One of the simplest things everyone knows about coffee is that it needs to be ground before you can drink it. But, it’s not as simple as it might sound. In the coffee world, there are two grinders you can use to grind your beans: a burr grinder, or a blade grinder. Both work to grind your beans, but they definitely have their own pros and cons and will leave you with a different tasting coffee.
That’s why we’re here to explain the difference between the two, the benefits of both and why you should care. So, if you’re in the market for a grinder for the first time – we’re here to help make your decision even easier.
Firstly, why do you even need a grinder? Why can’t you just have ground coffee delivered to you? Well, you can and we certainly do cater for people without grinders, but if you really want to get the best cup out of your coffee, you should grind as you go. The flavoursome oils evaporate almost immediately after the beans have been ground. So, if you’re using month-old ground coffee, you are missing out on a lot of flavour.
This is easily fixed by simply buying a grinder, but let’s take a look at the differences between grinders and how they affect your coffee.
Main Types of Grinders
There are two main types of grinders, blade and burr. Which both have different effects on your coffee grind.
A blade grinder has a rotating blade in it’s chamber, that whirrs around and chops the coffee into smaller pieces. You cannot adjust the size of the grind very effectively, aside from grinding for longer to achieve a finer grind.
A burr grinder has a series of sharpened cog-like wheels, that crush the coffee into uniformly sized pieces. Most burr grinders allow you to change the grind size, by moving the cogs closer together or further apart.
Given the way the two types of grinders function, the consistency of the grounds are going to be different.
A blade grinder will produce an inconsistent grind with different sized pieces of coffee. As the blade whirls around and chops the coffee, the beans closest to the blade get chopped very finely, while the beans furthest away just get a little dented.
On the other hand, a burr grinder passes the coffee down several levels of the cogs, which crush the beans into smaller and smaller pieces. This produces a consistent grind size, which will generally produce a much better tasting coffee.
WHY DOES IT MATTER
Having uniformly sized coffee grounds will help achieve a consistent extraction during the brewing process. This means that the hot water will flow through the beans at the same rate to achieve a consistent taste. Beans that aren’t ground finely enough will be tasteless and weak. Too fine of a grind will result in bitter, over extracted coffee. And grinds that are a combination of both too fine and too coarse will leave your coffee tasting less than stellar.
Think about it like baking two cakes in the same oven at once. If they are the same size and thickness you can assume that they’ll bake evenly and be perfect on the inside. If one cake is thin and tiny and the other is huge and thick, one is going to be burnt on the outside and the other is likely to be uncooked in the middle. This is precisely the same as having unevenly ground coffee.
A burr grinder that produces a consistent grind size is especially important with an espresso machine, as it makes it much easier to get a properly tamped basket. The even grinds settle against each other uniformly, meaning the water from the machine will soak through evenly, and you won’t get any over extracted or under extracted tastes.
You can still get a good cup of coffee out of the ground from a blade grinder, but if you have an espresso machine it will prove more challenging.
WHAT’S BEST FOR ME?
Price is a big factor for anyone looking into buying a grinder for the first time. As soon as you start looking at the options, you’ll find that a blade grinder is a lot less expensive than a burr grinder. We would recommend anyone with an espresso machine, spend a little extra and purchase themselves a burr grinder. And everyone else, if there is a burr grinder in your budget, we would recommend that you go for that over a blade grinder.
But while we almost always recommend a burr grinder for anyone in the market, if you need a cheap grinder ASAP or already have a blade grinder, don’t worry. There is a way to get better grinds with your blade grinder, thanks to the technique called “The Pulse Method.”
THE PULSE METHOD
The pulse method helps to move the beans around in the chamber of a blade grinder, in an attempt to get the beans more evenly chopped. It’s a relatively simple process:
- Load up your grinder – be careful not to overfill it, the less beans the better.
- Pick it up with both hands and ‘pulse’ the on button for a few seconds at a time. Make sure you do this while gently shaking the grinder back and forth.
- Repeat a few times, checking to see how the grinds are looking in between pulses.
- Once you’ve got the consistency you’re after – go ahead and make a delicious cup of coffee.