The burr grinder is the most important piece of gear any home barista should own. If you are serious about home-brewed coffee, make this investment first.
The Burr Grinder
Burr grinders use metal surfaces (called burrs) that revolve against each other to grind beans. The distance between the burrs can be adjusted to produce different size grounds. A quality burr grinder yields uniformly sized grounds.
Here are a few reasons to purchase a good quality burr grinder:
- First, grinding at home enables you to grind just before you brew. This results in a more flavorful and more aromatic cup. You will enjoy smelling home-ground beans for the first time.
- Grinding at home offers you greater flexibility when purchasing and storing coffee beans. Whole beans keep their flavor longer resulting in fresher coffee and less frequent trips to a roaster.
- Obtaining a burr grinder specifically (as opposed to other grinders) enables you to select your grind size to meet the needs of various brew methods.
Don’t be tempted to purchase an inexpensive blade grinder. Blade grinders smash coffee beans into uneven particles resulting in over extraction and under extraction in the same cup! You get both ends of the spectrum of bad coffee by using a blade grinder. Unfortunately, most people that I know personally who grind coffee at home are using blade grinders. They don’t know what they are missing! If you currently use a blade grinder, you will notice a significant difference by switching to a burr grinder, especially if you drink your coffee black.
Choosing a Burr Grinder
Electric Burr coffee grinders can get pretty expensive, but many can be purchased for under $100. I use a Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Grinder and have been for many years. I have had no issues so far and can easily recommend it as your first coffee grinder. If I could change one thing about it, I would pick a color other than bright red. That being said, this grinder works quite well and is very good for the price.
The Bodum Bistro is best for processing coffee in small batches but is still capable of grinding enough coffee for a full pot of coffee (you may have to run it more than once). You can choose from a coarse grind setting (for a french press) all the way to a fine grind setting (for espresso). There are even convenient icons for reference.
There are many good choices for burr grinders out there. Some of the more expensive grinders have increased durability and can process larger batches faster without overheating. You can also buy manual burr grinders, but I have not tested any yet. If you are a fellow coffee addict and use a manual burr grinder, please recommend one to me. That being said, you don’t need to spend more than $100 on a coffee grinder when starting out. I still haven’t upgraded from my Bodum Bistro.
Using a Burr Grinder
If you decide to purchase a burr grinder, you need to know a few points about grind settings:
- French pressed coffee uses large, coarse grinds.
- Drip coffee uses a medium grind.
- Espresso uses a very fine fine grind.
- Bitter coffee usually results from too fine of a grind (or using a blade grinder).
- Using oily beans such as Starbucks beans requires more frequent cleaning to prevent the burrs from jamming.
If you are interested in learning more coffee basics, check out my Coffee 101 series. If you are interested in seeing the grinders and other equipment that I use and recommend, check out my Coffee Equipment page.