Burr or Blade? The fact is, a burr coffee grinder is better.

At Coffee Detective we hesitate before recommending the more expensive option. But a good burr coffee grinder really is the better choice, whether grinding beans for a coffee maker or an espresso machine.

First, a word about blade grinders.

Blade Coffee Grinders

Blade grinders are less expensive than burr grinders. But they don’t really “grind” your coffee beans. They smash them to bits with two very fast moving blades.

There is one basic problem with the smashing approach.

By repeatedly chopping the beans at high speed, you end up with grinds which are inconsistent in size...from powder to chunks. This isn’t a great way to get the best from your beans, and the powder-sized particles can cause clogging problems both with French Presses and espresso machines.

conical burr inside Kyocera coffee grinder

Burr Coffee Grinders

Burr grinders really do “grind”. They grind beans between two burred plates. The plates, or “burrs”, are flat in some models and conical in others. One plate remains stationary, while the other spins around.

The chief advantage of a burr coffee grinder is that it grinds beans to a uniform size of particles. This makes for a better cup of coffee, avoids clogging problems, and gives you the flexibility to grind beans to the coarseness or fineness that best suits the kind of coffee or espresso maker you are using.

For instance, when using a French Press, you want a “very coarse” grind. But when using a drip brewer you’ll set your grinder to give you medium grind.

One more point about burr coffee grinders

When shopping for a burr grinder, look for a low-speed model.

High speed grinding tends to heat the beans and can also cause static problems. When the grinds build up a static charge, they will attach themselves to anything they can, leaving you with a bit of a clean-up problem. Not a big deal, but worth knowing about.

A good example of a burr grinder with all of these qualities, and at a reasonable price, is the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder.

All that said, a blade grinder is better than nothing.

I was talking with a highly respected coffee professional a little while ago and he made the point that he would rather have someone use a blade grinder than buy pre-ground coffee.

He explained by making the point that pre-ground coffee will never be as good as grinding whole beans at home. As soon as you grind coffee it begins to go stale immediately. By the time it has been on the shelf in a supermarket for a few weeks or months, it is definitely stale.

So while pre-ground coffee may taste like “coffee”, it will have lost a lot of its more subtle flavors. In other words, that’s fine for a regular cup of Joe, but not if you want to truly enjoy the flavors of a gourmet coffee.

For the gourmet coffee lover, step one is to grind whole beans at home, immediately before brewing, even if you use a blade grinder.

Step two is to pay a little extra and get yourself a burr coffee grinder.

coffee mill tins

A display of manual coffee mills mounted on coffee tins.

Learn about manual coffee mills...

About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…





Which kind of coffee grinder do YOU use?

There are numerous blade grinders and burr grinders to choose from. So which coffee grinder do YOU use? What do you like about it, and why?

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What others have written about their coffee grinders

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Regal (Moulinex) Coffee and Spice Mill #505 
The Regal 505 blade coffee grinder (France) suits me perfect. I usually only "grind" enough beans for a couple of cups each morning. The 505 grinders last …

Do I really need to use a different coarseness of ground coffee for my drip brewer and espresso machine?  
QUESTION: I make coffee with a drip brewer, and occasionally make espresso with my espresso machine. I know I should use medium ground coffee …

Various questions about coffee grinders 
Just got it. So far so good. The noise level is decent. A timer for consistent portions would be nice but overall it's a great unit. Editor's Note: …

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