What Is a Burr Grinder?
Burr grinders are the option which most coffee connoisseurs would pick, as they generally achieve a much more consistent result and in a lot less time.
If taste is a big factor for you and you can really tell the difference between blends, flavours and granule sizes, then a burr could be the best choice.
They work by grinding the beans down between two rotating flat surfaces, milling them almost. This means that nearly every bean gets the same amount of attention and power until the required consistency is achieved. Think of the way a pestle and mortar works, but with a lot more effectiveness.
Most are adjustable, so can grind beans into different sizes by moving the surfaces closer together.
What Is a Blade Grinder?
These are generally the cheap and cheerful options, acting as a kind of blender which uses blades to chop the contents. You are basically grinding your beans down in the same way you’d make a smoothie.
Manufacturers usually will give a recommended bean amount to use in grinders, which should yield the best results. Over- or under-filling the machine could mean a lot of inconsistency. The best results are achieved by using the blades in spurts rather than all in one go, leaving a bit of a break in between cycles.
This is because they bash, chop and break the beans down all at one time. Not everyone will necessarily get the same amount of attention. The beans go from whole to coarse grinds to finer grinds the longer the machine goes on.
Because they are so powerful and require a lot of time to grind into a fine powder, there is a risk that if they over-grind the beans, they could burn them. The blades create friction, which in turn generates heat, which in turn can burn the beans and cook the oils which have been released.
You may or may not be able to taste this in the coffee. Finer grounds also create a more mellow taste, but larger is seen as more powerful or bitter. This could give you a mixed taste of coffee, but it all boils down to how you like it.
However, if you follow instructions and run the machine for a few seconds and then give it a break to cool down, this should solve this issue. Modern devices are a lot more capable than the original models.
Blade grinders are commonly also used for nuts, spices, seeds and breadcrumbs.
Electrical or Manual?
Whether an electrical or manual coffee grinder is the best option depends on whether you want the work done automatically with the press of a few buttons, or prefer the traditional method. Some say that the more effort you put in, the better the results, after all.
Bladed options are usually electrical, so the correct amount of necessary power can be achieved, but burr grinders can be both hand or electrical. The latter option usually caters to a larger number of beans, and perhaps in a more commercial environment.
A bonus of having a manual device is that it can be portable, so you can use it as a travel grinder to accompany an Aeropress or a travel Moka pot.
How To Find the Best Coffee Grinder For You
It all depends on:
The level of grind you are ideally after
The coffee you drink
The coffee machine you will be using
How many beans you will need at a time
Whether you’ll actually be able to taste the difference
If you already have your coffee machine, there may be certain limits as to which grind of coffee you can use.
Cafetieres usually require a coarser grind to ensure no bits escape through the press, but a filter machine may just need a very fine blend if the mesh traps everything but the liquid. Bear this in mind before you buy a grinder.
As well, espressos require a finer grind than most other coffee types to get the job done a bit quicker, but there also needs to be a shorter time between grinding and brewing to lock in more flavour. An electrical burr grinder is the best option.
Sometimes it boils down to taste as well. Coarser grinds usually result in a stronger, occasionally more bitter taste, but finer grinds (such as instant coffee) are often weaker.
Should your taste buds be pretty well defined to the tastes of coffee, a high-end electric burr grinder may be the best pick for the best results. If you simply want the next step up from instant or all coffee tastes the same, think about whether you’d be able to tell the difference between a blade grinder which costs £30 or one that costs £300.
If you live in a large household and you all have coffee at the same time, you’ll need an option which will accommodate enough beans and also be able to cope with the pressure. But should you live on your own or just in a couple, a smaller manual machine could just be sufficient.
Likewise, if you buy expensive beans, you want to treat them in the best way possible. Supermarket value beans will likely taste the same in either machine no matter how they are ground.
Hand burr grinders and cheaper blade grinders can be found for below £20, and can increase to around £50. Electrical burr grinders are usually around double this as they have larger capacity and often more control and automation over the entire process.
It is important to remember that a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better quality product with some of the blade and manual models.