Coffee grinders are the supporting actors and actresses of the coffee world. Just as a Hollywood star would not shine without the collaboration of a supporting actor, the perfectly brewed espresso would not exist without its grinder. While grinders often times play second fiddle to the stars of the coffee making process such as the latest and greatest super automatic espresso maker or the rarest blend of free trade coffee this side of the equator, the talent of these actors would go unnoticed if were not for the assistance of their grinder.
Coffee grinders are truly the heart and soul of any coffee making device. Whether you fancy a French press or a semi-automatic espresso maker, to really get the best tasting coffee out of your machine, you must use freshly ground beans. If you are like me, and convinced that you must have the freshest and richest tasting coffee available, than you need a grinder! Of course picking a coffee grinder is not quite as easy as ordering a non-fat latte, however after reading BeverageFactory.com's Coffee Grinder Buying Guide section, you'll be burring and blading with the best of them! (Don't worry, that sentence will make perfect sense in a moment!)
The Two Types of Coffee Grinders
First thing to know when your researching what type of coffee grinder you should buy, is that there are two separate types of coffee grinders: blade and burr. Both serve the same function, to grind coffee, however there mechanics and results are very different. There are a couple of factors that will help you choose between these two coffee makers such as your price range, what type of brewing process you pursue most often, and the amount of control you want over your grind and ultimately your brew.
As discussed in other BeverageFactory.com buying guides regarding espresso makers and drip coffee makers, the coarseness of the coffee grind has a huge impact on the final outcome of the brew. The below chart illustrates the correct grind to the corresponding brewing device:
|Type of Coffee Maker||Grind|
|Espresso Maker - Home Use||Medium to Fine|
|Espresso Maker - Commercial Use||Very Fine, Like Powder|
|Drip Coffee Maker||Coarse|
|French Press||Very Coarse - Like Sea Salt|
For more information on grinding coffee and its impact on brewing, check out our Brewing Tips and Techniques Section!
Blade grinders, as their name implies, are made up of a sharp metal blade which spins with extreme speed pounding the coffee beans until they reach a grind coarseness you deem acceptable depending on your chosen method of brewing. The longer the blades cut, the finer your grind will be.
If you are on a tight budget but still want the benefits of fresh ground coffee, blade grinders are a great option. However, there are some large disadvantages with the blade's grinding method which make their final product unacceptable for very strict coffee and espresso connoisseurs. Blade grinders are incapable of creating a uniform grind. The longer you run the blades; you will notice that the grind will be like powder around the edges of the mechanism and like large chunks of dirt around the center.
Such an uneven grind causes problems for several brewing techniques such as the French Press which requires a uniform, coarse grind so that coffee does not sneak through the filter of the coffee maker. Espresso makers, while require a fine grind, need an even grind to insure total saturation of the grounds. At the same time, the grinds can not be too fine as they will seep through the espresso maker's filter.
For these reasons, blade grinders work best with drip coffee makers that utilize a paper filter since uneven grinds will not be blocked and will not find their way into your cup! With a drip coffee maker, blade grinders still give you the unparallel quality of freshly ground coffee without the fear of rogue grinds in your brew.
While blade grinders are good, burr grinders are great! They really are the best mechanism for grinding fresh coffee beans because of their ability to create the right coarseness for multiple brewing methods.
Burr grinders feature two metal parts, one on top and one on bottom. One of the parts will be moved by a mechanical motor while the other stays stationary. As the coffee beans fall from their holding chamber into the grinding machine, they are milled into equal sizes by the spinning mechanism. The distance between the spinning mechanism and the stationary one is what determines the fineness of the grind.
There are two basic types of burr grinders: flat and conical. Flat burr grinders have matching and parallel rings on opposite sides of the grinder while conical grinders have two burrs with ridges shaped like cones that serve to grind and crush the coffee bean.
Whether you purchase a flat burr grinder of a conical burr grinder, you are guaranteed and even and uniform grind that can be a thick or as thin as you want it. Furthermore, because burr grinders are run by a mechanical motor they transfer less heat to the coffee beans which preserve more of the beans oils and flavor.
For more on Coffee Grinders, Grinding Techniques, and more check out these links!