For coffee lovers like myself, and as someone who likes to grind my roasted coffee beans, we know that having a grinder is an essential kitchen appliance.
For years I actually bought all of my beans pre-ground as I was more interested in trying out the many types of beans, and the many different tastes and flavours available.
It was simpler to go into a coffee store and just buy the coffee that had already been ground. It actually still is a lot more convenient to do that especially if you are pushed for time.
It was some years later, and after a lot of reading and discussion with friends that I decided to try grinding beans at home for my own use.
Any of my friends who had tried this had convinced me that if I wanted fresher tasting coffee, then there was a huge difference between buying them pre-ground, or grinding them just before the brewing process.
Should You Bother Grinding Your Own Beans at Home?
Two of my friends are baristas or as I like to remind them (they work in a coffee shop) told me I would notice two things:
- I would save money
- The coffee tastes better and fresher
Those are, as you can see, two very big claims. As it turned out my friends were of course correct. Many real coffee lovers take coffee making very seriously, and want to make the best tasting coffee that they can. In fact, there is a plenty of competition among baristas as to who can make the best coffees.
There was however an ongoing debate between them and other friends, as to which was the better type of grinder, one that used blades and was affordable, or one with burrs that was slightly more expensive. Every barista that I know doesn't even question this debate and will always say "pick a burr."
Some other folks say that this debate is little more than coffee snobs showing off their supposed knowledge. A few years back I would most likely have agreed with that, but to taste the difference was the test that won me over.
Did We Find a Difference?
Now, in my opinion there is a noticeable difference between using pre-ground coffee beans, and grinding your own just before making the coffee. I did notice such a big difference for sure. However in this article I will try to explain the main differences between using a blade grinder or a burr grinder? That is a more interesting debate.
Is there really a huge difference between the two types of grinder, when it comes to grinding coffee beans? Most people will agree that a burr grinder is the better of the two choices, but why would they say that? Where is the evidence to show that there is a REAL difference?
How a Blade Grinder Works?
When you pour your coffee beans into a blade grinder, as soon as it is switched on, the blades spin quickly like a propeller and literally chop up the beans into grains. It is no more complex than using a chopping action until you get to the desired thickness of grain. So these blades spin and chop randomly at all of the beans inside the container.
Some experts describe this action as similar to "chopping fruit with a sharp sledge hammer." Now that may be a tad over the top, but it is a pretty crude cutting process, rather than an actual grinding process. It will create dust as well and it is that which can make your coffee taste quite bitter.
If you would like to read about the top 5 blade grinders in the UK market then please click here.
How a Burr Grinder Works?
When you pour your coffee beans into a burr grinder, as soon as it is switched on, a few of the beans are squeezed between two revolving abrasive surfaces known as burrs, in a grinding effect. You can adjust the distance between these two surfaces and that will change the thickness of the grind.
They come in two types known as flat burr or conical burr, but basically they do the same job.
If you would like to read about the top 5 burr grinders in the UK market then please click here.
Key Differences Between the Two Grinder Types
The number one difference is the uniformity in size of the grain. Anyone making coffee knows that you need to vary the thickness of the grain depending on the brewing method that you are using. As an example for French Press that would be coarse, and for espresso it would a fine grain.
The coffee is then extracted from the grains when water passes through it. So if you have a uniform size you get the maximum flavour from your coffee. However if the grains differ in size, with some being big and some being small, you end up losing flavour. We all know it is easier to dissolve granulated sugar than to dissolve sugar lumps. It is the same principle but on a much smaller scale.
It is very hard to get this uniform grind with a blade grinder. The only control you have is how long you can turn the machine on and off for. It is by any terms a very limited control.
With a burr type you have much more control over the end result.
The difference is that with the blade grinder a certain amount of heat is created by the spinning action of the blades hitting the hard surface of the beans. The burrs to not create the same amount of heat. So why you might rightly ask does that make any difference?
Why Does Heat Matter?
I have read that the blade style of grinder also generate a lot of heat during the chopping up process, and for the most part that is true. Some people say this can reduce the amount of flavour left in the grains. I have not noticed that myself although I am sure the science is true enough.
Can You Tell The Difference in Taste?
The big test will always be the taste. Will someone who drinks coffee really notice any difference in a cup of coffee that has been ground with a burr or ground with a blade? Now for me personally, I noticed the difference right away when I started grinding my own beans just before making my coffee. At that stage I was using a fairly basic blade type of grinder.
Then I bought a good quality burr one and to be honest, I did not notice a big change in the quality of my coffee. Perhaps my palette is not sensitive enough, but I just did not see a marked change.
For certain it did make a big difference in the uniformity in size of the grains. That made a difference when I used my French Press as there was no sludge at the bottom of the cup. For an espresso though, I did not notice a massive difference, if indeed any at all.