Getting the right depth of coffee taste from your coffee maker counts. If you’re not getting it…it could be the grind. Apart from the beans, the grind is an important part of coffee brewing. If you have discerning tastes, it could be that difference that matters. Here’s what to know (4 min read)…
I find fresh ground beans are a must for that great coffee flavor…like you’d enjoy from your favorite barista. And…I’ve also discovered that the right grinder is important to get that result.
Are burr grinders really better?
I did some research into blade vs burr coffee grinders and it turns out burrs are better in that they give consistent grinds. Blade grinders break the beans up in a way that tends to ‘randomly smash’ them causing the grinds to be uneven in size.
Then again…If you’re looking to save money, blade coffee grinders are better for the budget.
Burr vs blade grinder
[Blades] ‘randomly smash’ [the beans]…the spinning blades in these grinders produce a variety of particle sizes from large chunks to small bits of dust.Five Senses Coffee
Burrs are best because even grinds allow for the expected extraction of coffee flavor.
But if you are looking to save money, blade grinders are a better option, they’re cheaper than the burr types. They’ll do the job okay and are a decent option if you have a drip coffee maker. Plus, you can also use blade grinders to finely chop fresh herbs or nuts for adding to your dishes.
I started off with a blade grinder for coffee. I now use it for herbs and nuts.
Now onto burr grinders…
Burr grinder > blade grinder debate? Depends on the quality of the burr.
Ceramic vs stainless steel burr grinder
The burr of a ceramic coffee grinder is molded. A metal burr grinder is machined.
A good quality ceramic mold will produce sharp and consistent burrs that will stay sharp for longer than a steel burr — about twice as long… according to Baratza. Sharper burrs will grind faster.
Ceramic burrs are said to be the best for espresso (fine grinds). Steel is good for coarser grinds, such as that used in pour over and drip brews. They produce less fines. They work well for modern style espresso.
Ceramic coffee grinder mechanism
- It is molded.
- It is replaceable. (See the manufacturer for ceramic coffee grinder parts)
- Runs cooler
Temperature-wise: Compared to metal, ceramic runs cooler, which is preferred.
When to know when to replace: Symptoms could include these: the unit sounds as if it is laboring and the grinds are coming out finer than expected. You can then replace the burrs. Sharpening is not a viable option.
Stainless steel burr grinder mechanism
- It is machined
- Hard wearing
- Steel runs warmer
Heat generated by the grinder mechanism can burn off some of the oils present and thus affect the flavor of the coffee. Not something you want. Speed at which it runs is a prime factor in this also. The faster it runs the more heat is possible.
According to Baratza “a set of steel burrs should perform well for about 500 lbs of coffee grinding. A set of ceramic should go for about 750 lbs.” Usage 1 lb a week and 52 weeks in a year: 9.6 years for steel and 14.4 for ceramic.
Baratza says that ceramic will last for 1000–1500 cups, while steel 500–1000. So for longevity, ceramic wins over steel.
Pros and Cons of a coffee grinder with ceramic burr
Benefits: longevity; don’t get as hot as steel (less heat transfered to beans).
The downsides of grinders with ceramic burrs: can’t sharpen; can chip or break if a hard item like a rock was amongst the beans. Can be more expensive.
conical vs flat burrs
Conical burr coffee grinder
Entry level — see more at Amazon
You’ll pay more for a flat burr grinder than a conical one, as a general rule. But they are more consistent, so more reliable on the grind you get. As per the Perfect Daily Grind: “conical burrs are quieter, cooler, and cheaper, but less consistent”.
Ceramic flat burr coffee grinder, commercial quality
See it at Amazon
Coffee grind vs use
For the best result, these are the grinds considered best for each coffee maker type:
|French press (plunger)||Coarse|
What to look for
Consider a ceramic burr grinder if you have the money and want a good cup of coffee each time. A grinder with an automatic timer setting is best. Otherwise, use a timer when grinding, if no automatic setting, so you end up with the right grind.