While many people may believe that the best results of a good coffee or espresso drink has to do with the brewing method or espresso machine, this is not the case. In fact, one of the most important purchases you can make to ensure that your beverages turn out well is the coffee grinder. In order to pull out the best flavor from the beans, you have to be able to grind the beans to the perfect form.
What are my Options? Blade vs. Burr
While anyone can purchase a blade grinder at a department store for probably under $20, it’s probably not even worth spending the twenty bucks. In that case, you may as well get your beans ground properly at the coffee shop and save your $20 toward a good grinder. Thought it won’t be quite as fresh, it will, at the very least, be consistent. A blade simply chops and hacks at the bean until it is in smaller chunks. The pieces are not uniform and there is very little control over the fineness or coarseness of the grind.
About Burr Grinders
A multi-purpose burr grinder uses a series of small, burr-like cones or spheres which rub together to turn mill the beans into a coarse or fine consistency, depending on the beverage you are crafting. The cones or spheres are made of ceramic or stainless steel and can be adjusted to certain degrees based on the quality of the grinder purchased. Ceramic is slightly more precise and longer-lasting as long as no rocks get in the way. Stainless steel burrs are more durable toward foreign objects, but need to be replaced a bit more often.
Within the category of burr grinders, you may hear the terms stepped or stepless. This refers to the user’s management over the coarseness or fineness of the grind. Stepped machines have varying degrees, but the options are pre-set. Higher end stepped grinders will offer more steps for greater variation. Detailed manipulation on stepless machines is more precise and some are even digitally equipped to offer the best control.
Grinders may come as either doserless or with a doser. This determines whether the grounds are placed directly in the portafilter, or if they go into another bin first. Other features you may find in burr grinders may be timed or weighed measurement, compact or full size, extended sizes of bean hoppers, and even twin hoppers.
What are my Choices for a Burr Grinder?
In today’s market, you will find vast range of differences in price, style, functionality, and durability of burr grinders that are available. The lower end grinders which are available for home purchase might work fine for the general coffee drinker, but a home brewing artist will likely want something more precise. Of course, a commercial grade grinder is necessary for any sort of professional use in order to keep up with demand and frequency.
Lower end burr grinders can be purchased for under $200 and will be acceptable for most home use. They usually have a hopper on top to hold the beans and measure them, or you might prefer to measure or weigh them each time individually. Some of these can be retro-fitted with a scale attachment for precise measurement.
A mid-range, all-in-one grinder can be purchased for $600-$1000 and there are many options. These machines will often feature dosers and may allow the user to have some control over the amount of dosing depending upon the particular bean in use. These will likely come with a tamper support and tamper.
On the higher end are the $2000+ models which would be used exclusively for espresso. With the most consistency and detail orientation, these are long-lasting and accurate. These will be made of durable stainless steel, have strong motors, and will have tamper support to help expedite the espresso making process. Electronic controls may also be one of the features of a high end appliance.
All of these options might be overwhelming if you are new to the scene. But the good news is that there is a grinder out there which is exactly what you need, and likely in a price range that you can afford. Before making a decision, ask many questions and choose your grinder carefully. When you make a good purchase, it will be part of your daily routine for many years to come!