How to Choose a Burr Coffee Grinder
If you want to make the freshest, tastiest coffee, most coffee experts agree that the best way to do this is using coffee from freshly ground beans. Of course, you can buy ground coffee, but all coffee starts to lose its freshness as soon as it’s ground, so the best way to ensure your brew tastes the best is to grind the beans yourself.
To do that, you’re going to need a grinder, and while there are two main types available, blade grinders and burr grinders, it seems to be generally accepted that burr grinders do a better job of delivering consistent grind size for any of the different brewing methods you’re using.
So if you want your coffee to taste its best, you’ll need a burr grinder, but how do you choose the right coffee grinder from all those available? I’ve got a few things to look out for that will hopefully help you choose a coffee grinder that’s right for you.
The Different Types of Burr Grinders
Broadly speaking, there are two types of burr grinders – conical burr grinders and flat burr grinders. As the names suggest, conical burrs have a cone-shaped burr inside an outer burr and grind the coffee beans as they fall down between the burrs, with the grind size controlled by how close the burrs are to each other and the coffee emerging from the bottom of the burrs.
Flat burrs are one burr on top of another, with the teeth of the burrs facing each other and grinding the coffee beans between them, with the coffee coming out of the sides of the burrs and grind size again controlled by how close together the burrs are.
In terms of what these two different types of burrs mean for you and your coffee, the common consensus seems to be that flat burrs offer a more consistent grind size, although they make the grinder more expensive and they tend to be noisier, all of which helps explain why they are often found in higher-end commercial coffee grinders.
Flat burrs are also thought to retain more of the grounds, as in you don’t get all the ground coffee out the other end, which if you’re putting a lot of coffee beans through regularly (like a commercial coffee shop) might not be an issue, but for a home grinder, you might not get as much coffee as you want, or end up cleaning your coffee grinder more regularly.
Electric flat burr grinders can get hotter than conical grinders due to the higher speeds needed to grind the coffee, which could have an impact on how the final brew tastes, but this is likely to be very minimal. Instead, it’s more a case of making sure your grinder is used in a well-ventilated area to prevent it from getting too hot and needing constant adjustment/recalibration.
Both types of burr grinder will do an excellent job, these are just a few things to bear in mind when you’re choosing between a conical and a flat burr grinder, but once you’ve made that decision, the next choice is whether you go with a manual or electric grinder.
You can get both types of burr grinders in manual and electric versions, however, most manual coffee grinders use conical burrs, and better flat burr grinders tend to be electric, so that might make your choice for you depending on which type of burr you might have already chosen. Flat burr manual grinders are available but tend to be bigger, more expensive, and require a bit more effort to get the grounds you want.
Read Our Best Burr
Coffee Grinders Guide
So once you’ve decided on electric or manual, and conical or flat burrs, here are a few more things to think about to make sure you pick the best option.
To determine which grinder is going to be best for you, you need to have a think about what type of coffee you’re most likely to be making, and the brewing method you’ll be using. Because there can be quite a range in grind size for different brewing methods, from coarse grinds for French Press coffee to super-fine grinds for Turkish coffee, not all grinders will be able to cover the whole range of grind sizes – or at least, be able to perform consistently well at every different size.
Where You’ll Use It
If you want an electric burr grinder for the home, then this factor won’t need take long to consider, but if you might want to take your grinder to work with you or when you go traveling, or what about a grinder for your regular camping trips? A good all-round manual grinder should cover pretty much all the bases, but maybe you want a great grinder for the home and while you’re off on your travels, in which case it bears thinking about now, so you don’t need up having to buy another r grinder in the future unless you really have to.
To get the different grind sizes for the different types of coffee and brewing methods you’ll need to adjust the settings on your grinder. Do you want some element of ‘pre-setting’ to make getting the right grind sizes easier, or do you want to have complete control to be able to make ultra-fine adjustments to suit your needs.
Manual burr grinders tend to come with fixed settings adjusted by a dial, but you can also get stepless manual grinders which allow you a lot more control. Similarly, you can get electric grinders with presets for the different coffee types, some where you can customize these presets, and others where you choose the grind settings manually. Ensure the grinders you’re looking at allow you to adjust the settings as much or as little as you want.
Generally speaking, if you opt for an electric burr grinder, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the amount of grounds you need. Electric grinders are bigger, usually have decent-sized bean hoppers, and are quite capable of dispensing the exact amount of ground coffee you need, however much that is.
Manual grinders, on the other hand, are a lot more compact, so check their bean and grounds capacity, as some can be quite small, potentially meaning you’ll be grinding beans for every cup you want to brew.
It goes without saying that electric burr grinders will generally be quicker than manual versions, but depending on the quality and size of the burrs, there can be quite a difference in how well, and therefore how quickly, a manual grinder will come up with your coffee grounds.
The difference in speed may be relatively small, but continued use of a ‘slower’ manual grinder may become annoying. Also, with electric grinders, faster isn’t always better. Electric grinders tend to measure speed in terms of RPMs, and while more may mean faster grinding, this could create more heat, which could adversely affect the taste of your coffee, so bear this in mind when looking at electric grinders.
Probably one of the most important factors when it comes to your choice of grinder, does it consistently produce the right sized grounds for your brewing method. Whatever your favorite brewing method, you’re likely to get an inconsistent taste if your chosen grinder doesn’t produce the same grind size each and every time.
You also need consistent results with each grind – so the grounds are all the same size from each grind, i.e. the right size for your brewing method. While most burr grinders should do a good job of providing the grind consistency you need, some can be better at it than others. Unreliable calibration, and inconsistent grind times, issues like these can affect your final brew, so it’s worth paying attention to the reports of each grinder’s consistency performance.
What Else is Important
You want a good burr grinder because you want the best-tasting coffee from freshly ground coffee beans – but what else is important to you? While you probably have some ‘must have’ factors like the ones mentioned above, you also will likely want to consider the ‘nice to have’ factors, too.
Things like size, will it fit in the space you have in your kitchen (mostly for electric burr grinders), and how does it look and will it fit well with everything else you have in the space. If it’s an electric grinder, how noisy is it likely to be, and how hot is it likely to get and will it need plenty of ventilation. All of these may not be deal-breakers, but considering these factors, and any other personal choices, will help to make sure you choose the right grinder for you.
The Best Burr Coffee Grinders Available Now
So there can be quite a few things to think about when you’re selecting a burr coffee grinder, particularly if it’s your first one and you’re new to all this. To help you out, I’ve created a list of what I think are the best burr grinders available, and added the three solid options below to give you some ideas to get you started in the right direction.
1. Breville Smart Grinder Pro
2. 1Zpresso J Manual Grinder
3. Baraza Encore ESP Grinder
1. Why should I choose a burr grinder over a blade grinder?
Burr grinders generally produce a much more consistent grind than blade grinders because of the difference is how the two types of grinder work.
Burr grinders actually grind coffee beans between two burrs, with the space between them dictating the size of the grounds.
Blade grinders ‘smash’ the beans with a spinning blade, making it harder to ensure that the grounds are all consistent, in terms of the same size and the size you need for brewing.
2. Can I use a burr grinder for espresso coffee?
Yes and no, as it depends on the grinder you choose.
There are a wide selection of manual and electric burr grinders that have the settings to enable you to produce fine grounds necessary for espresso, and allow for accurate adjustment to control the fineness of these grounds, but there are grinders that are really only suitable for brewing methods that require medium to coarse grounds, so make sure you check, if you have an espresso machine.
3. How do I choose the right grind size on a burr grinder?
All burr grinders come with adjustable settings that either increase or decrease the space between the two burrs, increasing or decreasing the size of the grounds they produce.
On a manual grinder, these settings are usually adjusted by rotating a dial on the bottom of the burrs or the top of the grinder. The setting on electric grinders are usually adjusted with dials or switches, and they may even have presets you simply select.
Whatever type of grinder you choose, they will have full details of how you can adjust the settings to get the grind size you need.
The Last Drop
So there you have it, all the things you need to think about if you’re looking to buy a burr coffee grinder, whether you’re new to the grinding game or you’re looking to upgrade your current grinder to improve your coffee brewing experience.
There is such a wide range of manual and electric burr grinders that the choice can be a bit bewildering, but the good news is this means there is more than likely the best coffee grinder out there for you, and if you follow the guide above and make sure to check out the most important factors when it comes to choosing your new grinder, you can be sure you’ll choose one that’s perfect for what you need.