To get the best cup of coffee, you need to forgo pre-ground coffee and opt for whole coffee beans. Of course, that means you then have to select a grinder that will allow you to get the most out of your beans.
The grind of the coffee bean can account for as much as 60 percent of the taste of your coffee. That is why it is so critical to choose a grinder that is tailored to your preferred brewing method as well as the type and roast of the bean. The classic burr grinder is the choice of many coffee aficionados because of its ability to keep the aroma and flavor of the beans intact.
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What Is a Burr Grinder?
A burr grinder is a type of mill that can be used to grind any small, hard food product, including seeds, spices, and coffee beans. A burr grinder uses a series of abrasive discs to flake the bean into even pieces. On the other hand, blade grinders use a spinning blade designed to slice or crush the bean. A burr grinder also allows the user to control the fineness of the grind by adjusting the distance between the abrasive surfaces.
Types of Burr Grinders
Burr grinders come in both conical and flat varieties. A conical burr grinder has a cone-shaped burr that moves up and down against a collar-shaped burr. Once the beans between the two burrs are the pre-determined size, the grounds drop through the chute and into a collection bin.
A flat burr grinder features two flat abrasive plates. One plate rotates while the other remains stationary. As the beans are ground, they move toward the outside of the plates and down to the chute.
Most burr grinders are constructed of ceramic or stainless steel.
• Stainless steel grinders tend to be less expensive than ceramic models. They are also less likely to become completely unusable if a rock or other foreign object accidentally gets into the hopper. Steel burr grinders are well-suited to automatic drip, pour-over, French press, siphon, and non-espresso coffee drinks. The downside of steel grinders is that the overall lifespan tends to be less than that of ceramic grinders.
• A ceramic grinder may provide anywhere from 750 to 2,500 pounds of coffee before it needs to be replaced. They are also ideal for grinding espresso. Unfortunately, they do carry a higher price tag and can be rendered inoperable if a pebble or other foreign object enters the hopper.
Burr grinders also differ in the amount of flexibility they allow in adjusting the grind size. Most inexpensive burr grinders allow the user to adjust a lever or knob to choose between a series of pre-determined grind sizes. These are referred to as “stepped” grinders. “Stepless” grinders allow an infinite range of adjustments between various grind points.
For most coffee preparation methods, a stepped grinder offers plenty of precision over the grind size. A stepless model is generally preferable for preparing espresso since even a slight variation in grind size can alter the taste of the final product.
Burr grinders also differ in how they collect the grounds.
• Doserless grinders dispense the coffee grounds directly into the portafilter basket of an espresso machine. This means that there are fewer leftover grounds left in the grinder that can go stale and affect the flavor of the next batch of grounds. On the other hand, they can be prone to clumping and can spew grounds onto the counter. You also have to hold the portafilter in place during the grinding process.
• With doser grinders, the grounds collect in a bin. The user taps a lever that then dispenses the desired amount of grounds. These models tend to have less clumping and spillage; however, they are more difficult to clean and may not provide accurate dosing.
• A few manufacturers will produce grinders that collect the grounds into an internal bin that does not have a mechanism for dosing the grounds.
How Does a Burr Grinder Work?
Although low-tech, manual burr grinders are more expensive than electric models. The beans are fed into the hopper, and the grinder is turned by hand to force the beans between the grinding surfaces. Most manual grinders have a handle located at the top of the hopper that provides the leverage necessary to grind the beans. The resulting grounds fall through the chute and collect in a bin that is a part of the grinder or are dispensed directly into the espresso machine’s portafilter.
Electric burr grinders operate on the same basic principle but use a low-powered electric or battery-powered motor to operate a series of reduction gears to turn the grinding surfaces. Some models use a motor and belt without reduction gears.
Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder
In contrast to blade grinders, a burr grinder produces particles that are uniform in size. By controlling the consistency of the grind and water temperature, you end up with a more consistent cup of coffee. Both manual and electric burr grinders operate at lower motor speeds than blade grinders. This means that the grinder produces less heat and friction that can affect the flavor of the coffee.
Important Factors to Consider in Choosing a Burr Grinder
If you are solely grinding beans for espresso, a dedicated espresso grinder is your best option since it will give you the most precise grind. If you alternate between a variety of brewing methods, an adjustable grinder works well; however, you may sacrifice some consistency and quality on the finer grinds. Of course, the physical size of the grinder and your counter and storage space must also be taken into consideration.