A coffee bean grinder is what it sounds like. It grinds coffee beans. Of course, you can buy coffee that has already been ground, but you sacrifice a ton of flavor by going down that road. Freshly ground beans undeniably have a better taste.
Many people are aware that freshly grinding coffee makes a difference but it either seems too expensive, too time consuming, or they simply don’t know how to grind coffee beans with a grinder.
Let’s start by putting the myths to rest. Coffee bean grinders do not have to be expensive and grinding coffee is definitely not hard. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy. Even with the most basic grinder, you’ll be able to easily grind coffee beans and experience a serious upgrade over your pre-ground coffee.
Before we dive into the fairly heated debate between blade and burr grinders, it’s important to know why grinding your coffee fresh is so important.
Every single coffee bean is packed with oils that, when released, provide you with that invigorating and pleasant aroma and flavor that makes coffee so wonderful. So long as the bean is whole, those oils stay packed nicely inside of that casing.
As soon as that casing is broken, those oils seep out. This is what you want to happen immediately before you pour hot water on them. But it is exactly what you don’t want to happen while it is sitting in a bag on the shelf.
Here’s what happens to that bag of pre-ground coffee you bought:
By grinding your coffee immediately before brewing, you preserve all those oils, aromas, and gas that go into making a delicious cup of coffee.
With the argument for fresh ground coffee made, it’s time to dive into the touchy subject of what kind of grinder you should use. Many coffee aficionados insist that a burr grinder is the only way to go. Others say it is over-hyped and a blade grinder can do just as well.
This is the grinder with which you are probably familiar. It has two blades that look like propellers. You push a button and they rotate rapidly to obliterate the coffee beans.
The biggest advantage of a blade grinder is that they are cheaper. It is pretty effective at making a fine ground. In the end, it gets the job done.
The downside is that the grounds are less uniform, you get a mixture of fine powder and coarser bits. The blades can also get hot if used too long and this may burn the grounds. If you use it by pulsing it for 2-3 second bursts, you can avoid the burning.
A burr grinder is less well-known. It uses two abrasive plates (called burrs) to smash the beans into grounds. This creates a more uniform grind and gives you much more control over the kind of grind you get.
The biggest advantage is being able to precisely and evenly grind your beans to the exact grind you want. The biggest disadvantage is that these are usually much more expensive. In our opinion, the investment is worth it (and actually necessary) if you are also ready to invest in the other equipment required to make a great cup of coffee.
In short, if this is your first venture into grinding your own coffee, get a blade grinder. It will be a major improvement over pre-ground without breaking the bank. Invest in a burr grinder only after you know you are really invested in making the perfect cup of coffee.
With an electric grinder, grinding coffee is just a matter of pouring in the beans and pushing the button. If you have one that you can program to specific grind settings, make sure it is adjusted to the setting you need before grinding.
If you have a coffee maker with bean grinder already built in, the job is even easier. The only time it becomes a little challenging is when you have a manual coffee bean grinder (also known as a hand coffee bean grinder).
This requires you to rotate a lever in order to manually rotate the burrs. This can be tedious work for the impatient, but it’s a great option to have for situations where you have no power source to plug in your electric grinder. It’s also a nice arm workout!
Whichever device you are using, you want to pay attention to your grind size. This is how finely (or coarsely) you grind the beans. You need a different grind for different brew methods. Here is a rough guide:
With this basic primer, you have the fundamental knowledge needed to make the right decision about which kind of coffee grinder you should buy.
Josh is the founding owner of Coletti. He and his wife, Katie, stepped-out in faith in 2015 with the intent of translating their love for coffee into monetary support for organizations bringing justice to the world’s poor. Josh is a Christian minister, an army chaplain, a veteran of two wars, and father of seven (six girls and a boy).