Burr grinders and blade grinders are the two main types of coffee grinders on the market.
The big question is; which one is better?
I’ll save you the time, and just give you the definitive answer right away:
The burr grinder is superior.
If you want to find out all the reasons why a blade grinder is no good (and there are many🙅), then read the rest of this article.
I’ll compare every detail of these two grinder types and give you the straight facts.
Why are grinders important in the first place?
Coffee grinders are essential tools for every home barista. If you don’t have a grinder at home, you need to get one!
Grinders are devices used to pulverize coffee beans into fine powder. This process ensures that you get the freshest flavor and aroma from the bean.
Contrast this with buying preground coffee in bags or cans where the beans have been sitting around waiting for you to buy them. Coffee in supermarkets can sit around for months or even years. This causes volatile compounds to evaporate off the beans leaving behind stale flavors.
Coffee beans aren’t that different from spices. Fresh is just better, so you need to grind at home.
Also, if you want to experiement with different brewing methods (from espresso, over drip coffee to French press) then it will be pretty important to have access to a coffee grinder, since each method requires a different grind size.
Blade grinder to the left, burr grinder to the right
What’s the difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder?
Burr grinders are, as the name indicates, used for grinding coffee beans into powder.
Blade grinders are used for exaclty the same thing. But instead of grinding, they are rather chopping.
Blade grinders rely on sharp blades spinning around at a very high RPM. In that sense, they function exactly like blenders. They aren’t grinding in the real sense of the word, they are rather chopping, bashing, and blending.
Burr grinders rely on abrasive surfaces with teeth spinning around and thereby creating friction. Beans gradually get smaller and smaller. Eventually they have to go through a tiny gap.
This means that you can be pretty sure that all the beans are ground down to the same size. This is good. You don’t want to have some beans that are only cut in half or quarters.
You can get burr grinders with rather different designs; both flat and conical burr grinders are commonly used. However, both designs have many things in common.
And both are in a different league compared to blade grinders!
The main reason taht burr grinders are so much better than blade grinders because they produce more consistent results.
It’s simply impossible to get the same result with the blade grinder each time you use it. And even if you were able to get the same result two times in a row, the result wouldn’t be that good.
- Espresso is all about grind size. That’s how you control the extraction. You want to be able to make tiny adjustments.
- French Press or Drip is a bit more forgiving than espresso when it comes to grind size. However, a blade grinder will still deliver bad results. The ratio between fines and boulders will be entirely off.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, will usually deliver a good balance, with more particles being close to the same diameter.
Of course, some burr grinders are better, and some are worse in this regard. But that’s a whole other discussion.
You also have to consider that there is nothing convenient about a blade grinder. With burr grinders, you can find models that have timed or weight-based dosing and hoppers. These features mean that you can press a button and get the same amount of coffee each time.
In addition, you have dial indicators that easily let you switch between grind sizes. Contrast this with blade grinders that require manually adjusting the amount of ground coffee you put in. You will also have to adjust the grind size, by either using a timer while your grinding or by eyeballing. This makes it more or less impossible to achieve a repeatable grind setting.
Blade grinders are cheaper than burr grinders. But when you consider how much money you’re going to spend on your new grinder divided over each day for 5 to 10 years, the cost difference isn’t significant.
Also, if you’re going to spend money on some above-average coffee, then a good grinder will pay for itself just by increasing the extraction efficiency.
- A 20 gram espresso shot at 20 % extraction yield will give you a 4 g of coffee solubles
- A 16 gram gram espresso shot at 25% extraction yield will give you 4 g of coffee solubles.
After 100 shots you have already saved 400 grams of coffee beans. Over several years this will make a huge difference.
This is a hypothetical example, but the difference would probably be even more extreme if you compare a blade grinder and a burr grinder capable of high extractions.
If you’re serious about coffee, you need to forget everything about blade grinders and begin using burrs instead. They’ll give you a lot more control over your coffee. Even a cheap manual grinder with ceramic burrs will provide you with a way better result.
What if you already have a blade grinder? Then don’t worry! Keep it around and use it for chopping nuts or spices. They are great for that sort of thing.
Yes, burr grinders are in a different league compared to blade grinders. Blade grinders lack consistency. They lack consistency because they are designed for chopping things up rather than grinding something down. A burr grinder will give you the same result each time and deliver a more uniform grind size.
Of course, it does! If you want to know whether a burr grinder makes a difference, then I’d say yes. But not only that, but it makes a huge difference.
A burr grinder will allow you to prepare a perfect cup of coffee or espresso every single time.
They cannot grind consistently. This means that you end up having too many large-sized particles in your coffee. These large-sized particles are called “boulders”. At the same time, you will likely have a bunch of fines as well. As a result, the coffee will taste both bitter and hollow at the same time.