How to pick the right coffee grinder

April 27, 2019

While pre-ground coffee is convenient, nothing beats the flavor of freshly-ground beans. To get the best out of coffee you should aim to grind the beans just before brewing. Roasted beans gradually lose flavor over time but grinding accelerates this process. Ground coffee has a larger surface area and oxidises quicker thus losing a lot of flavor. For this reason, it’s best to purchase whole bean coffee and grind it as needed.

Types of coffee grinders

There are three commonly available types of coffee grinders: Blade, burr, and manual.

Blade Grinders

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Blade grinders use a single spinning propeller-type blade to slice up the beans. These grinders are affordable but offer little in the way of precision or customisation. With blade grinders, the fineness of the ground is determined by how long the blade is active. Getting a specific grind in a blade grinder requires a lot of practice and these devices spin so fast that they often end up burning the coffee which negatively affects the flavor.

Blade grinders also aren’t ideal for grinding small amounts of coffee as they work best when filled to a certain level. Placing too few beans in the grinder will lower the amount of resistance and will result in an inconsistent grind. Conversely, putting too many beans in a blade grinder could damage the unit. Another blow against blade grinder is their noise levels. These grinders can be incredibly loud so avoid using them if you’re the first person to get up in the morning to make coffee.

Burr Grinders

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Burr grinders work by crush coffee beans between a fixed plate and a rotating wheel or cone. As the beans move through the device they are crush between the stationary plate and the wheel. The distance between the disc and wheel determines the fineness of the ground. Burr grinders are more expensive than bald grinders, but they offer a greater level of precision and uniformity.

These grinders often come with a setting wheel that is used to determine the grind. This removes any guesswork from the equation. There are two types of burr grinders, disc and conical. Disc grinders are the cheaper of the two but as a trade-off, they are noisy to operate and harder to clean. Conical grinders, on the other hand, are fairly quiet and easy to clean, however, they are notably more expensive.

Manual grinders

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Finally, there are hand operated burr grinders. These devices are less common than they used to be but you can still find them in certain department stores and online.

While you might be wondering why you would ever want a manual grinder, they do have a few things in their favour. Provided you aren't in the market for an antique, manual grinders can be relatively affordable. Hand cranking a grinder may sound like a chore but if you’re an outdoorsy person who still enjoys fresh coffee they are indispensable if you’re out camping. Finally, manual grinders, particularly antique models, are often beautifully crafted and add a bit of design flair to the kitchen or dining room.

James Aitchison