Grinding out the details.

Grinding out the details.

Nikki Milligan

If you’re starting your specialty coffee journey or just have a taste for the finer things in coffee, you need to grind your own beans. Surprisingly, freshly ground coffee plays a big role in the flavour of your cup. 

After the beans themselves, the single most important piece of gear in the coffee-making process is your grinder.

As it turns out, all coffee grinders are not created equal. 

Two kinds of grinders.

To start off, there are two kinds: blades and burrs.

A blade grinder has a blade in the centre of the grinder that looks like a propeller. You pop in the beans, put on the cap, and push down to get the blade spinning.

Tip: To get the most uniform ground out of a blade grinder, try grinding your coffee in spurts. Pulse your coffee as opposed to just grinding in one go.

A burr grinder, however, is a step up. It’s made up of two revolving abrasive surfaces (called burrs), in between which the coffee is ground, a few beans at a time. The distance between the surfaces are changeable, which in turn changes the size of your grind. 

Conical burr grinders & flat burr grinders.

Burr grinders are further divided into two kinds.

Flat burrs.

In flat burr grinders, coffee beans drop between the burrs, are ground through the burrs and then drop again, making two 90-degree turns. 

One of the drawbacks is that the grinder can get clogged up, especially if you are grinding up large quantities of whole beans. Clogs that become trapped in the grinder go stale, contaminating other batches, depending on how regularly you clean your grinder.

Conical burrs.

In conical burrs, beans are directed down through the burrs at a slight angle, but the path is essentially vertical.

The burrs themselves typically rotate at a lower rate, so they tend to produce less noise. They also create less friction. Friction results in heat and any excess heat at this stage is something you want to avoid, if you can. In fact, enough heat can vaporize the essential oils in the beans.

The downside to conical burr grinders is that they’re very often priced higher than flat burr alternatives.

So which kind should you get?

It’s really up to you. 

Blade grinders are more inexpensive compared to their burr cousins, and they get the job done…. Sort of.

If  you see yourself as a “home barista” or just actually love coffee, invest a little more in a burr grinder so you can grind your beans for your specific brewing device. 

A burr grinder is a step up; it’ll give you a consistent, uniform grind. You can’t really can’t go wrong with either one. But, of course us coffee nerds have our preferences.

However, rather than agonizing over the differences between owning a flat versus a conical burr grinder, it’s really a discussion of theories that’s best enjoyed over a fine beverage.

Tip:  With the burr grinders, you need to clean them per the instructions that come with your grinder. It will last a lot longer and you’ll keep drinking amazing specialty coffee.

Want a recco? Personally, I used the Breville Smart Grinder pro (retail$249) for a few years at home and I loved it, it’s a conical burr grinder. But recently at home, I upgraded to the Baratza Virtuoso (Retail $359). If these are still out of your budget, I suggest the Baratza Encore as a sleek entry-level grinder retailing at $199, it’s worth it and will for sure up your home coffee game.