When it comes to brewing coffee, minor adjustments in your method can make a pronounced difference to the taste of your cup of joe. For example, if you wait too long to plunge a French press, then the beans can over-extract, causing a bitter taste to pervade, ruining your coffee.
The beans are the most important element of a cup of coffee. And you should always research the beans before you purchase them. You’ll want them to be freshly roasted – within two weeks of purchase date – and they should come from a producer who has received the Fair Trade stamp of approval.
Once you’ve got your beans, then it’s time to grind them. And to grind them, then you need to have a grinder. If you’ve started to research coffee grinders, then you will have seen that there are two main options. You can choose a burr grinder or a blade grinder. You can choose between a manual or an electric grinder too. Both of these differences will define the amount of money that you pay for your grinder.
The choice you make will also have a significant impact on the quality of grind that you get, which will then alter the taste of your coffee.
Let’s have a look at the two types of grinders and the pros and cons of each of them.
What is it?
If you don’t know what a burr grinder is, then you should go to your kitchen and find your salt or pepper mill. At the bottom, you will see the same mechanism that a burr grinder uses. There is no blade involved. Instead, the coffee beans pass through two abrasive surfaces, a few beans at a time. You can adjust the distance between these two surfaces on the burr grinder.
This then allows for the coarseness of the coffee grind to be determined, with much closer burrs being used for a fine grind – such as you’d use for an espresso – and burrs that are further apart being used for a coarse grind – as you might use for a French press or Chemex coffeemaker. You often operate Burr grinders manually. In such cases, there will be a handle at the top, which is turned.
This causes the burr mechanism to move. The coffee passes through it into a cellar at the bottom, which catches the ground coffee. It’s possible to purchase an automated electric burr grinder, and these are used in all good coffee houses. Electric grinders function much quicker than the manual versions, and it’s also possible to grind more coffee at one time than it is with the smaller, manual grinders.
Benefits of a Burr Grinder
Burr grinders are the choice of coffee connoisseurs for a reason. When a burr grinder is used, no heat is produced. This is not the case with blade grinders as they produce a lot more friction. Because there is no heat, then the ground coffee beans remain full of their flavor, aroma, and natural oils. Generally, the other big advantage of using a burr grinder is that the coffee is ground more evenly.
This is better for making coffee, as you’ll have a consistent grind. If you use a burr grinder for a coarse grind, for example, then the whole of your grind will be consistently coarse, meaning that you’ll get the most out of your brewing method. If the grind was mixed, then your coffee would be mixed too. Therefore, the quality would suffer.
Disadvantages of a Burr Grinder
There are only two minor disadvantages of a burr grinder. The first is that burr grinders are generally more expensive than blade grinders. The second disadvantage is that burr grinders take longer than blade grinders, especially if they are manual burr grinders. Of course, this results in a better quality of the grind.
What is it?
A blade grinder functions slightly differently to a burr grinder. As the name suggests, a blade grinder features a single blade that rotates – usually at high speed – which then grinds the coffee beans. If you’re having difficulty imagining how this might look, imagine a classic blender, then scale it down, and you have something that resembles a blade grinder.
Benefits of a Blade Grinder
The two main benefits of using a blade grinder are the antithesis of the negatives associated with using a burr grinder. That’s because blade grinders are much cheaper than burr grinders. It’s possible to purchase an electric blade grinder for about half the price of an electric burr grinder. Electric blade grinders are also incredibly quick, allowing you to grind your coffee beans in a matter of seconds.
Disadvantages of a Blade Grinder
The biggest problem with a blade grinder is the inconsistency of the grind. You will not get an even grind from a blade grinder, especially when it comes to a coarse grind. It’s somewhat more possible for a fine grind, so it’s less of an issue if you’re looking for a grinder for an espresso or Turkish coffee grind.
The second big drawback to using a blade grinder is that the friction produced during the grinding process leads to the beans being heated. This then causes the natural aroma, flavor, and some of the essential oils that are contained in the coffee beans to be lost.
Should I Use a Burr Grinder or a Blade Grinder?
As we have seen, a burr grinder is superior to a blade grinder. This is because a burr grinder allows for a more even grind than a blade grinder is capable of. This is especially important if you brew coffee with a method that requires a coarse grind, such as a French press or a Chemex.
Not only do burr grinders produce a more even grind, but they also don’t cause as much friction during the grinding process, meaning that the beans do not lose their essential oils, aromas, and flavors, which is what happens with a blade grinder.
Although, if you only make your coffee via an espresso machine or another method that requires a fine grind, then a blade grinder can be a better option. Blade grinders take less time to grind the coffee. And they also cost a lot less money than a burr grinder.
If coffee is important to you, however, then you should invest in a burr grinder, as it’s generally superior to a blade grinder.