When we start in the world of coffee, and we begin to be interested in improving our homemade preparations, the first thing we should do is grind the coffee beans ourselves. In this way, we will obtain better results in the final beverage.
By doing so, we gain access to many benefits; the coffee is preserved fresh for much longer, we obtain delicious aromas, and we ensure that all the flavors are at their maximum expression at the moment of preparation.
Now, when we look for coffee grinders to buy, we can see a lot of options. The blade grinder is the most common and easily found in supermarkets and other appliance stores.
I do not recommend buying this type of blade grinder. Instead, it would be better if you always look for the ones with grinding burrs (wheels or conical), but not just anyone will do. So, here I am going to teach you in-depth everything you need to know about this topic, so you don’t have any doubts.
I will begin with the operation of the blade grinders. In these grinders, we have a container where we will place the coffee beans next to the blades, located at the bottom. When we turn it on, the blades rotate at high speed, cutting the coffee beans into thousands of pieces.
The coffee beans are put in and taken out of the same container with the blades, which is a big problem. The blades break the beans into different sizes, and the more you keep grinding the same pieces, some keep repeatedly breaking, while others do not so much.
We are left with a mixture of different grind sizes, a powder that is too fine, pieces that are too large, and a whole variety of sizes in between.
Something to keep in mind with these grinders is that since they are electric, the blades rotate at high speed generating heat in the motor and the blades, which will negatively affect the coffee. Although this can also happen in grinders with burrs, it is not so common in the latter.
In reality, it is something that we can only control in manual grinders, where we are the ones who turn the grinding burrs ourselves.
Why is grinding so important in the preparation of coffee?
To prepare a good coffee, the most important thing besides the beans’ quality is the grinding quality. We need all the pieces of these coffee beans to be as equal as possible because only in this way can we obtain the right amount of flavor that we want from our coffee beans.
Delicious coffee has a perfect balance between sweetness, acidity, and bitterness, but it depends on the grind:
- If the coffee is too fine, we obtain a flavor that is too bitter, which overshadows any other flavor; we are left with an empty coffee with nothing attractive.
- If the coffee is too coarse, we do not extract any flavor; it is very watery and tastes sour.
- If it is ground evenly, we can make the natural sweetness of the coffee and its fruity acidity shine through, obtaining an exquisite cup. But this can only be achieved with a grinder of burrs (wheels or conical).
The burr grinders have a different system than the ones with blades. If you have a pepper grinder at home, you will surely have seen the system we are talking about; it is the same principle and works as follows:
- The coffee beans are placed inside the upper container, where you can see the grinding wheels at the bottom; these grinding wheels are very different from the blades.
- The wheels also rotate one on top of the other. Still, this system has another container underneath them that allows the coffee, once it is ground, to pass directly to the lower container and not be ground again. This ensures a much more even grind.
Adjusting the grind size to the coffee preparation
Something very important that also makes it convenient to buy a burr grinder is that they allow us to regulate the grinding size. Depending on the coffee maker and type of preparation, we will need different types or sizes of grinds.
For example, an espresso or capsule machine requires a very fine grind. While a French press requires a much coarser grind, a Moka pot is something in the middle of these two. If you have an Aeropress, depending on the recipe, you will also need different types of grinds.
But not only are we going to change the grind depending on the method of preparation, but using the same coffee maker, we are constantly going to have to make some minimal adjustments, at least for the same coffee day after day. Also, different types of coffee will vary in size and density, and each one will need its grinding adjustment.
Another reason to regulate the grind is to prepare different amounts of coffee since more or fewer cups also need different grind types. In summary, being able to choose the grind size you want is something that will give you a lot of freedom and good results.
As we mentioned before, in electric grinders, especially in the more economical ones, it can also happen that the heat generated in the motor and the grinders can negatively affect the preparation of the coffee, especially if we grind large quantities. This is the case with blade grinders.
Types of burr grinders
So, we already know we should buy burr grinders, but are any of them good enough? The answer is no. There is a lot to say about grinders, and there are many options with different constructions, materials, and functions for different uses, portable or not.
Although their main classification is: manual and electric, next, we will try to cover the subject in depth, so you can clearly understand it.
In the manual grinders, unlike the electric ones, we are the motor that turns the burrs so that the coffee is ground. In addition, we have the benefit that they are quite small and transportable, which is ideal for taking on trips or anywhere.
A great advantage with these grinders is that, by saving on all these electrical parts, we have more manufacturing budget focused on the construction and quality of the grinders. So we will always find the best options between price and quality.
Starting at about 50 dollars, we can find some pretty decent grinder options to start with. The more we go up in price, the better possibilities we will have, finding grinders that save us time and effort to carry out the grinding, with better materials, and that produce a more uniform ground coffee.
With electric grinders, we can say that for less than 150 dollars, we will not find anything decent in terms of construction and quality.
In addition, they have locks and screws in the middle. They contain a lot of plastic, so the coffee is shattered into thousands of different pieces and produces too much sediment, obtaining a similar result to that of a blade grinder.
Types of grinding wheels
It is necessary to know that there are different grinding burrs for grinders and materials. For example, ceramic grinding burrs are generally used in the most economical grinders. Then we have the steel ones, which are sharper, more precise, and will last longer.
We will find two grinding burrs: the conical burr and the wheel burr. The conical ones are what we see in most manual and electric grinders. And the less common flat wheel burr is generally found in good, high-end grinders. The difference between these two types of grinding burrs is minimal, based on a well-built burr grinder.
If we compare two of the best grinders on the market, one with conical burrs and one with wheel burrs, both will deliver excellent results with a super-even and uniform grind. But perhaps a well-trained palate can find some coffee flavors that stand out more in one over the other.
You need to know that if you are looking for an espresso grinder, things can get a little complicated, and you will need a larger investment. I always recommend preparing rich coffee at home with some other filtered method, whether a French press, Moka pot, Aeropress, or a manual cone filter (Chemex or Hario V60).
Espresso grinders should achieve excellent grind uniformity in a very small and much more precise size. In addition, they should have enough adjustments to modify the grind in small increments, which is what we need to achieve a good espresso.
This is why there are grinders dedicated exclusively to espresso coffee and grinders for filter coffee. Espresso grinders are generally more expensive because of all of the above. Nowadays, there are more and more options of grinders that are produced with very good quality and at a good price.