Coffee tastes best when made from freshly ground beans. For best results, the size of the grounds should differ based on the brewing method: drinks made with shorter brewing times should use finer grounds; espresso needs a fine grind; drip and percolated coffee require medium grinds; and French presses work best with coarse grinds.
More expensive, larger coffeemakers have grinders built into them, but separate grinders can be purchased for anywhere from $10 to $200. On the cheaper end of the scale you have blade grinders; on the higher side you have burr grinders.
Blade grinders use a sharp metal blade to chop whole coffee beans into grounds. To get smaller grounds, you run the grinder for a longer period of time. Made from plastic or stainless steel, these grinders are shaped like cylinders, with a motor at the base of the container and a lid on top. They typically make 12 to 21 tablespoons of grounds.
- Small, good for drip coffee makers
- Produce enough grounds for six to 10 cups
- Can be used for grinding spices and herbs
- Size of the grounds varies, which affects brewing quality
- Heat generated by the blade can burn the grounds, affecting taste
- Not recommended for espresso machines
- Don't make enough grounds for larger coffee pots
Burr grinders, also called burr mills, use a rotary tool to crush whole coffee beans into grounds. You have a choice of two types, a wheel burr grinder or a conical burr grinder.
Wheel burr grinders have a horizontal metal wheel or disc that revolves against another, stationary wheel. The space between the two burrs determines the size of the grounds and usually can be adjusted. The wheel spins anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 rotations per minute.
- Create less heat than blade grinders
- More affordable than conical burr grinders
- Produce consistently sized small grounds
- Good for espresso machines
- Noisier and messier than conical burr grinders
- Create more heat than conical burr grinders
Conical burr grinders have intricately designed steel burrs that can run at a speed below 500 rotations per minute. Both the size of the grounds and the time it takes to grind the beans can be adjusted.
- Retain the most flavor and aroma in the coffee
- Stay cool
- Least likely to clog with oily or flavored coffee beans
- Produce the most consistent grounds
- Work well with any type of coffee maker
- Most expensive
- Larger and take up more space