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 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.
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.
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.
Also, you might want to check out our video review of the Breville Dose-Control Pro conical burr grinder. (This is the one we use at home every day.)
Finally, if you want a conical burr grinder you can take with you on your next trip, take a look at our video review of the VSSL JAVA hand coffee grinder. We love it!
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.
This is the conical burr grinder we use every day, for our drip coffee and espresso. Watch our video review...
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