Coffee aficionados from around the world swear by the grinder they use. Whether it’s a specific brand or a particular type, everyone thinks they know the best grinder to use: and it’s often a burr grinder, but are these appliances that great?
Do you need a burr grinder?
You need a burr grinder if you want a consistency that will make your coffee taste better and allow for smooth espresso pours. Burr grinders crush just a few beans at a time, ensuring a uniform thickness for all of the grinds. They are the ultimate grinding accessory for coffee and espresso.
Read on to learn all about burr grinders, including how to use them, how they work, and why they are the industry best when it comes to coffee.
What Is a Burr Grinder?
A burr grinder is a type of machine that is often used for grinding coffee beans into powder or grinds. A burr grinder has highly abrasive pieces that spin, crushing the beans between them. By way of gravity, the beans fall into the spinning channels and out of the other side, filling up the catchment below.
Burr grinders can be manually powered or electric, and the abrasive pieces (the burrs) can either be conical or flat. A conical burr has one main spinning piece that is similar to the shape of a serrated volcano.
Around the volcano-shaped piece are also serrated walls, and the beans are crushed between the two surfaces. By moving the conical burr up and down in the tunnel, you can make the grind coarser or finer.
Flat burrs are circular disks with one abrasive side. Two flat burrs are stacked on top of one another like a burr sandwich. The abrasive sides face each other. As the grinder spins, the beans are forced through the space between the burrs, which grind them into an extremely uniform size and shape. By moving the two burrs closer together and farther apart, you can change the grind’s size.
How Do Burr Grinders Work?
Burr grinders use a combination of mechanical force and gravity to run coffee beans through abrasive metal pieces, grinding the beans into a consistent powder.
Manual burr grinders are operated by hand and are usually conical. These grinders have a handle that turns the conical burr, so the faster you can turn the handle, the faster you’ll grind your beans.
Considering the manual effort it takes to grind enough beans for just one cup of coffee, these grinders are suitable for the home and usually only for one or two people at a time.
Electric burr grinders can be conical or flat and use electricity to power the spinning burrs. These grinders are ideal for commercial use, as they produce consistent grinds at a very fast rate.
You can easily adjust the thickness of the grind throughout the day, which is imperative. The more you use your grinder, the hotter the grinding chamber will get, which will affect how fast the espresso shots will pour.
So, we understand how burr grinders work, but what makes them the industry standard? To understand this, we need to talk about blade grinders.
Blade grinders are the other main choice when it comes to coffee grinders. Instead of crushing coffee beans between burrs, blade grinders use a spinning blade to chop up the coffee.
There are plenty of kitchen appliances that are technically blade grinders, electric blenders, food processors, and single-drink smoothie makers like the Magic Bullet. All of these use small spinning blades to chop up the contents of the container.
The issue with these blenders is that the blended product is often inconsistent in texture. This isn’t so important when you’re mincing garlic for a dish, but when you’re grinding beans for a shot of espresso, consistent grind texture plays a major factor in the flavor of the espresso.
Do Coffee Grinds Matter?
It’s been said many times that the grind is the most important step in making espresso. Why? Because the grinds determine the flavor of the coffee. You can have the best beans in the world, but if they are ground too coarse or too fine, you’ll be wasting your time and money.
Espresso is made by running hot water through lightly packed (or “tamped”) ground coffee. As the hot water runs through the grinds, it picks up the flavor and the caffeine as it flows through the crushed beans. This process is known as “extraction.”
If your grind is too coarse, the hot water will flow too quickly through the grind and won’t collect enough flavor and oils. This is known as under-extraction and will produce a weak tasting espresso.
If your grind is too fine, the water will take too long to travel through the grind and will collect too much of the coffee, which is known as over-extraction. This shot of espresso will taste bitter and perhaps burnt.
Your coffee grinds need to be a particular size to create the perfect espresso shot that doesn’t run too fast or too slow and brings out the best flavors in the espresso beans possible.
Blade vs. Burr
The main reason why burrs are so much better than blades is that they create a very consistent grind. Whether you’re using a manual grinder or electric, a burr grinder will trump the blade grinder every time.
People also complain that the motor in a blade grinder heats up quickly, affecting your espresso shots. You will feel this effect more in a commercial setting where the machine runs many hours a day, whereas you likely won’t notice this at home.
Let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison of blade and burr grinders.
|Blade Grinder||Burr Grinder|
|Electric-powered||Electric or manual-powered|
|Inconsistent grind||Consistent grind|
|Inexpensive||Can be pricey|
|Easy to use||Takes manual labor or coffee know-how|
|May heat up coffee grinds||Manual-powered grinders stay cool|
|Only one setting||Full grind control|
|Fast to grind coffee||Manual grinders take time|
|Unpredictable coffee flavor||Brings out the best coffee flavor|
|Can break easily||Can last for decades|
Top 3 Burr Grinders for Making Coffee at Home
Blade grinders are the number one choice for those looking to save money on their home-coffee expenses. However, you can find burr grinders that are just as affordable if you do a little digging. Here are three of our favorite burr grinders for making coffee at home.
The Busy Bee Manual Burr Grinder is an excellent choice for those looking for an all-in-one coffee setup. The grinder comes with a 2-in-1 coffee scoop and bag sealer, perfect for space-saving in a tiny home. The slim, stainless steel canister is comfortable to hold, and the machine comes with five pre-selected settings to help you find the right grind for your coffee.
The Triple Tree Manual Coffee Grinder has a faint hourglass shape which supplies a natural grip on the center, so you have the leverage to grind with. The conical burr is ceramic, so it keeps cool no matter how fast you grind. You can also adjust the grind easily with the twist of the gear and no pre-selected settings, so you have full control over your beans.
The Obliggato handheld burr grinder features stainless steel and ceramic components, making this manual grinder durable and coffee-friendly. The entire setup is perfect for small spaces, with the grinder having a sealable storage container for grinds in the lower part of the appliance. It also includes its stand and handle holder, so you can streamline the grinder for storage.
Burr grinders are a must-have if you’re a passionate coffee drinker. If you’re investing in pricey beans but grinding them in a blade grinder, you’re wasting your money.
A burr grinder will easily let you adapt your grind for your specific bean, whether it’s a french roast or espresso. Manual burr grinders can last for decades and are also much quieter than noisy electric blade grinders.
- Wikipedia: Burr mill
- Perfect Daily Grind: How Ground Coffee Temperature Causes Uneven Espresso Extraction
- Sweet Marias: Espresso: The Grind
- Smithsonian Magazine: The Chemistry and Physics Behind the Perfect Cup of Coffee
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