Coffee Grinders 101: The Guide to Buying The Right Grinder

If your reading this I would like to personally thank you! It means you are playing your part in eliminating poorly brewed coffee in this world. Grinders play a crucial role in the quality of your brew. When in the market for a new grinder you will notice a few options you have to choose from. Do you want an electric vs manual grinder? Burr vs blade grinder? Flat vs conical burrs? Ceramic vs steel burrs? What does all this mean and what makes the most sense for you?

Electric vs Manual Grinder

If your someone like myself who’s on a budget the manual grinder might be for you. Manual grinders can be an affordable option and grind for a wide variety of brew methods. Although many people don’t recommend using a hand grinder for the finer methods like espresso. Manual grinders are very small and portable making them great to take along when on the road. Not only that they are also portable and simple to maintain. That being said it takes a fair amount of time to grind and the manual grinders can only handle a small quantity at a time. One final pro I don’t think enough people mention is the forearm workout that comes with grinding manually, especially if you decided to invite your coffee buddies over.

An electric grinder will allow you to grind higher quantities much faster. They can provide a more customized grind fineness paired with a consistent grind. Plus if your not in the mood for a 5-minute forearm workout first thing in the morning and instead prefer to spend 60 seconds checking Instagram an electric is for you. If your brewing non-espresso methods like french press or pour over the Baratza Encore is the staple entry-level grinder. (Shameless link here: https://espressodolce.ca/product/baratza-encore-grinder/ ) If you’re looking for a grinder that grinds good espresso you will have to be prepared to stretch that budget. A great entry-level grinder for espresso would be the Baratza Sette 30. ( https://espressodolce.ca/product/baratza-sette-30-ap-burr-grinder/ ).

Burr vs Blade

I’m sure on your grinder shopping journey you have seen burr grinder thrown into descriptions and told to avoid blade grinders. But what’s the difference? Blade grinders tend to be lower quality and more affordable. But blade grinders create a non-consistent grind and uneven particle sizes. Whereas burr grinders can create a consistent grind with easy control over the fineness. Burr grinders also tend to be more durable and last longer. Where the burr grinder makes up for quality it shows in its price. An entry-level burr grinder will at least be $180 whereas you can pick up a blade grinder for $20. In all reality, if you’re brewing drip coffee and aren’t obsessed with your coffee you could get away with a blade and not notice. Although, if you love coffee and are interested in the highest quality as possible or brewing espresso a blade grinder won’t make the cut.

Flat vs Conical Burrs

Okay, so you’ve decided you care about your coffee quality and want full control over your grinds. You choose to shop for a burr grinder but now you face another dilemma flat vs conical burrs?? I should start off by saying at this point you’re going to get consistent and fully controlled grinds with either option. We are now entering coffee nerd territory (Not offensive if I am one right?). Flat burrs have two rings that sit on top of each other and the grinds drop into the middle, get pushed out through the middle and drop again. Conical burrs have a cone shape sitting inside of a ring. The beans have a verticle path through the conical burr. There are coffee people who claim these two grinders have different effects on the notes you’ll taste in your coffee. But to be honest I don’t buy that theory and haven’t read any hard proof for it. The biggest factor to consider is the flat burrs are known to trap more coffee grinds than the conical burrs. That could be a consideration but both options grind great coffee.

So I hope this will help you navigate grinder pages with a little bit more clarity. My one piece of advice is to not cheap out on the grinder. Your grind plays a huge factor in the quality of your coffee. If your making espresso keeps in mind the more grind options you have the more of an ability you’ll have to brew espresso that matches your preference.

Quinn Hoeppner