one of the best value for money manual burr grinders available to you. .
As you can see, there are many decisions that go into finding the perfect coffee grinder for you. All of these considerations are important in being able to brew the best tasting cup of coffee from home, so take some time to really think about your coffee brewing needs before investing in a grinder.
For more information on how to brew a great tasting cup of coffee, check out our blog post about the whole bean versus ground coffee debate, and to get started with a grinder at an affordable price, a Manual Conical Burr Grinder is a great place to start!