Why Are Burr Coffee Grinders Better Than Blade?

Life can bring you situations where you may have a fork in the road ahead of you and have to choose what path to take: either left or right. You may say, “Which way should I go?” You see, the coffee life brings us to situations where we, too, may be presented with a fork and are forced to make decisions. Among those decisions comes the topic of choosing a grinder. As a subtopic to grinders there is a decision to make, burr or blade grinder.

…and no, you can’t just grind coffee in the food processor. 🙂

Today, we are going to talk about this – why burr grinders are better than blade. So if you have questions regarding this subtopic of grinders, then you have come to the right place.

Burr Coffee Grinders vs Blade Coffee Grinders

Any barista or coffee enthusiast will tell you that in the assembly line of a perfect cup of joe, one of the most important pieces of equipment is the grinder. Coffee professionals tell us that we should be buying our grinders first.

Regardless of your opinion of this suggestion, the point is that we should be focused on and prepare ourselves for the end product of our cup of coffee. When people think this, they reckon the coffee beans to be the most important part. As you see from this, we frequently fail to realize that poorly ground coffee beans will only bring you problems in the taste of your coffee. Good beans need and deserve the right grinding for the quality of coffee they will create.

What’s the Difference Between Burr and Blade Grinders

burr vs blade coffee grinderA blade grinder is pretty easy to explain. They have a screw-shaped blade in the center of the grinder , which works a lot like one that you would find in a blender.

A burr grinder is made up of two abrasive surfaces that revolve (those are the burrs), in between which the coffee beans are generally ground a few beans at a time.

Flat & Conical Burr Grinders

There are two different kinds of burrs to be found:

  1. Flat
  2. Conical

The flat burrs, as you see above, are different from the conical burrs, but they both do the same thing: turn coffee beans into coffee grounds. Conical burr grinders have two cone shaped burrs with ridges that grind (a more correct word would be-crush) the coffee beans, while the flat burr grinders have two flat, identical, and face-serrated rings. Regardless of which burr type you’re using, one of components is stationary and the other is turned by the grinder’s motor. The distance between the burrs can be varied which will change the size of the coffee grounds. Conical burr grinders are leaned on by experts and I think I agree with them on this.

Which One Is Better?

Coffee professionals lean more toward burr grinders over blade because the former achieves more uniformity in the grounds. Not only that, but you have more control over the resulting size with burr grinders than you do with blade grinders. A consistent grind is much harder to achieve with a blade grinder, especially if you want a coarser ground of coffee bean. Experts highly recommend burr grinders, especially for anyone who is making coffee using the French press method or even the pour over method. Although blade grinders are cheaper than burr grinders, the coffee-educated people will express the need of going to burr. This is because blade grinders aren’t very consistent in their grinding which leaves you with grounds that don’t make quality coffee. You never know what you will get with blade grinders. You grounds may vary anywhere from powder and dust to chunks and all the mix between. On top of that the coffee grounds get charged with static. That means that now the coffee will have a tendency to stick to EVERYTHING. As you can imagine, this may end up in a huge mess to clean up. This is why I don’t recommend you get a blade grinder. Now, onto the next fork in our coffee life:

High Or Low-Speed?

High-speed burr grinders tend to heat the coffee beans up the same way as blade grinders. That is not a good thing, but the upside of high speed grinders is that they give the user more control over the grind size and they tend to be pretty consistent. They are often called “direct drive” grinders because the motor is directly connected to the burrs and so both the motor and burrs turn at the same speed. The downside to high-speed is that it has more of a tendency to create dust or powder, though are still way better about it than blade grinders. They also tend to cause problems with static.

Among the coffee lovers, the most desired grinders are the low-speed burr grinders. These offer very little to no static charge, they are very quiet in their operation and produce very little heat to the beans. They have options of “direct drive” or “gear reduction” grinders.

Now To The Point Of My Article

In my research I have found that, in general, burr grinders are hands down the best for making coffee. Everyone has different space and convenience needs, of course, and grinders come in different shapes and sizes of manual and electric models, so if you are looking for a more sleek and compact form I might suggest you look into manual burr grinders.

In my coffee journey, I have found several burr grinders that do you right, both in price and in quality:

Electric burr grinders: Capresso 560.01Breville BCG600SIL, Mr. CoffeeBodum Bistro, and Cuisinart DBM-8

Manual burr grinders: DuraCasaGalleanyKona SlimBruntmor SlimBlissliiKuissentialHario Skerton, and Tanors Mill.

Phew! I know this was a lot to take in. By now your brain may be mush, but I really hope you took the time to educate yourself by reading this article completely. My aim was to clearly explain why burr grinders are better than blade and to explain things within that topic that aren’t usually considered. Both you and I can now come to the realization and conclusion that burr grinders are definitely better than blade grinders. Thank you for reading and letting me help you achieve the best cup of coffee that you can offer yourself. As I always say, I hope that you are now more educated and equipped to face the world of coffee with great boldness and confidence.

The Coffee Grinder: Burr vs. Blade Compared

If you’re at all like me, a cup of coffee has all the power to put you on the path to be happy and successful, or catty and confused all day long.

Let me paint you a picture.

Smell of fresh whole beanYou’ve just awoken from a great night’s rest.

You’re ready to have your first cup of coffee.

You open your bag of beans and savour that aroma, like it’s a promise that you’re going to conquer your day.

It’s your favourite blend, roasted to perfection.

Your whistling tea kettle has just sang its happy tune and is cooling down as you reach for your blender.

Now, this is where it gets crazy.

What you do next is absolutely pivotal to the richness and fullness of your end result.

Grinding your beans.

This process from which the colloquial term, “daily grind” comes from should be done every day, before every brew.

If you’re skipping this part entirely, you are forfeiting a wealth of flavour and complexity.

The pre-ground coffee that is typical of grocery stores, is more convenient.

But, here’s the kicker:

your grounds have a fraction of the flavour they would, if you had bought them whole bean.

The sole reason we break down the coffee bean in the first place is to extract the oils and complex chemical compounds that bind together to create the variety of flavour notes that made us fall in love with the drink in the first place.

The moment they’re chopped, and divided, they begin to go stale.

And that’s not the worst part!

When you purchase pre-ground coffee, you are likely purchasing a grind that is not fit for your brewing method. Companies typically default to grinding for a paper cone filter, since coffee pots were the long-standing household system. Some companies offer different grind sizes, but with the variance in packaging and company standards, it’s a gamble every time.

Here’s why:

The grind dictates extraction.

Extraction dictates taste.

The Starbucks Sirens over at Pike Place Market define “extraction rate” as the time it takes for the, “water to go through the path of the grounds.”

This is why each brewing method needs its equal grind according to its extraction time.

The finer the grind, the less time you need to extract the flavour.

And on the other side of the spectrum, the coarser the grind, the more time you need to extract the flavour.

When you mix grind size with the wrong brewing method, you get:

An under extraction, which leads to that sour, acidic taste.

Or your get

an over extraction, which leads to the bitter taste and grimy mouth feel.

You may be thinking, “this is all too complicated.”

It’s actually quite simple.

Cater to your preferences.

Grind your own beans.

Because we, at Gathering Grounds, want you to have the best cup of coffee in your life every day of your life, I am going to walk you through how to get the right grinder.

There are 3 big decisions you’re going to have to make along this journey.

  1. Convenience or consistency?
  2. Durability or replicability?
  3. Home or retail?

I really can’t stress the importance of a good grinder.

It’s the biggest baddest piece of equipment in a coffee maker’s arsenal.

And there are two types to choose from!

It’s likely that you know the first, even if it’s just a vague memory of your college roommate waking you up with the incessant whirring and clanking of their 7am coffee routine.

The blade grinder is the most common of the home café appliances. They’re easy to find, and typically range in price from 15-40 bucks.

But just like cheap, easy pre-ground coffee, blade grinders are not up to snuff.

Let’s look at the anatomy of this small piece of machinery and find out why.

picture of blade grinderAt first glance it looks like it would work well, right?

You have a spinning propeller, to break up the beans, and a nifty little chamber to catch the grounds.

The issue with this is: science.

The uniform circular motion of the propeller dictates that the full length of blade is technically moving at different speeds, resulting in a wide variety of ground particles sizes.

These different cuts can range from nearly untouched whole beans to Turkish coffee-like powder. This variance results into the particles extracting at different rates, and a weird tasting cup of coffee.

This is where our second option comes to the rescue: the ever-consistent Burr grinder.

You definitely know this one too!

You probably played with one of these in your great aunt Cindy’s kitchen.

With their pretty hoppers, fun drawers and noise that the manual crank makes, it’s irresistible to the eye of children and adults alike.

But with the wonder of electricity, we have been able to replicate its mechanisms to work faster, and with more bean.

You see them every time you walk into a coffee shop. (minus the crank.)

So what exactly is a Burr?

I’m glad you asked.

The dictionary definition: a rough edge or ridge left on an object (especially of metal)

The barista definition: the best grinder available, for as little as $20.

Let’s look at the anatomy, and see how both definitions are true.

When you open the top of a Burr grinder’s hopper, you see the clock like mechanics.

There are two pieces of metal with ridges, yes, burrs.

This is where it gets interesting!

There are two materials that those burrs can be made of:

Ceramic and stainless steel.

There are pros and cons of each.

With ceramic, you have a beautiful, hand made piece. But it’s easily breakable.

During the harvesting process, it is possible that pebbles or twigs can get mixed in with the beans.

You can see how this would be a problem.

But that baby is never going to lose its sharpness of edge. If you are take great care to check the beans before putting them in the mill, you have a grinder that will give you consistent and even grounds that produce delicious cups of coffee for years to come.

Now with the stainless steel, you have equal and opposite problems.

Your burrs are machine cut, and therefore easier to replace if something were to go awry.

But the blades go dull after about a thousand pounds of bean ran through it.

If you’re opening a shop, this could be a problem for you. But if you’re looking to improve your home cafe game, this would work perfectly.

Now for the Burr shapes.

Conical or flat?

The mechanics are essentially the same.

The burrs have teeth-like ridges that break down beans as they are fed through the opening in the top.

With a conical shape, they are cut first by a wider tooth. Then they slide into increasingly smaller burrs ‘til they reach their final size and fall through the bottom.

With a flat, crushed and pushed through two pieces of metal, where they are met by burrs that start off large and get smaller and smaller until they’re pushed off the edge.

The pros at Seattle Coffee Gear say that there isn’t much difference in end result. Both yield even and consistent grinds causing the particles to extract at the same rate, and making a full delicious cup of coffee.

The main difference is that conical grinders work faster because gravity is working in favor of the beans.

So let’s revisit those 3 questions.

  1. Convenience or consistency?
  2. Durability or replicability?
  3. Home or retail?

Do you want the convenience of a blade grinder, and deal with the random brews? Or do you want the consistency of a burr grinder, even though it is slightly more tedious?

Do you want the durability of a ceramic burr, even though there is a possibility of it breaking? Or do you want a stainless steel burr, and have to deal with getting them sharpened or replaced every so often?

And do you need the speediness of a conical shape for your business? Or would a flat surface suffice for your personal coffee routine?

You now have all the information you need to make these big decisions.

And in turn, make great coffee.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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