Burr vs. Blade — the great grinder showdown. If you are searching for a new coffee grinder, odds are you have felt a little like you are being ground yourself. There are many grinder options and very little information to help you distinguish the key characteristics of each. Today we are going to close the grinder information gap, starting with the simpler of the two grinders, the blade grinder.
Blade grinders have a steel, propeller-shaped blade that is generally controlled by a single push button. The blade spins when the button is pushed and chops the beans. As the beans break down, the smaller pieces fall to the bottom of the canister and the larger pieces stay at the top. While you can grind the beans into a fine, medium, or coarse shape, the grounds will be inconsistently sized, which may lead to inconsistent extraction. Blade grinders also produce heat while spinning. This heat can warm the beans and slightly alter their taste when brewed. The pros for blade grinders? They are very affordable, easy to use, can produce a good cup of drip coffee, and don’t require as much care as a burr grinder. The cons? The grind is inconsistent and the heat from the blade may burn off some of the beans’ lovely upper flavor notes. Overall, blade grinders are great for those who are on a budget and use a drip or percolator brewer, the coffee neophyte, and those looking for an easy portable grinder.
Burr grinders, also known as mill grinders, are heavier than blade grinders and have two rough plates — one that is fixed and one that moves. The distance between the two plates can be modified to create the desired grind size. Burr grinders may be electric or manual, such as the grinder shown above, and operate at a lower speed than blade grinders. Moving at a lower speed minimizes friction / heat and thus, flavor loss. Within the burr grinder family, there are two types of burrs, flat and conical. Flat burrs have stacked flat plates that the beans run between and create an extraordinarily even grind. Conical burrs are composed of two cone-shaped pieces that fit together, one cone inside the other. The beans run between the two plates. Conical burrs also produce an extraordinarily even grind and generally run at a slower rate (and thus create less heat) than flat burrs. Conical burrs are also less prone to clogging because of the cone shape. The downside? Conical burrs are significantly more expensive than flat burrs. For those who grind one pot at a time, a flat burr is a great investment. For those who require an extremely precise grind or grind large quantities of beans at a time, the conical burr is a better investment — it will cost more up front but likely require less maintenance in the long run.
And there you have it, the great Burr vs. Blade showdown. Both types of grinders can produce a nice cup of coffee but if you are looking for an exceptional, flawless cup with an array of complex notes and even extraction, we strongly encourage you to invest in a burr grinder. They may be pricey but with proper care, the burr can grind beautifully for decades.
To learn more about ground size, click here.
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