Burr Coffee Grinder Versus Blade Coffee Grinder

When it comes to grinding coffee beans, the main choices are the conventional blade grinder and the more recent burr grinder. Here is how these two types of coffee grinders compare and why you might consider using one versus the other.

Burr Coffee Grinder

A burr coffee grinder grinds coffee beans via two serrated metal plates (the "burrs") that rub against each other. One plate is fixed and the other is connected to an electric motor that turns it. The space between the two plates determines the size of the grounds. There are two basic types of burr grinders: flat burr and conical burr.

A flat burr grinder has flat metal plates that are positioned one above the other. The beans move laterally between the plates and after crushing, the grounds are swept into a chute. Flat burr grinders are generally much more expensive than conical burr grinders and are typically used only in commercial settings. They are the grinder of choice for fine grinds such as espresso.

The conical burr grinder is less expensive than the flat burr variety and is the type most commonly used in the home. It employs a stationary outer ring burr and a rotating inner cone bur. Beans pass vertically between the burrs on their way to the discharge chute.

Unlike a blade grinder, a burr grinder produces grounds of a consistent size without burning the coffee. This is because: 1) the beans are crushed rather than chopped at a relatively slow speed and 2) the grounds are immediately discharged into a receptacle (they don’t continue to churn inside a hopper).

Blade Coffee Grinder

A blade coffee grinder employs revolving metal blades that spin at a very fast speed inside a chamber containing the coffee beans. The longer the blades are allowed to chop up the coffee, the finer is the resulting grind. Blade grinders are the least expensive type of coffee grinder and are the ones most commonly found in the home. They are also popular for travel and camping because of their low cost, small size and simplicity.

A blade grinder can burn the coffee if left on for too long because, unlike a burr grinder, the grounds remain in the hopper the entire time. In addition, the grain size is less consistent than burr-ground coffee, which can lead to inconsistent brew quality. To prevent burning, it helps to run a blade grinder in pulse mode by turning it on and off several times with an occasional shake to dislodge grounds around the blades.

Blade grinders are best suited for drip coffee makers because the paper filter prevents tiny grinds from passing through into the carafe.

What Makes the Best Coffee?

Most coffee aficionados consider coffee made from a burr grinder to be superior to that made from a blade grinder because the essential aromas and oils of the coffee are preserved since the grounds are not overheated. The superior consistency of the grounds also makes for a better flavored, less bitter brew because the flavor is more evenly extracted from the grounds.

If care is taken not to burn the grinds, a blade grinder can produce a quite decent cup of coffee - certainly much better than what results from using pre-ground coffee sitting on a supermarket shelf for weeks or months. If you're a "casual" coffee drinker, a blade grinder will most likely be more than adequate.