Blades vs Burrs – Grinder Differences
We don’t spend that much time talking about grinders, so I wanted to make sure the topic is explored in detail. Not all espresso machines have a grinder on board, and unless you buy a super-automated machine or a capsule machine, you’re going to need a grinder. You can buy pre-ground espresso beans, but that kind of defeats the whole point of having an espresso maker at home!
Why You Need To Get On Your Grind
If you grind beans and let them sit, even in an airtight container, they lose flavor over time. Every time you open the container you let air in, which sucks the flavor out of the grounds. There is a distinct taste difference between pre-ground beans and freshly ground beans. If you’re okay with weak espresso or grounds that pick up flavors of things around them, go ahead and go for the pre-ground beans. If your coffee is more important to you than that, you’re seriously going to need to buy a grinder.
There are two primary types of electric grinders to choose from – blade grinders and burr grinders. Don’t get them confused because they’re very different. Burr grinders are professional style grinders and they will do a lot more to get your grounds exactly the way you want them. Burr grinders give you a world of control over the grind of your beans.
Blade grinders are less expensive and more for home use than professional use. They do not provide the same flexibility in fine tuning the grind as burr grinders do, but if you’re not terribly particular about your grind and you are looking for a more moderately priced option, a blade grinder should do the trick.
How Blades Work
If you’ve ever used a blender, you know how a blade grinder works. There are blades at the bottom of the machine, and you toss the beans in on top of them. The blades spin, just like a blender or a food processor, and chop all the beans at the same time, over and over again. The result is a batch of coffee grounds that will work well enough to make some pretty good espresso, but it won’t be as particular as a specific espresso grind, and you may need to put it through a few times to make sure you get it the way you want it.
Blade grinders rarely cost more than $20 to $30, definitely making them the less expensive option. They certainly are not as specialized as burr grinders, but that makes them a little more versatile, because there are actually a lot of things that can be ground in a blade grinder. A blade grinder can be used to grind fresh spices and chop things like nuts or herbs that need to be finely or coarsely pieced.
How Burrs Work
Burrs are a bit difficult to explain, but it makes sense once you understand the mechanism. Imagine two cheese graters pushed against each other so the grates are overlapping. That’s kind of what burrs are like. They are abrasive surfaces inside the grinder that work together to grind the beans. You pour your whole beans into the main chamber, and the burrs move back and forth against each other to pull in a few beans at a time. Instead of being sliced, the beans go through the burrs and get broken up and eventually ground. When they are ground to the consistency you designated, they’re spit out the bottom as freshly ground coffee or espresso to be brewed to your idea of perfection.
You’ll find burr grinders vary in both price and quality. A decent burr grinder with just about everything you need can be found for around $50. They won’t have the highest quality internal components, but for most home users, these machines are just fine. Burr grinders go up in price to nearly $200 and sometimes more, depending on how fancy you want to get. The higher end units are certainly not cheap, but the way your beans are ground and the extra options you get for finer or coarser grind can mean the difference between good espresso and great espresso.
What to Buy?
To put it simply, burrs are expensive and blades are not. While that’s not really what makes them different, it’s an easy way to remember which is which. If you’re buying an arsenal of professional coffee making tools, you’re going to want to spring for the burr grinder. If you’re just starting out and want something a little different in the morning before work, a blade grinder should be just what you need.
If you are interested in learning more about some of the best options for grinders, just navigate right on over to that page.