What Are The Differences Between Burr & Blade Grinders?
Whilst you probably purchase speciality coffee beans all year around, there has never been a better time to brew better coffee at home. Following on from our insights into how to better store your coffee beans at home, here we’re going to focus here on grinding these beans, or rather, which type of coffee grinder to use. Firstly, there are a myriad of brands producing these and so rather than recommending the perfect grinder, we’re going to explain the variants that are out there to help you make a purchasing decision that’s right for you.
Let’s start with the basics. There are primarily 2 types of grinders, both of which can be electric or manual (hand held): burr grinders or blade grinders. Burr grinders grind coffee between two abrasive surfaces (burrs). As one surface remains stationary, the other spins. The distance between these surfaces determines the grind size, which range from being very fine or coarse. Blade grinders use a propeller-like blade to, in effect, chop up the coffee beans into smaller particles as opposed to grinding them. The user controls the fineness of the coffee grind by the length of time they allow the blades to chop up the beans. In theory, the longer you run it the finer the coffee will be.
Pros of a burr grinder1 Consistency- the main advantage to a burr grinder is that it grinds the coffee evenly. Uniformity is a crucial factor when brewing coffee as it allows the water to pass through the beans at a constant rate, which will avoid clogging and allow for an even extraction, resulting in a better cup of coffee;
2 Precision - burr grinders also provide the user with the flexibility to grind the beans to the exact grind size needed for their preferred brew method. Being able to change the setting on the grinder to the desired grind size, ensures a consistent grind every time. Once you’ve found the right setting for your chosen brew method, you can set it and never look it again… until you change brew method, obviously;
3 Reduced Heat - the circular grinding motion of the burr grinder produces less friction than blade grinders. This increased friction caused by the spinning blades of a blade grinder will cause the beans to heat up which can impair the flavour and, in some cases, cause the beans the burn.
Cons of a burr grinder1 Cost. Burr grinders typically cost more than other coffee grinders;
2 Cleaning. Additional time and effort is normally needed when cleaning a burr grinder.
Pros of a blade grinder1 Inexpensive - cost is often an important consideration when starting to brew coffee at home. If you don’t have a lot of experience with coffee then there is certainly the temptation to keep cost to a minimum at the beginning. Blade grinders can be picked up relatively cheaply compared to burr grinders.
2 Size - blade grinders are often smaller than burr grinders so if you have a small kitchen or little counter-top space then it’s a great space-saving option.
3 Mix and match - if you’re someone who enjoys flavoured coffee, or you like experimenting with a variety of different coffees then blade grinders are easy to clean. Burr grinders tend to retain the flavour of the coffee you last grind in it unless you thoroughly clean the burrs. Therefore, if you’re going to mix and match your coffees, the blade grinder will be less hassle.
Cons of a blade grinder1 Uneven grind size - due to it’s chopping motion, blade grinders aren’t able to consistently and evenly ‘grind’ the beans, often resulting in a mixture of fine and coarse particles. The problem with this is that it leads to an uneven extraction of the coffee which will result in an unbalanced and sometimes bitter brew.
2 Friction - the rotating blades cause a lot of friction which can burn the coffee. The longer you let the blades spin without pause, the more friction you’ll produce so if you’re going for a fine grind for espresso, there’s a higher likelihood of a bitter brew.
3 No consistency - it’s near enough impossible to get the same grind size every time as you cannot set the grind size. You’ll need a good eye and it’s more trial and error than it is an exact science.
Conclusion. For My Coffee Beans, Should I Use A Burr Or Blade Grinder?
If you’re happy to spend a little more and you want complete control of your grind size then we suggest the burr grinder. Especially if you’re using an espresso machine and you want to dial in your dose and ensure an even extraction time and time again.
However, if you’re less concerned with consistency and just want to make the most of the whole bean coffee offerings out there then a blade grinder is a good place to start. If your preferred brew method is filter rather than espresso, you’re less likely to notice a difference as these brew methods require a coarser grind and variants in grind size cause less impact.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.