When looking to grind your own coffee at home, you'll be faced with two options: burr and blade grinders. You might ask yourself why it matters which you use.
Which begs the question: what's the difference between a burr and blade grinder ?
As it happens there's a few differences, and those can influence your coffee. So let's get to it.
What is a blade grinder ?
First let's settle what each of these things is. A Blade grinder is one of the cheapest versions you can find, and it does the job fairly well.
It's usually shaped as a cylinder, with a pair of blades fixed to the bottom, on the inside of the cylinder. A lot like a blender, actually, only it's much smaller.
You add the beans in, a few at a time, put the lid on, and press a button.
My mother had one ( I think she still does) that was old at the time, now it's even older. Though we mostly used it for powdered sugar and chopping walnuts.
What is a burr grinder ?
By comparison, a burr grinder is a heavier and bulkier machine. Sometimes it's not even electrical, and you have to manually grind the beans by using a handle.
The way the burr grinder works is that instead of the blades, it has two rough surfaces that come close together, at a distance chosen by you. They spin on each other, breaking the coffee beans into smaller pieces.
This influences the final grind size of your coffee beans, and is great for coarse grinds (like for French press).
It's a lot like very old mills used to grind their grains, only you don't turn your coffee into a powder.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about the differences between blade and burr grinders, aside from what they use to grind your coffee.
1. A blade grinder is better for fine ground coffee
Now, a blade grinder is harder to control and stop at the exact moment when you want it to.
This is because those blades move incredibly fast, and it's very easy to get to a finer grind than you'd like, before you can even realize what happened.
It's a common problem for beginners, and it takes a while to get used to.
Much like with roasting coffee, it's easy to overdo it and end up with a fine grind.
So, if you use an espresso machine, a Moka pot, or would like to brew a fresh pot of Turkish coffee, then a blade grinder is definitely for you.
You'll get a fine grind in a short amount of time, and the vast majority of your coffee will be the same size.
A burr grinder can offer you a finer grind, no problem about that.
It's just that the blade really gets there faster and kind of without even trying real hard.
If you're looking for medium to coarse grinds, then a burr grinder would be best, as it's simply better at giving you larger pieces of coffee beans. And won't accidentally get you a fine grind.
2. Burr grinders tend to last you longer
Because of the way burr grinders are made, they're usually longer lasting than blades.
This is because blades wear down, and they get blunt, or the motor inside overheats in some cases.
So if you were to replace a blade grinder every two years, if you use it every day, consistently and to grind lots of coffee, then a burr one would probably need replacing every 5 years or more.
This is with heavy daily use, and does not include changing the burrs themselves. Those need chancing every 2-3 years.
I said my mother owned, and probably still does, a blade grinder. The reason it lasted so long is that we barely ever used it. Maybe twice a year, every few years.
Really, that grinder hasn't seen coffee since I as born, and it's been some time since then.
But why are burr grinders longer lasting ? Simply because of the mechanism they use, as two rough surfaces are usually made out of very sturdy and tough material (like stones in some cases).
Another reason is that many burr grinders are manual, and this can be easily taken apart and replace a small piece if necessary.
Blade grinders are not the most reliable, and given how they heat up while grinding your coffee, need a very good clean after each use. After all, coffee has its own oils that will lightly coat the blades. Plus the added coffee dust.
Every one in a while, you'll need a new one.
3. Blade grinders are easier to find small or travel sized
One thing that's very convenient about blade grinders though, is that they're small. Or at least smaller than burr grinders.
This means you can easily find a travel sized blade grinder if you ever need to bring your with.
And they're easy to handle, being so small and light.
After all, they're made of a plastic casing, a motor on the inside, and the blades. And a lid to keep everything in.
No real reason for it to weight 3 lbs.
Burr grinders are heavier, and they aren't as easy to move around.
This means that if you did find a small bur grinder(slim chance) it'd still be very cumbersome to shake or hold or just move from one place to another.
It's the electric ones that are heavier. If you have a manual burr grinder that's actually less than a pound, so it'll be easy to mover around.
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4. Burr grinders offer more uniform and consistent grind sizes
Whether you use a manual of electric burr grinder, you're going to get a nice, even grind with it.
This is crucial, and the main reason people prefer burr grinders over blade ones.
If your ground coffee beans come out the same size, they will brew evenly, and the flavor will be balanced.
When dealing with coarse grinds this is especially important, since those are used in long steep times.
And steeping too small a grind for 4 minutes can lead to overly bitter and bland coffee, even if your starting bean was good.
That generally the problem with blade grinders.
They cut up the coffee beans, but they do it kind of randomly. Depending on how the blades toss the beans into the air and which pieces get stuck under the blades, and then you have to shake and tilt the grinder.
This is never a good way to grind coffee if you want consistent grind sizes. Though it will give you a very good fine grind.
5. Blade grinders are electric, burrs sometimes aren't
Another difference between blade and burr grinders is how automated they are.
Blades are always going to be automated, since you need quite a bit of strength to cup up all the coffee beans. You need speed and a very sharp blade.
This means that you can simply plug in the grinder, add the beans, put the lid on, and press the button.
There you go, ground coffee beans.
Burr grinders are a bit different, in that many of them are automated/electric as well. I mean those on the market right now.
But there's just as many antique burr grinders, manual ones, that still work very well.
And sometimes you'll find manual burr grinders that were made last year.
The only difference between electric and manual is that you're going to have a bit of a workout grinding the beans. But you're preparing your coffee, so the whole process ends up being fun, in my opinion.
So what's the best coffee grinder for a coarse grind ?
A burr grinder will get you the best coarse ground coffee.
The serrated plates that crush the coffee beans are going to do the best job, because you can adjust exactly how you like your coffee.
This means that the beans won't become accidentally smaller, as there is nothing smaller than the size you pick.
If you were to try coarse grounds with a blade, you'd need to pulse it.
Only push the button once, allowing the grind to fall back down, and maybe shake it a bit to distribute it evenly. Once you're happy with the size, you can stop.
If you wanted to continuously grind the beans with a blade grinder, then you'd end up with finer bits than you'd like.
To me this sounds like too much of a possibility that the grind will not end up perfect and uniform, so I'd rather stick with a burr grinder.
Do burr grinders wear out ?
You'd think that burr grinders are pretty much the be-all end-all of grinding coffee, given everything you've read. But don;t they break down at some point ?
Yes, burr grinders do eventually wear out. Every few years, depending on how intensely you've used your coffee grinder.
Burrs will get dull, and start to grind the coffee less precisely than you'd like. This means you're going to have to use a smaller setting than you need, to get a fine grind.
If you're a French press/coarse grind person, then you'll be happy with your burs a long time.
But if you're brewing for pour over or espresso, then you're going to need to change your burrs a bit more frequently.
A good, sturdy burr grinder that will last you years
Now, if after everything you've read so far, you'd like to get yourself a nice, big, sturdy burr grinder you can use everyday, then I've got just the thing.
It's a little on the heavier side(4 lbs ish), which is good when you think of the force the grinder has to apply to the coffee beans to break them. This means the grinder won't move around the the counter, and it also has a timer.
It's got 15 settings, though you can make your own if you want, and it can hold quite a few beans (0.75 lbs/340 gr) so you can grind a big batch.
This grinder is going to get you a nice, coarse grind if you want it to. And it's going to get you a very fine grind as well. Just push a button and wait for it to be done.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read he reviews as well.
A manual burr grinder, if you'd like to go old school
If you'd like to use a manual burr grinder, then you're looking for a workout.
Grinding is going to be fairly easy, even if it needs a little elbow grease, but that's to be expected with a manual grinder.
This also means that a manual grinder is going to be easier to take apart and clean thoroughly, so there won't be any odd residues in your ground coffee over time.
Another great thing about a manual grinder is that it's much easier to transport than any other version.
No batteries, no cords, no need for electricity.
Just you, the beans, and this beast.
It does hold much less beans than an electric grinder, so be warned. You might have to do this every couple of days, depending on how much coffee you drink in a day.
If none of this scares you, then you can find the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
A nice blade grinder for easy use and handling
If you're looking for a blade grinder, then this one will be a perfect fit.
Its light enough to handle easily, and it's also got a good motor that'll grind the coffee beans well enough.
This also means that your can tale this grinder with you on a trip, as it's not the heaviest. Not sure you could pass it through customs though.
Anyway, this kind of grinder will be easy enough to clean, as long as you remember to brush under the blades as well.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
Whichever grinder type you like, it's important to remember that fresh coffee is the best coffee.
So if you'd like to get the freshest possible cup of coffee, you will need to roast and grind the coffee beans in small batches, which will keep you for a few days.
This way you don't have to lose too much flavor, but will also get very fresh coffee.
Both the burr and the blade grinders work well enough for that.
If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?