Blade vs Burr and The Different Types of Grinder for Coffee

Hario MSS-1B Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder.  Manual grinders are still popular.  There is no need for cables or a power supply, and you have complete control over the grinding experience.  They are also quieter than electric grinders.
Hario MSS-1B Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder. Manual grinders are still popular. There is no need for cables or a power supply, and you have complete control over the grinding experience. They are also quieter than electric grinders.

Grinding your own coffee is essentially straightforward and can be an easy way of improving the quality of your coffee drinks.

For those people who have little or no experience of the different types of grinder however, the variety of products on sale can be confusing, with expressions such as blade or burr meaning nothing to the average person.

Below is a summary of the main different types of grinder for coffee and a blade grinder vs burr grinder comparison. Hopefully, you will find that the technicalities are nowhere near as difficult as you thought.

I will tell you about the three main types of grinder (the wheel burr grinder, conical burr grinder and blade grinder), including which type are considered the best, which are considered the messiest, which are considered the quietest, and last but not least, which types of grinder are generally the cheapest and most expensive.

Coffee Shop.  Coffee can be bought in bean form or ready ground.  The coarseness of the grind varies according to type of brewer used.  For instance, a French press requires coarse grinds, whereas an espresso device uses very fine.
Coffee Shop. Coffee can be bought in bean form or ready ground. The coarseness of the grind varies according to type of brewer used. For instance, a French press requires coarse grinds, whereas an espresso device uses very fine. | Source

To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions.

— Hugh Jackman
KRUPS F203 Electric blade grinder.  Blade grinders are usually relatively affordable compared to burr grinders, but they tend to be noisier, and less precise. The grinding process involves a spinning blade which chops the beans up.
KRUPS F203 Electric blade grinder. Blade grinders are usually relatively affordable compared to burr grinders, but they tend to be noisier, and less precise. The grinding process involves a spinning blade which chops the beans up.

Blade Grinders

Blade grinders are generally the cheapest type of coffee grinder.

As their name suggests, they use a blade to cut up the coffee beans. The blade spins very quickly and looks a bit like a propeller. They are relatively noisy, when compared with burr and manual grinders.

With blade grinders, the fineness of the ground coffee is controlled by the length of time that you grind the coffee beans for. Blade grinders are less precise than burr machines and uneven sized coffee grounds can result in a less consistent drink quality.

That said, if you just want something basic that does the job, this type of grinder will suffice.

I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.

— David Lynch
Baratza Burr Grinder,  Burr grinders work by crushing the beans against a static surface with a grinder wheel. The coarseness/fineness is set by the position of the burr.  There are two types of burr grinder: conical and wheel.
Baratza Burr Grinder, Burr grinders work by crushing the beans against a static surface with a grinder wheel. The coarseness/fineness is set by the position of the burr. There are two types of burr grinder: conical and wheel.

Burr Grinders

This type of grinder works by crushing the coffee beans against a static surface with a grinder wheel. The coarseness/fineness of the coffee grounds is set by the position of the burr.

In blade grinder vs burr grinder terms, this effectively means that you can dictate the size of the coffee grounds much more accurately and consistently than with a blade grinder.

There are two different types of burr grinder, those with flat grinder wheels are called, “wheel burr” and those with conical grinder wheels are called, “conical burr”.

I don't know how people live without coffee, I really don't.

— Martha Quinn

Wheel Burr Grinders

Out of the two types of burr grinder, wheel burr grinders generally cost less. They are much more precise than blade grinders.

They have two main downsides when compared to conical burr machines, however: the first one being that they can be loud, due to the wheel, which rotates extremely quickly; and the second problem is that they are relatively messy.

Grinding is an essential part of the coffee-making process for those searching for the perfect beverage.  The coarseness of the grounds varies according to the type of maker that is used for brewing.
Grinding is an essential part of the coffee-making process for those searching for the perfect beverage. The coarseness of the grounds varies according to the type of maker that is used for brewing. | Source

Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep.

— Fran Drescher
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder.  Quiet and accurate, conical burrs are generally accepted to be the best type.  They are also the least messy than wheel grinders, as the grinder wheel doesn't need to turn so fast.
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder. Quiet and accurate, conical burrs are generally accepted to be the best type. They are also the least messy than wheel grinders, as the grinder wheel doesn't need to turn so fast.

Conical Burr Grinders

Conical burr grinders are generally accepted as being the best coffee grinder type available, but they are also the most expensive.

They don’t create as much noise as wheel burr grinders and make less mess, as the grinder wheel doesn’t need to spin as fast.

You can also grind oilier coffee beans without worrying so much about clogging up your machine, which can be a problem with other types of grinder.

For the freshest and tastiest beverages, it is best to buy your coffee in bean form and grind it straight before you brew.  Your beans need to be stored correctly too, if you want your beverages to have maximum flavor.
For the freshest and tastiest beverages, it is best to buy your coffee in bean form and grind it straight before you brew. Your beans need to be stored correctly too, if you want your beverages to have maximum flavor. | Source

Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break.

— Earl Wilson
Hario Mill Grinder.  Manual grinders come in all shapes and sizes.  Most work with a crank that turns the blades inside to chop up the beans.  Mills don't require power cables and they are quiet.
Hario Mill Grinder. Manual grinders come in all shapes and sizes. Most work with a crank that turns the blades inside to chop up the beans. Mills don't require power cables and they are quiet.

Manual Grinders

Most modern types of grinder are electrically powered, but there are also manual grinders available on the market.

These types of grinder generally work by the operator turning a crank. The size of the grounds is dictated by how long you grind for.

There are a number of advantages with owning a manual grinder. Firstly you don't need a power source, so you can use them outdoors, or when traveling. They are also very quiet to operate and often affordable to buy.

The best manual coffee grinders can also look more attractive than their electrical counterparts, especially those with a vintage or exotic design, and can make a good talking point at social events.

If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsover.

— David Letterman

Tips For Storing Coffee Correctly

It is important that you store your coffee correctly in order not to lose flavor. Here are some tips for keeping your coffee fresh.

  • Always buy your coffee in bean form and grind the beans right before you brew.
  • Store your coffee in an airtight container, as moisture will undermine the taste. Ceramic, glass, and stainless steel are good construction materials for the container.
  • Keep the beans away from direct sunlight, especially if using a glass container.
  • Large temperature fluctuations can also cause coffee to lose its flavor so keep them in a dark cool place, if possible, and away from the stove, or other sources of heat.
  • Avoid freezing or refrigerating coffee, if possible. This might mean more trips to the store, but you will notice the difference in flavor.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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