Coffee Grinders: What Kind is Right for You?
Blade Coffee Grinders
Blade coffee grinders are the most basic way to grind coffee beans. Blade coffee grinder models consist of a motor, rotating blade, and container for the ground beans. Basically, a metal blade rotates and chops the coffee beans. The longer the grinder is on for, the finer the resulting coffee grounds.
If you are on a budget or are just looking for straightforward way to grind coffee at home, a blade coffee grinder is a good choice. They are by far the simplest type of grinder to use; blade coffee grinders typically only have two settings: Grind and Off. Blade grinders are sturdy and economical, they last much longer than their burr grinder counterparts and the metal blades are more durable.
However, blade coffee grinders do not offer a consistent grind. That means that it produces coffee grounds with all different granule size, which leads to inconsistently brewed coffee. For that reason, blade grinders are really only appropriate for drip coffee makers where perfect ground density is not essential. The single blade isn't precise enough to grind coarse coffee grounds for French presses. They also shouldn't be used to make Turkish grounds for espresso machines. Another downfall is that blade coffee grinders tend to create more heat and friction than other grinders, which can give the coffee a burnt taste when brewed.
Burr Coffee Grinders
Burr coffee grinders crush coffee beans by rotating a grinding wheel along a stationary surface. The burr can be calibrated to make coffee grounds a set consistency. The fineness of the coffee grounds is determined by the distance between inner and outer wheels of the burrs.
Burr grinders provide a grind similar in quality to what you would get commercially. If you use an espresso machine, French press, or vacuum coffee maker, it's essential to purchase a burr coffee grinder to avoid bitter tasting coffee.
Burr coffee grinders are more expensive than blade coffee grinders, but their superior quality makes it worth the investment. They are slightly more difficult to use and require more delicacy. Practicing with cheap beans is a good
way to get the hang of any grinder. Burr grinders do not get as hot and are better at handling heat, so burning the coffee grounds is not an issue.
Conical Burr Coffee GrindersConical burr grinders are a more specialized type of burr grinder. Conical burr grinders produce the most consistently shaped grounds of all grinders. They are considered the industry standard and are used for all professional coffee purposes. Conical burrs are the only type of gear that can handle very oily or flavored coffee without jamming. They are the least prone to over heating coffee grounds, because they move slowly and their cone like shape dissipates heat efficiently.
Conical burr grinders are by far the most expensive option for grinding coffee beans. They require more skill to operate than blade grinders. However, they produce the most consistent grind and can produce coffee grounds along the entire spectrum of fineness.
What Makes Burrs Work Better than Blades?Burr grinders are able to produce a more consistent, accurate grind as compared to blade grinders. This difference can be attributed to the difference in design. Blade grinders have only a single blade that rotates like a propeller. Burr grinders have rows of closely placed teeth, each of which is like an identical mini-blade. Burr coffee grinders rotate more like pencil sharpeners at a slower pace. Since burr coffee grinders have many small blades, they are able to process whole coffee beans into grounds with uniform density and particle size.
Imagine trying to cut log in half, given the choice between using a sword or a chainsaw. Using the sword would require hacking at the log multiple times, breaking it in half jaggedly. The chainsaw, with its running blade of teeth, would cut the wood in half cleanly. The sword vs. chainsaw analogy can be used to understand the difference between blade grinders and burr grinders.
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