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Coffee Grinder Types: Burrs and Blades Explained

Grinding your coffee just before brewing is easily one of the most critical steps in making truly good coffee. But when it comes to coffee grinders, you’ll see that there are many types of coffee grinders out there.

So which one is the best, if any, and which one should you go for? In this post, we’ll help you make sense of just that.

Types of coffee grinders: what you need to know

1. Burr coffee grinder

Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill

Ideally, the best kind of coffee grinder you want to use is a burr coffee grinder. These grinders use two burrs that crush coffee beans between them into consistently ground coffee.

In the grinder, you have the option to set the difference in height between the two burrs, which will determine how coarse or fine the resulting ground coffee will be.

Because the grind settings are fixed once you set them, the grinder will produce reliably consistent grounds.

For a different kind of brew, you can just adjust the grind settings again.

Burr coffee grinders are also of many types.

It can be difficult to categorize them under one broad umbrella, but let’s do our best!

Broadly speaking, the two main types of burr grinders are electric coffee grinders and manual coffee grinders.

What is an electric burr grinder?

Electric burr grinders are powered by a single speed motor that steadily turns the burrs as coffee beans fall into them.

The fineness or coarseness of the grounds is adjusted by a wheel or knob, and the push of a button causes the coffee beans to fall from the hopper into the burrs to be ground and fall into the container below.

Electric grinders can be found for anywhere between $50 to $300 or more, and the difference in price is usually due to the number of grind setting possibilities and the quality of the burrs.

The main advantage of electric grinders is convenience. Manually grinding coffee can be a bit of work, and while it’s not too bad to grind 15 grams of coffee for a single serving, when you need to grind for 2 or more people, having an electric grinder on hand makes things much easier.

What is a manual burr grinder?

Manual burr grinders are usually cylinder-shaped devices that have two burrs in the center. You put coffee beans in the top of the cylinder, and use a crank to turn the burrs to grind the coffee.

The coffee grounds fall into the chamber below.

The fineness or coarseness of the grounds can be adjusted with a set screw that you can use to adjust how close or far the two burrs are from one another.

Cheaper grinders will leave you guessing the distance, and higher-end grinders will have notches that allow you even more precision.

Manual grinders range from $20 for very cheap models to over $50 for high end grinders. The advantage of a manual grinder is that it’s very portable and takes up very little space, so it’s ideal for traveling.

Also, the feeling of putting more elbow grease into your coffee makes for a more satisfying cup!

Conical Burrs

A conical burr grinder is what you’ll find in most home and hobby-level usage. Conical burrs have a cylindrical burr on one side into which a cone-shaped burr is fitted. The distance between the side of the cylinder and the thickest part of the cylinder is the coarseness or fineness of the grind.

Most of the time, you would not be able to discern the difference between grounds produced from a conical or flat burr grinder.

Using a microscope, though, you’ll see that grounds from conical grinders are actually of two sizes even under the same setting. Part of the grounds will be a little finer than the others.

My theory is that there will always be a little inconsistency centering the conical burr between the cylinder, so one side produces coarser grinds than the other.

These two-sized grinds are actually quite essential for espresso, so if that’s the name of your game, stick to a conical grinder.

Flat Burrs

Flat burrs produce grinds that are far more evenly sized than those from conical burrs.

You may wish to call it here and say that flat burrs are superior, but that’s not always the case. Flat burrs are noisier and produce more waste than conical burrs.

The waste is due to coffee grounds getting trapped in the burrs and not completely emptying out below.

Commercial establishments may wish to use flat burrs as they would probably perform much more regular maintenance than a home user.

The trapped grounds may also fall into your next round of grounds and affect the freshness.

Ceramic Burrs

Ceramic Burr-Portable Ceramic Burr Manual Coffee Grinder for Home Office Hand Crank Bean Mill

The most common type of burr is made from ceramic. Ceramic burrs are cheap, strong, and don’t become blunt over time. The consensus is that ceramic burrs are not quite as sharp as steel burrs, though.

Additionally, ceramic is very unreactive so you don’t have to worry about it corroding or decaying over time.

Stainless Steel Burrs

Stainless steel burrs are much sharper than their ceramic counterparts and the result is a much finer and more consistent grind than ceramic burrs.

Steel conducts heat much more than ceramic, so intense use can cause the burrs to slightly deform over time.

Steel also becomes blunt over time, whereas ceramic retains its original consistency.

2. Blade coffee grinders

Blade coffee grinders are actually very similar to what we commonly know as spice grinders. In some cases, manufacturers market the same thing as a coffee grinder and a spice grinder.

These coffee grinders use a spinning blade to grind coffee beans.

Pretty much the entire coffee community is on a consensus that blade grinders are a bad idea.

This is primarily because you have no control over grind sizes when it comes to blade grinders.

To adjust coarseness or fineness, you have to pretty much go by guesstimate and start-stop your grind until you reach the desired consistency.

This also means that you can easily overshoot your target grind size and go too fine.

Additionally, there is no way to control the consistency of the grind size unless you just want fine grounds, and even then, you’ll end up with some coarse particles in between.

What are dosing grinders?

Another name that is often thrown around with coffee grinders is the dosing grinder. Dosing grinders grind just enough coffee beans in one go for one shot.

They’re often used in conjunction with an espresso machine, where you can grind right into the portafilter and then fit the portafilter into your espresso machine.

Still, that does not mean you can’t use it with other coffee brewing methods – it just means you will have to grind multiple times to make more than one cup of coffee.

Final thoughts: which type of coffee grinder should you go for?

After all this, you still may be a bit on the fence with regards to what kind of coffee grinder you need to get.

Ideally, your home coffee grinder should fit the following criteria:

  • It should be a burr grinder for consistent grinds and being able to grind for different types of coffee
  • It should be ceramic for longevity
  • It should be a conical burr coffee grinder so that it’s easy to clean

This is pretty much what you need to know. If a grinder checks these boxes, it’ll do the job beautifully. Then it’s up to you and your budget whether you want an electric or manual model.

Last update on 2021-04-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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About Shabbir

Shabbir is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee In My Veins. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.