The method in which you grind your coffee has a considerable impact on the quality and taste of your final brew, and can mean the difference between an average beverage or a delicious, satisfying treat.
There are only two types of coffee grinders to choose between – bladed or burr grinders.
Once you have that figured out, the biggest challenge comes when choosing between brands and models while staying within your budget.
So let’s figure out the differences between these types of coffee grinders. If you’re in a hurry, jump to our best burr coffee grinders guide for our top picks of the latest coffee grinder models.
What Is A Burr Grinder?
This type of grinder uses two disks to grind coffee. It is also known as a burr mill. All models have one stationary disk and one that moves, operated by a motor. Burr grinders can be flat or conical and are either steel or ceramic.
Adjusting the grind between coarse and fine means that the space between the two disks changes. The closer together the disks are, the finer the coffee grinds will be.
Any coffee drinker will agree that burr grinders are the superior choice for grinding coffee, but they’re not without their disadvantages as seen in our Baratza Encore vs Capresso Infinity comparison.
- Produce very little heat.
- Grounds produced are a consistent texture.
- Easily adjustable.
- Durable and built to last.
- More expensive than blade grinders (unless purchasing a manual model).
- Not so readily available – may need to purchase online or at specialty stores.
Wait! What About Conical Vs Flat Burr Grinders?
There are two distinct types of burr grinder – conical and flat. Although the grounds produced by each type vary only minutely, true-blue espresso connoisseurs continue to debate the benefits of each. Just so you’re in the know, we’ll briefly break them down for you.
If you visually compare coffee grounds produced by conical and flat burred grinders, there’s no obvious difference – to the naked eye. However, put them under a microscope and you’ll see a clear difference. This is where we need to dip our toes into a bit of science.
Under a microscope, conical grinders produce two different coffee grind sizes of particles, at any grind setting. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s the style of grounds that over the decades have developed the characteristics of the common espresso we drink today.
The super fine micro-grounds work to partially limit the flow of hot water through an espresso basket or filter. This allows the slightly larger grounds time to extract. The result is that the large grounds have extracted nicely and the smaller ones also extract to add that bitter tang to the espresso shot you know and love.
Unless you are – or want to be – a highly-qualified barista or entering international espresso competitions, the difference isn’t going to bother you.
Conical burrs are more than capable of making a great quality espresso at a much more affordable price. Let’s take a quick look at each type of burr grinder.
Conical Burr Grinders
This is easily the most common kind of burr grinder. You’ll find conical burr grinders represent the majority of models available on the market, especially in the best grind and brew coffee makers.
The inner workings of these grinders contain two cone-shaped rings, one sitting inside the other. Coffee beans are pulled downwards between the burrs and ground/crushed by ridges.
- Quiet to operate.
- Produce minimal heat.
- More affordable than flat burr grinders.
- Easy to clean, with minimal maintenance needed.
- Give that classic espresso taste and quality.
- On a microscopic level, produce two different sizes of grounds – known as Bimodal Distribution.
- Limited chance to get creative with your espresso.
Flat Burr Grinders
Flat burr grinders also have two rings; however, in this case they are donut shaped and lie horizontal to the ground, with one facing up and the other facing down. Beans are ground with small teeth on the edges of the flat discs.
- Consistent ground size at a microscopic level – Unimodal Distribution.
- Higher extraction percentage.
- The ability to get experimental and create a range of different flavored espresso.
- Get clogged up easily and require cleaning often.
- The larger and faster motor produces more heat.
- Noisy to operate.
- Flat burrs create static charge, making coffee grounds stick and creating more mess to clean up.
- More expensive.
Blade Coffee Grinders
Those looking for the most inexpensive way to get the job done opt for a blade grinder.
Think of your blade grinder as rather like your average kitchen blender. In this type of grinder, there’s a blade at the bottom of a chamber that basically chops the beans up as it spins. The longer the grinder runs, the finer – and hotter – the grounds become.
The downside is that it produces a lower quality grounds, as the resulting texture is inconsistent. The greater amount of heat produced by the high friction of this type of grinder heats the coffee, which can negatively affect the taste.
Without getting too technical, blade grinders produce larger ‘boulders’ and smaller ‘fines.’ Boulders take longer to extract than the tiny fines, thus creating a mix of over-extracted and under-extracted coffee. Not the flavor you should be aiming for.
- Easy to clean.
- Compact design, can save you some kitchen space.
- Usually simple to operate and convenient one-push button operation.
- Easy to find – pretty much any kitchen or grocery store will sell these.
- Low cost.
- Produce very inconsistent grounds, therefore inferior coffee.
- Not durable – generally speaking, if it’s cheap to buy, it’s cheaply made and not built to last.
- Heats up the grounds.
- Very little fine control over grind size.
- More prone to giving coffee a ‘static charge,’ making it stick to everything and creating a mess.
Which Is Better?
Although you may save yourself some money in the short term by choosing a blade grinder, you’ll be sacrificing on quality coffee. Generally, blade grinders aren’t going to last a long time, so you’ll be buying them over and over again.
We think it’s better to save up your money and go for a conical burr grinder. You’ll be surprised how much your final cup of coffee improves if you upgrade from a blade to a burr grinder.
It’s worth the little extra money to have a gadget that’s reliable, durable, and capable of consistently producing a delicious brew.