Coffee is perhaps the most popular drink around the world. As such, it makes sense that most coffee drinkers want to have the best possible cup they can. This might mean getting the coffee beans from a certain part of the world or from a particular producer.
For many people, it is simply a matter of going to their favorite coffee shop and ordering their favorite cup. For true connoisseurs, it is usually necessary for them to get fresh roasted whole bean coffee, preferably from a local roaster and then to make the coffee themselves at home. This means you have to have a way to grind the beans and therefore, you’ll need to decide between a blade and a burr grinder.
Why Choosing The Right Grinder Is Important
Getting that perfect cup of joe will take more than getting the perfect bean. No matter how fantastic your coffee brewer is or how excellent the beans are, if you overheat them in the grinding process or if you get inconsistent grinding then the coffee will not have the flavor that you were aiming for. This makes getting the right grinder imperative.
There are two different types that you can choose from. You can get a blade grinder or a burr grinder. Both of these can work depending on your particular wants and needs but you will want to understand the difference between them so that you can make an effective choice. Here we will take a look at the differences between these two grinders.
To a small degree, these will appear to be similar to a food processor in that it has a blade that looks like an airplane rotor. Typically you will find this type of grinder to be less expensive than the others. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get decent grinding, it is simply that it will work differently than the burr grinder does.
There are some that would suggest that this is not a grinder at all because of the way that it works. Because the blades turn similar to a plane rotary they tend to cut, break and bash the beans as the blades spin. This action is in opposition to truly grinding them. The beans are poured on top of the blades and then there will either be a button that begins turning the blade or, if it is mechanically operated, then there may be a way in which you would turn the blades with a mechanical lever.
As the blade begins to spin it will break and cut the beans into smaller pieces. The action of the blades also creates an effect that naturally pulls uncut beans and larger bits into the blades. Depending on your preference you may want finer or courser coffee grain. To have the coffee grain finer you will simply need to allow the blades to turn for a longer period of time.
An example of when you might make this choice would be if you want coffee grounds suitable for a French press or pot brew. For those situations, you would want something that is more course. If, on the other hand, you are preparing the coffee grains for a drip coffee maker then you would want it to be finer. This would mean that you would grind it longer.
It is important when using this type of grinder that you use a pulsing action rather than a consistent churning of the blade. The reason for this is if you just simply push the button or turn the lever to create a constant turning of the blades without any breaks it will generate a certain amount of heat which could damage the coffee grain. It will also decrease the overall consistency of the coffee grain.
Some of the good points you might want to consider about blade grinders is the fact that they are very inexpensive compared to burr grinders. It is also faster to prepare your coffee grounds with this type of grinder. Those who want a decent but not great tasting cup of coffee and also want the convenience of being able to prepare it fairly quickly might want to go with this choice. These type of grinders are also very compact which may be beneficial to someone with a small kitchen area. Often these type of grinders can be purchased from as little as $20 up to around $100.
There is a reason why the average person will think of this type of grinder as being the best. For one thing, they are the most common type found in fine coffee shops. That alone is an endorsement that’s hard to overlook when trying to decide which of these type of grinders are the best. It is also common to find this type of grinder used in the homes of true aficionado’s. These coffee lovers commonly call this type of grinder a burr mill.
A burr grinder genuinely grinds the coffee beans by rubbing the beans in between abrasive surfaces. This process brakes the pieces with the burrs. The process starts with the larger burrs and then the grains make their way to ever smaller burrs as the coffee grain gets finer. Larger pieces of coffee bean cannot get to the smaller burrs and must first be reduced in size. This process ensures a very consistent grind.
Not All Burr Grinders Are The Same
If you decide on a burr grinder you will then need to select between the different types. There are flat burrs and conical burrs. A flat burr will use discs that then have the burrs in between them. A conical burr grinder uses rings that are cone-shaped and they sit inside each other. Not everyone likes the flat burr grinder because some of the coffee grains can get stuck in the burrs meaning you lose some of it in the process.
The conical burr grinders are said to be much more forgiving when you need to make an adjustment to get the coffee grounds just right. The main thing that you want to keep in mind is that these are fairly minor differences and the overall result is very similar one to another. Both will get a good result but if you do find that you prefer one over the other then you should simply go with the one you like the best.
Steel Burr Versus Ceramic Burrs
Anyone shopping for a burr grinder will find that they will have to choose between those made of steel and those made of ceramic. Again, both of these will do a very good job. Even so, there are some who feel that the steel burrs are engineered more finally. Those who feel the steel blades produce better results say that it’s able to produce more even particle distribution.
It is important to realize that for the average user this is more an intellectual debate than an absolute fact. The ceramic burrs are equally durable and for most users will do a job that is essentially identical. Some say that they are especially good for blends made for espresso whereas the steel is said by some to be better for pour overs.
Which one of these will be best for you is really your preference. Overall they will do very close to a similar job. The average person will notice little if any difference between them.
Is A Manual Or Electric Grinder Better?
Very often a manual grinder can produce every bit as good a quality as an electric one can. There are even those who feel that this type of grinder produces finer grounds. This can make them good for certain types of coffee such as Turkish. These units are very portable and very consistent. Their drawback is the fact that it is a slower process.
If you want something that will do a great job and do it more easily and in less time then you’ll need to go with an electric version. A manual could take as much as 10 minutes to prepare grounds appropriate for espresso. On the other hand, if you’re preparing something for a French press and you need the grounds to be coarser then the manual might be the right choice.
Which Of These Grinders Is Ultimately The Best?
If one of these were hands down better than the other then it would be a simple answer and everyone could just simply go with that choice. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages. The blade grinder is going to be less expensive and take up less space. It will require a certain level of management because you will need to pulse the grinding rather than consistently using the blades from beginning to end.
If you fail to pulse the blades in this type of grinder then it will generate heat and you will get a lower quality result. The burr grinder will, in most situations, be very consistent in its overall result. Although this choice will be more expensive there are some lower end burr grinders that will still do a great job especially for times when you need grounds that are courser.
With blade grinders being available sometimes for less than $20 they are extremely affordable. There are a lot of coffee drinkers that would feel that the results these yield are perfectly acceptable. This means if price is a priority then that would likely be the best choice to go with. As previously stated, the burr grinder will get more consistent results and is the best way to go.
Coffee is a drink that much of the world absolutely loves. In fact, it is loved so much that some people feel they need to reduce how much they’re drinking (say it isn’t so!) because they feel they’re overdoing it a bit. The main thing about this drink is that you enjoy it. There is really no reason to over analyze how to make your morning coffee.
In the end, Price, time, and consistency are the three main criteria, when looking at grinders, that you will want to consider when deciding which of these you want to buy. Personally, I would tell you to get a burr grinder and more specifically from the Baratza line. I would go with either the Encore or the Virtuoso which can be found on Amazon.
Simply consider what things are most important to you and then get the equipment that will help you get the best results that you are looking for. If you’re able to easily prepare a morning cup of coffee and you can kick back and enjoy it then that is all that really matters.