Coffee 101: Burr vs Blade Grinders

Illustration Do you ever wonder why your homemade coffee doesn't taste as wonderful as the stuff you get from the barista at your neighborhood coffee house? It could be your grinder. If you are a dedicated coffee drinker, you already...

Illustration
Illustration

Do you ever wonder why your homemade coffee doesn't taste as wonderful as the stuff you get from the barista at your neighborhood coffee house? It could be your grinder.

If you are a dedicated coffee drinker, you already know that fresh-ground beans are the best way to go. When coffee beans are ground immediately prior to brewing, you get the fullest, freshest coffee aromatics and a darn good cup o' Joe, too.

Lately, there's been a bit of a hubbub regarding typical blade-type mills and so-called “burr” grinders. Coffee pros are adamant that burr-crushed coffee beans are far superior to beans chopped in a cheap blade grinder. Not to insult anyone, but those who suggest that there isn't a difference between burr and blade grinds simply don't know what they're talking about.

Blade grinders are good. Burr grinders are better. One thing to understand about blade grinders is how they slightly re-roast the beans as they grind. That happens because the friction of the blades generates heat. No, it's not a lot of heat, but yes, it's enough to change the taste of the ground coffee.

True coffee aficionados choose burr grinders over blade grinders. Here's why:

Blade grinders work more or less like a counter top blender to chop and cut beans into brewable form. This does no favors to the beans, nor to the person who drinks the coffee made from them. Blade-cut beans may taste scorched, whereas coffee beans crushed in a burr mill tend to taste fresher.

Illustration
Illustration

Burr grinders use pressure and rotation to crush beans with less friction to overheat the aromatic coffee oils, thus resulting in a more robust and flavorful beverage.

When you use a blade-type grinder that chops instead of truly grinding beans, your grounds are apt to contain a lot of what coffee professionals refer to as 'fines.' You can think of them like sawdust. When coffee grounds contain too many fines, they brew a bitter cup with a lot of powdery residue at the bottom. Fines are in there because blade “grinders” chop willy-nilly to produce grounds that are not all the same size. Burr mills produce uniform grounds that are ideal for brewing a perfect cup of coffee.

Burr grinders are superior when it comes to controlling the uniformity of your grounds. You want a substantially coarser grind for a French press, a medium grind for a drip coffeemaker, and a much finer grind for a cup of espresso. High-quality burr grinders tend to be quieter than whirly-bird blade grinders, too. Every way you look at it, burr coffee mills are the gourmet's choice for making a perfect cup or pot of coffee.

We're certainly not suggesting that you throw away your blade-type coffee grinder. It can still be a useful kitchen tool. Use it to grind nuts, salt and spices; just don't use it to prepare your coffee beans.

No article about coffee grinders would be complete without a mention of hand-cranked coffee mills. In two words: get one. Not only will you be able to grind coffee when the power's out, you'll also lessen your carbon footprint and improve the tone of your biceps.

Here at Cilantro Cooks, you will find a nice selection of burr-style coffee mills that provide perfectly milled coffee every time. Choose a powered mill like our Cuisinart conical mill, or opt for a manual Peugeot coffee mill. Either way, you're sure to be making first-class coffee and flavorful espresso beverages in no time at all.

If you'd like to know more about how to make a perfect cup of coffee, browse our website for excellent information. Want to speak with a live person? Contact us during business hours, and we'd be happy to tell you everything you need to know about coffee mills and other exceptional gourmet cooking tools.