Do Burr Grinders Really Make A Difference? (Facts Revealed)


Achieving perfect espresso is an art form requiring good quality coffee beans and the right grind size. A decent grinder can help you achieve perfectly uniform finely ground beans for espresso, so you must choose the right one. 

Burr grinders make a considerable difference to your espresso brewing when it comes to the grind size and flavor. Burr mills grind coffee beans with consistency, precision, overall uniformity, and quality. While burr grinders cost more than blade grinders, they are worth the cost, as you can expect the same high-quality espresso every time.

Let’s look at the different types of burr grinders in the market to help you make an informed choice. There are flat and conical burrs, and you can opt for either manual or electric. Let’s also look at caring for and maintaining both an electric and manual burr grinder to increase their lasting power.

Why Is It Called A Burr Grinder?

The grinder is called a burr grinder because it has two revolving abrasive surfaces called burrs; right between the surfaces is where the coffee beans are crushed to a uniform size, and it grinds a few beans at a time.

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Uniformly sized grinds are crucial to producing a balanced flavor after brewing.

Espresso requires finely-ground coffee beans, and only with a burr grinder can you expect finely ground coffee beans after each use.

On the other hand, blade grinders are very like blenders, as the blade will only chop the beans up; you have no control over grind size and quality with a blade grinder.

Do You Really Need A Burr Grinder To Make Espresso?

Yes, you need a burr grinder for espresso because, unlike a blade grinder, burrs can produce extremely fine, consistent grounds at every use. A blade grinder will only ever chop up the beans, so you can’t expect even bean size after each use,

How Do I Choose A Burr Grinder?

To choose a burr grinder, you must decide between an electric and a manual burr. Electric grinders are highly convenient to use and can handle larger amounts of coffee, whereas manual burrs need to be operated by hand.

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Manual burrs are best at handling smaller quantities of coffee beans at a time. A standard home electric burr grinder can cost over $100, whereas an upscale machine can cost well over $200.

Manual burr grinders can cost as little as $20, making them an excellent choice if you have a smaller budget and don’t intend to make many espressos. Electric blade grinders can cost between $15 to $30, but they are less dependable than a manual burr grinder.

Aside from electric and manual burr grinders, there are also conical and flat burr grinders; they have some slight differences between them, so let’s discuss them:

Conical Burr Grinders

The coffee industry considers conical burr grinders to be the standard in burr grinders. These grinders use a cone-shaped central burr with a serrated burr on the outside to produce finely ground coffee each time. Its design makes it heat-resistant and energy-efficient.

However, when put under a microscope, conical burrs don’t produce evenly ground coffee. This won’t necessarily affect the overall taste of your coffee; however, a flat burr grinder might be preferable for espresso.

Flat Burr Grinders

Flat burr grinders have two donut-shaped burrs facing each other. Their sharp edges allow the beans to shoot out while remaining intact. Flat burrs produce grounds that are all the same size and flavor, giving baristas more room for creativity.

Flat burrs are louder than conical burrs and therefore use more heat and energy during the grinding process – this makes them less convenient for both commercial and home use. However, when you need precision, flat burrs are the best choice.

What Difference Does Burr Size Make?

Bigger burrs can grind coffee beans much faster as there is more available cutting space. Bigger burrs need a powerful motor that helps speed up the work.

Many different types of grinders have burrs, from hand-held grinders under $30 to high-end large-scale grinders over $2000. Burrs are made from different materials, and they come in different sizes; there is a correlation between the quality of the coffee and the size of the burrs.

Are Burr Grinders Loud?

Burr grinders can be loud. They use spinning abrasive plates to crush the coffee beans. While hand-held burrs are conical, electric burr grinders can use either flat or conical burrs. Flat burr grinders tend to be noisy, whereas conical burr grinders grind coffee beans quietly, slowly, and with more precision.

Do Burr Grinders Wear Out?

Yes, burrs in bean grinders eventually wear out; even the best quality burr grinders don’t last forever. Also, unroasted coffee beans can break your burrs, and the damage is apparent when it occurs.

However, the gradual dulling of your burrs from regular use is not so noticeable. Ceramic burrs take longer to dull than stainless steel burrs. However, they are more prone to clean breaks and cracks from hard objects that make their way to the coffee beans.

It will become clear that it’s time to get a new coffee grinder when the quality of your coffees begins to go downhill. Before you even detect lousy coffee, your coffee’s flavor would have been on the decline for a couple of months.

Even a small number of uneven coffee grounds can result in extra small pieces extracting too much, making the coffee bitter. The larger grounds extract too little, adding a sour flavor.

When you replace the old burrs with new ones, you will notice a sharper flavor and better balance in your brew. Sharper burrs grind with better precision and consistency, leading to a better-tasting cup of Joe. Other signs that it’s time to get new burrs to include:

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1. Dull burr edges

You will know your burrs are getting dull by just feeling them. If you’re having trouble remembering what sharp burrs feel lie, chances are, they need replacing.

If you can’t tell the difference by memory, take the grinder apart and begin wiping the burrs with a clean paper towel. This should help you determine if the burrs feel sharp and defined or not.

2. You are constantly making a finer grind size

Are you constantly changing the grind size to make it finer and finer every time? If you used to grind coffee at a nine setting for pour-over but now grinding at eight or lower, your burrs are on the decline.

When burr edges become dull, they won’t grind the coffee beans as precisely. As a result, the beans will inevitably be coarser.

When you select a finer setting, you can get the same fine results as before. However, you still get consistency issues – this solution is only temporary.

3. The grounds become increasingly inconsistent

Dull burrs grind less and mash more, as those once sharp edges no longer slice the coffee beans uniformly. Why not grind a few beans and look at the results in your hand. Do they look precise in size? If not, that’s not good.

While all coffee grinders produce a range of sizes, vastly inconsistently sized grounds indicate that there is no single clear size in most of the grounds. Inconsistently sized coffee grounds create under or over-extracted coffee that adds unpleasant flavors to your brew.

4. Grounds come out in clumps

Once you see the coffee come out in clumps, there is no mistaking the fact that it’s time for burr replacements. At this point, your espresso will taste highly unpleasant.

How To Prolong Your Burr Grinder’s use

Regardless of how well you maintain your burr grinder, it’s not going to last forever; however, there are a few different ways to extend the longevity of your burrs:

Tip #1. DON’T GRIND ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHOLE ROASTED COFFEE BEANS. So, be on the lookout for tiny stones that occasionally end up in the bags.

Tip #2. GRIND UPRIGHT. Burrs need to be upright to grind correctly; otherwise, grinding coffee beans at an awkward angle can put too much pressure on the burr shaft, thus wearing out the burrs. Again, this is a fast track to uneven grounds and unpleasant coffee.

Tip #3. CLEAN THEM NOW AND AGAIN. Keeping your burrs clean helps to keep oils and particles from sticking long term, resulting in inconsistent brew results.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps you don’t need a grinder with large burrs, but a burr grinder is essential even if you are a home user. There are plenty of burr grinders on the market from which to choose, some are mid-priced for home and commercial use, so there is no reason to put up with bad-tasting coffee ever.

Bear in mind that even the best make and model will not last forever, and parts will need replacing. So look out for signs early and be ready to replace the burrs when the time comes.

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