You’ve heard burr coffee grinders are better than blade grinders. Is that true and if so, why and how are burr coffee grinders better? Here’s what you want to know.
Burr grinders are more expensive than blade coffee grinders but produce more uniform grounds with less dust and are adjustable which results in better tasting coffee. An entry-level hand grinder isn’t much more expensive than a blade grinder and is a good starting point for grinding coffee at home.
It might not be immediately clear to you what the difference is so below you’ll find an in depth explanation.
Is a Burr Coffee Grinder Worth The Money?
Or more accurately, is a burr coffee grinder worth the extra money over a blade grinder?
A burr grinder will produce grounds in a way that makes much better tasting coffee. If you’re willing to use a manual grinder instead of an electric one, you can get a burr grinder for not much more than a blade grinder.
An electric burr grinder of good quality is going to cost quite a bit more than a blade or entry-level manual grinder. I’d still say it’s worth shelling out the extra money although I can understand good electric grinders are out of reach/budget for many people that just want to make a cup of coffee in the morning to wake them up.
However, any burr grinder will improve your coffee significantly so if you can afford it, it’s well worth buying one. The cheapest way to get a burr grinder is to get a manual one. Manual burr grinders are available from $35 which isn’t much more than a blade grinder but you’ll have to put in some more work.
If you don’t have any grinder yet, definitely start with a burr grinder. A blade grinder is likely to leave you a little disappointed and then you’ll have to spend more money to buy a burr grinder so you might as well start off right.
For people that already have a blade grinder, ask yourself the question: Am I happy with the coffee I brew? Do I want to improve my coffee. If you are happy and don’t think your coffee has to be any better, that’s great, you don’t have to spend money. If you’re not happy with the results of your blade grinder, a burr grinder will definitely be worth it.
Let’s dive in a little deeper if you want to know why burr coffee grinders are worth the extra money.
How Good Are Blade Coffee Grinders?
Blade grinders are not the best for grinding whole coffee beans. These are basically relabeled spice grinders. Yes, they’re cheap but they won’t produce the best coffee.
Blade coffee grinders have a quickly spinning metal blade that smashes the beans apart. The blades are usually not even sharp but quite dull. That means the beans are not being cut but rather being smashed and broken up.
This does turn whole coffee beans into smaller pieces which is necessary to do if you want to brew coffee. However, it does have some problems. You want the pieces of coffee to be all roughly the same size. How big exactly depends on the brewing method you use. The problem with a blade grinder is that you don’t have any control over the final size. Sure, if you turn it on longer, it’ll become finer. However, it doesn’t cut all the pieces at the same rate.
Some pieces of coffee will be cut much smaller than others. So some pieces will be too fine for your brewing method while others are still too coarse. You can grind it longer but then even more pieces will be too fine. And if you grind it shorter, some pieces will be way too larger. The distribution of the particle size is just too wide to work well with any brewing method.
Also, because a blade grinder is just breaking up the beans and not grinding them, you get much more dust. That dust is called ‘fines’ and creates a very bitter, hollow taste in your coffee. They can also clog up some kinds of filters and end up in your cup as residue. None of those are pleasant experiences.
Let’s quickly look at why grind size and grind uniformity is important for brewing good coffee.
To brew coffee you have to extract the compounds and oils from beans with water. The more surface area there is, the quicker the coffee extracts. You want to get enough from the coffee beans but also not too much. If you don’t extract enough, the coffee is sour, if you extract too much the coffee is bitter.
Certain brewing methods require different size grounds because they extract the coffee and filter in slightly different ways.
With a blade grinder, you’ll have some grounds that are too small for your brew method, they extract too fast so they give a harsh bitter taste. Other particles will be to big which means they extract too slow and give a sour taste. You’re getting the worst of both worlds and with a blade grinder, there’s nothing you can do about this.
Why Are Burr Coffee Grinders Better?
So the problem with blade grinders is that they produce too much coffee dust (fines), there is no real control over the grind size and the distribution of the particle size is just too wide to work well for any coffee brewing method.
Enter burr grinders. Burrs are basically grindstones. Of course they’re not actually stones like in an old fashioned mill but they’re close. Burrs in a coffee grinders are usually made from ceramic or stainless steel and have ridges (teeth) on them. The teeth start big and with a wide spacing and then become smaller when you go down. So for the bean to get through the burrs, it has to pass through the smaller teeth and has to fit between the two burrs.
That means you have pretty accurate control over the final grind size. You adjust the distance between the burrs to adjust the grind size. Burr grinders still have some difference in size between the particles but it’s much less than a blade grinder and most burr grinders are capable of grinding relatively close to a set size. Cheap burr grinders will still have a pretty large distribution and the higher the quality, the more uniform the grinds are. This is why people who are really into coffee spend big bucks for a good grinder.
Burr grinders also produce less fines than a blade grinder. Because you’re not smashing the beans but actually grinding, it produces much less dust. Just like with the grind distribution, better grinders produce less fines but even the bad burr grinders produce much less than the best blade grinder.
How Much Do Coffee Grinders Cost?
So burr grinders are better in pretty much every way except for grinding coffee beans except the fact that they’re more expensive. But how much more expensive?
A blade grinder can be bought for as little as $15 and if you want a nice looking one about $30. That’s not a lot of money if you compare it to burr grinders. Burr grinders have a much wider range of prices.
Electric burr grinders start at about $40 but prices go up quickly from there. An electric burr grinder that’s considered a pretty good choice for most people is the Baratza Encore which costs a bit over $150. However, it’s also not too difficult to spend $500 or more on an electric burr grinder. So you can see that they are much more expensive than a blade grinder.
Manual grinders are pretty much always burr grinders. Manual grinders are a bit cheaper for a similar quality grinder because you don’t have to pay for the motor. So for +-$80 you can find a pretty decent manual grinder but the electric burr grinders around that price are only so so. A decent entry-level hand grinder costs about $35 which is the closest you’re going to get to a blade grinder.
Pretty much every burr grinder is going to create much better coffee grounds than a blade grinder but they’re also more expensive.