Walking down the coffee aisle at the grocery store can almost seem daunting when you are starting out on your coffee journey. While I don’t advocate for buying your coffee at the grocery store (I buy direct from the roaster), that can be the easiest place to start. But the choice between a blade or burr coffee grinder can be the next choice, and sometimes it isn’t the easiest.
Blade or Burr Coffee Grinder
As you look to see what kind of coffee you want to take home for the week, you have to stop and think do you want pre-ground coffee or whole bean coffee. If you are just starting out, more than likely you won’t have a grinder to be able to have the freshest grounds as possible when brewing your coffee. Many stores however do have a grinder that you can use in-store to grind your beans to your desired consistency.
The downside to this is that you don’t know when the last time the machine was cleaned and you might be getting remnants of another person’s coffee that are left on the internal burrs of the machine. You also don’t have the ability to really dial in the setting to get the perfect grind for the specific method of brewing you utilize. If you have multiple ways of brewing you will be stuck with one grind setting across all brewing methods, which isn’t ideal either.
Starting out in my own experience, I didn’t know there was a difference between a blade or burr grinder. I picked up a blade grinder thinking that everything was going to be good. It was cheap and easy to use. Pour in your coffee beans, push and hold a button and let it grind away. I didn’t know that I needed to think about the consistency that I was getting from the blades.
Starting Off With A Blade Grinder
It was a great start. For the most part, it got me the coffee that I needed because I was using cheap coffee in a french press so I didn’t need a fine grind from the grinder itself. It wasn’t too much longer after that, I started to realize that if I was going to make the perfect pour-over or if I wanted to dip my toes in espresso, I needed something that would grind my coffee a bit finer than what the blade grinder could give me.
Being an avid researcher and person who watches tons of reviews on YouTube, I found a way to have my blade grinder go a bit finer than it did on the first pass. After the coffee is ground, you’ll want to pour the coffee into a mesh colander and shake it out so you get many of the bigger boulders out. Then pour those big boulders back into your blade grinder and give it another pass. Repeat until you are satisfied with how much coffee you have.
The downside to all of this is that it’s very wasteful. There is some coffee that is ground that you will eventually throw away because the boulders are just too big and you’ve reached the point of no return. Also, if you ask my wife, it’s very messy and I’ll agree. So if you decide to go this route when you are first starting out in your coffee exploration, find a good way to keep the mess contained.
Upgrading to A Burr Grinder… and more
It wasn’t until very recently that I made the investment into a burr grinder. Immediately, you’ll notice a cost difference. The burr grinders, many of the good ones, cost quite a bit. But you’ll start to see a noticeable difference in the consistency of the grind that you get from the grinder.
Burr grinders typically have the ability to really be dialed into the grind setting for your specific brewing method. When you bring home the grinder for the first time, it can take you a few times to get that specific setting right so that you get a consistent coffee each and every time you go to brew. With burr grinders, you’ll be able to grind as coarse as you need for french press and as fine as you need for espresso.
Once you make the decision to dive into burr grinders, you’ll need to think about your needs. Do you want to be able to grind a lot of coffee at once to make an entire pot that is ready in the morning? Or are you brewing by the cup? If you want to grind enough for an entire pot, the decision is made for you in that you’ll want a mechanical burr grinder so that you aren’t grinding it all by hand. But if you are brewing by the cup, you can decide if you want a machine to do the grinding for you, or if you want to feel like you are more connected with your cup by using a hand grinder.
Having both in our house, I can say that I typically go for my hand grinder more than my mechanical burr grinder. My mechanical burr grinder was the next investment I made after buying an electric kettle to make my coffee. I still use it today, as we typically use it for an everyday coffee that we enjoy from Red Roosters Roasting. But when I want to really enjoy just a cup of coffee, I reach out for my hand grinder, weigh the beans, grind, and then use my Aeropress. One of the advantages to having two grinders is that I can have one dialed in for a morning pour-over that will make enough for my wife and I to enjoy and then there is the one that is ready for me to try new coffees that I might enjoy.
Wherever you are in your exploration of coffee, there is a blade or burr grinder for you at a price point of your choosing. And as always, it doesn’t matter the tools that you have, as long as you are enjoying that cup of coffee.
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