Burr vs. Blade Grinder: Which One is Right for You?
If you prefer to make your coffee with freshly ground coffee beans, you will need to invest in a good coffee beans grinder. And when it comes to buying a grinder, one of the first things that you will need to do is decide whether to go for the burr or blade grinder.
While both grinder types are capable of chopping down or crushing these coffee beans into smaller particles, they will use different mechanisms to achieve this, and so the quality of coffee grounds you get will also be different.
Besides the quality of coffee grounds, several other things set these grinder types apart. Here we highlight these differences to help you decide which one to buy. But first, check out our overview of the two grinder types.
Burr Grinder Overview
The burr grinder is what you are most likely to find being used in your local coffee shop and also what many seasoned home coffee brewers prefer to use.
These grinders are what many coffee lovers will sometimes refer to as the burr mills, and they will grind the coffee by rubbing it against two burrs which are abrasive surfaces made from either stainless steel or ceramic.
When the beans first encounter the grinding mechanism, they will be broken down into smaller particles by the larger burrs before moving to the smaller burrs for further size reduction until they attain the desired size.
Burr grinders are generally more consistent as they will deliver highly uniform coffee grounds thanks to their unique grinding mechanism, and they will also allow you to choose your preferred grind size more precisely.
Because these grinders also tend to cost more, they are generally more durable and also the burrs are designed to maintain a sharp edge much longer than the blade grinders. Better yet, these grinders will not transfer a lot of heat to the coffee beans.
Price is the most obvious shortcoming of the burr grinders as they cost significantly more than the blade types. Also, these can be harder to get locally as they are not as widely available as burr grinders.
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Blade Grinder Overview
Blade grinders are the older of the two types, and the more traditional coffee beans grinding mechanism. The blade mills will work more like blenders as they will feature two or more blades at the bottom that will spin at high speeds to chop down the coffee beans.
When using the blade grinders, you need to add the beans in small batches to ensure effective grinding, and the length of time you grind will determine the size you get. Longer grinding time translates to fine grind consistency while shorter grinding time provides a coarser grind size.
Overall, blade grinders are much easier to use as there is nothing much to do and most have some few and simple controls that are easy to figure out. And you will not have any trouble finding one as they tend to be more widely available given that they have been around much longer.
The wide availability and simplicity make the blade grinders relatively more affordable. Better yet, with these grinders, it is easier to find something smaller and more portable.
However, like burr grinders, they also have their fair share of shortcomings, with the key among them being that the grinding mechanism provides inconsistent coffee grounds. Also, the blades will produce more heat when grinding, which can be transferred to the coffee beans and affect the coffee taste.
How it Works
Using two burrs
Using fast-spinning blades
More random and inconsistent grinding
Little to no heat transfer
Produces more heat
Grind Size Control
$50 to $200
Under $20 to $100
Burr Grinder vs. Blade Grinder
The choice between the burr and blade grinders is a more obvious one for the experienced coffee fanatics and baristas, but the same cannot be said for everyone else. Given the improvement in designs and technologies for both, sometimes it is even impossible to tell apart the coffee grounds that they make. But, the points below should make it easier to decide which type you need.
1. How it Works
The main difference between the burr and blade grinder is how they work, and this affects everything else from the coffee grounds consistency to the grinding speed and noise. Hence, the working mechanism is one of the first and most important factors you need to understand when deciding which option to go with.
The working mechanism of the burr grinder is a little more complicated when compared to the blade grinders as there are no fast-spinning blades to chop down the coffee beans like in the latter.
Instead, the burr grinder will have two overlapping burrs that will push in the coffee beans and crush them down into smaller particles as they are passing through.
Rather than being sliced with a blade, the beans are broken up and eventually ground into smaller particles, and once they attain the desired consistency, they are spit out.
Burrs will be available in two types which are flat and conical, and they can be made from either stainless steel or ceramic. Each of these types has its pros and cons that every potential buyer should know before making up their mind.
Blade coffee beans grinders are designed more like traditional blenders and will also use the same working principle. Just as the name suggests, this grinder will use blades to chop down the coffee beans into smaller particles.
Most will typically have two blades located at the bottom of the grinding chamber, and they will spin at high speeds, and chop the beans in the chamber at the same time.
This mechanism means that while the ground coffee is still good enough for brewing, it will not be as consistent as what you get on the burr grinder. But overall, blade grinding tends to be more straightforward.
2. Grind Consistency
Grind consistency is another key element that sets these two grinder types apart and an important one as it affects the quality of coffee grounds you get, and hence the quality of coffee you end up making.
Burr grinders will generally provide more consistent coffee grounds thanks to their multistage grinding mechanism that starts with larger burrs that crush the coffee into smaller particles.
The coffee beans then proceed to smaller burrs to be crushed further into a smaller size before moving to even smaller burrs to further reduce their size until the desired consistency is achieved.
Blade grinders grind everything at once using the fast-spinning blades, and so in many instances, you end up with different particle sizes that are not very uniform. And hence to get consistent grounds, you need to grind the beans several times.
3. Heat Transfer
Coffee beans tend to be very delicate, and so any heat generated by the grinding mechanism can easily burn them, which results in bitter tasting coffee.
Blade grinders will generate a lot of heat due to the friction generated by the spinning blade, and so some models can easily transfer a lot of heat to your coffee beans and ruin them. The heat causes flavor deterioration, and the overall quality of the beans also diminishes.
While there can still be some heat transfer when using burr grinders, and this is more so the cheap models with stainless steel burrs, the heat output is often insignificant and will hardly be much of an issue.
4. Grinding Speed
Given that the blade grinders will chop down the beans using some fast-spinning blades, they are generally faster than the burr grinders, and you can easily get the coffee ground in seconds.
However, while blade grinders are fast, they will not work very well with large batches of coffee beans, and so you have to put small batches, which means that large quantities of coffee beans still take quite some time to grind.
Burr grinders will not provide super-fast grinding, but they offer the advantage of allowing you to choose from different speed settings. Also, most of these grinders will grind up large volumes of coffee beans at a go which can save you more time.
5. Grind Size Control
Different coffee brewing methods will require different grind sizes, for example, the French press uses coarse grinds while espresso will require a finer ground. Hence, a good grinder should allow you to easily get the grind size that you want.
While both blade and burr grinders will often provide several grind size settings, the burr grinding mechanism offers a more precise grind size selection than the blade grinders.
With the burr grinders, you can easily adjust the distance between the burrs which alters the grind size and does it much more precisely. For the blade grinder, in many instances, you can only control the grind size by altering the grind time, which is not always very reliable or precise.
Longevity or durability will largely depend on the particular grinder model that you are buying. For example, you should not expect a cheap grinder whether it is a blade or burr to last as long as the more expensive types.
Overall the burr grinders tend to be more long-lasting because their ceramic or stainless steel burs are designed to withstand regular use for much longer. Also, these burrs will keep a sharp edge much longer than blades and hence ensuring the grinder remains in great grinding shape even as it ages.
Because blade grinders use metal grinding mechanisms, it is easy to assume that they will last longer, which is not always true. Blades tend to wear down faster and get blunt and for most models, the motor overheats easily and breaks down and hence shortening their lifespan.
As much as you love coffee and would want to always get the best quality, you cannot overlook the cost of doing this. Remember that one of the reasons why you are making coffee at home is to save money, and so even your grinder needs to give you value for your money.
Typically, both burr and blade grinders will not cost as much as the coffee makers and they are a one-off purchase, but you still need to make sure what you buy will give you good service while still not costing a fortune.
When it comes to the cost, the blade grinders are the more affordable options as you can find simple manual ones for under $20, and even the top-quality electric types will hardly retail for more than $100.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, will cost anywhere from $50 to $200, but there are a few models out there that will cost a little more than this or even less.
Your grinder is one of the first things that you use when making coffee unless you also prefer to roast your coffee at home. Hence, it will have a huge impact on the quality and flavor of the coffee that you make.
And when you have to choose between the burr and blade grinders like many coffee lovers will often have to when shopping for a grinder, you will be happy to have the key differences highlighted above in mind.
Using these differences, it should be now clear which grinder will work for your situation. But, all in all, the blade grinders are perfect for anyone looking for a budget-friendly grinder for grinding smaller batches of coffee beans.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, are great all-round grinders that will be perfect when you want something that offers highly consistent coffee grounds and provides easy ground size control.