How does a burr grinder work and should you purchase one? This is the kind of question that pinpoints where you are in your coffee journey.
Beginners tend to go for blade grinders, while practicing baristas and experienced homebrewers often go for burr grinders. Grinders come in a few varieties, which makes the search a touch difficult. You have burr and blade grinders, to start off with. You also have electric and manual grinders.
Which one to choose? Let’s find out.
How Does a Burr Grinder Work?
Don’t have time for the full article? We have a quick answer to your question below:
A burr grinder functions by combining two burrs to grind your coffee with. Burr grinders come in two forms: the conical burr and the flat burr. Which one you should purchase will come down to personal taste, as they create very similar results.
Using your burr grinder is as simple as pouring coffee into the open spout, covering it with the lid, then twisting the knob to grind the coffee. Your coffee beans will be crushed between the burrs, then poured into the bottom cup.
Burr grinders also come with two main grind adjustments: stepped and stepless adjustment. Stepped has pre-determined settings for you to choose from, while stepless provides virtually unlimited adjustments based on your intuition.
What’s So Special About a Burr Grinder?
The burr grinder is a beloved piece of equipment in many coffee spaces. It’s prized for its ability to create very consistent coffee grounds. They also provide several settings to match different brewing methods.
Depending on the kind of burr grinder you purchase, you can enjoy additional benefits.
The Conical Burr Grinder For Quiet, Efficient Brewers
The conical burr grinder is named as such for its cone-shaped burrs. These burrs are outfitted with little curling ridges to capture the coffee and redirect it into the accompanying cup.
Due to their shape, conical burr grinders distribute noise more evenly and are popular for their quiet result. They are also rather easy to clean, since their design wastes less coffee. Last but not least, they produce less heat than their flat burr counterparts. This reduces bitter flavor notes.
The Flat Burr Grinder For Extra Meticulous Brewers
With so many benefits, you may be thinking the conical burr is the ideal choice, right? Perhaps not. The flat burr grinder is still used in many home and commercial applications for a reason.
While both conical and flat burrs produce similar coffee grounds, flat burrs are believed by many to produce the most even grounds possible. Consider purchasing a flat burr grinder if you want very consistent cups of coffee that don’t deviate in flavor or mouthfeel.
Flat burrs also have a larger surface area compared to conical, thanks to their quintessential design. This lends them to producing larger amounts of ground coffee in a shorter amount of time. This is a great feature for large households or office spaces that need several cups of coffee made per day.
Unfortunately, their design means they introduce more heat during the grinding process. This additional heat overly toastes coffee grounds and increases the risk of bitter flavors. Whether or not this will be a deal breaker will boil down to your coffee grinding frequency and unique tastes.
Why Is Burr Grinder Better Than Blade?
You may have heard a few people bemoan the quality of the blade grinder. While a blade grinder is a perfectly fine choice for beginner homebrewers, it won’t provide the same consistency or quality as its burr counterparts.
Blade grinders use thin blades to chop up your coffee beans into smaller grounds. Its inner workings are not unlike what you see in a blender. While you can make a decent enough cup of coffee with a blade grinder, you’ll have a difficult time creating an even extraction process. Uneven coffee grounds don’t pull as smoothly as a uniform grind, making you miss out on some of the flavor of your beans.
This uneven extraction will make your coffee taste bland or sour. Doesn’t sound great, right?
Blade grinders also have limited settings, which can be frustrating if you like to bounce between brewing methods. Grinders as a whole will provide several settings that give you a better level of control over your work.
This is the most common feature for blade grinders and affordable burr grinders. Each grind setting comes with a pre-determined knob, making it easy for beginners to choose their grind level and get started.
Do you like to experiment with your coffee grind levels? If you’re a playful brewer -- or have a lot of experience -- you’ll want a grinder with stepless adjustment.
Unlike stepped adjustment, stepless comes with no pre-determined settings. Also known as micrometric adjustment, this intuitive feature gives you nearly unlimited possibilities for your coffee.
Why Are Burr Grinders So Expensive?
Burr grinders usually have a higher price point than blade grinders. This is due to their more subtle settings and higher quality materials.
Burrs are made with either stainless steel or ceramic materials. Both are very long-lasting and need minimal maintenance. Just take them out of the grinder, brush off excess oils, then pop them back in! Manual burr grinders can last for four to five years with regular usage. Electric burr grinders can last between five to seven.
If you’re thinking of an electric burr grinder that the whole family can enjoy, the Baratza Sette 270 is a great place to start at $399.
Can You Grind Spices in a Burr Grinder?
It’s tempting to experiment with your grinder. Why not push it to its limits, right? Sadly, it’s not a good idea to grind spices in your burr grinder.
Burr grinders are explicitly designed to address the unique needs of coffee beans. This includes adjusting their particle size, reducing fines, and capturing excess oils (which you need to remove periodically). Attempting to grind spices like cardamom and cinnamon will negatively impact your grinder. You run the risk of clogging your device or leaving stale bits in places you can’t reach.
Now that you know how a burr grinder works, you’re in a better spot to get the most out of your coffee beans.
Need help choosing a burr grinder? Reach out to our live chat or send us a message with all your coffee-related questions. We’ll point you in the right direction so you can start brewing better-tasting coffee with less effort.