Fresh, properly ground coffee beans are key to great coffee. Whether you’re making espresso, pour-over, French Press, drip or cold brew, the type of coffee grinder you use can impact the texture and size of the ground beans. Keep in mind that different coffee grinder types, like electric vs. manual, are best used in different settings. For example, manual grinders work best on a camping trip where there’s no electricity, while electric grinders can help optimize your coffee routine at home.
Read on to learn more about burr grinders vs. blade grinders, electric vs. manual, and get information about how they work and how certain bean sizes and textures match with certain types of coffee.
1. MANUAL COFFEE GRINDER
A manual grinder uses muscle to turn a crank that grinds coffee beans between its two burrs. This method doesn’t require electricity so if you’re going to be away from an outlet, perhaps on a camping trip – or when the power is out – you can still get freshly ground beans with a manual coffee bean grinder.
2. ELECTRIC COFFEE GRINDER
On the flipside, you can grind coffee at the touch of a button with an electric grinder and many electric grinders come with a variety of grind settings to give you ultimate control. If you’re looking for quick, consistent results every time you brew, then it’s hard to beat the convenience of an electric coffee grinder. Electric coffee grinders can either be burr grinders or blade grinders.
3. BURR COFFEE GRINDER
A burr grinder is often considered the gold standard of coffee grinders. There are two main types of burr grinders, conical and flat plate. They work by crushing the beans, as opposed to chopping them. The advantage of this type of grinder is that it offers more consistent and accurate control over the size of the coffee grounds used for brewing, compared to a blade grinder.
Most burr grinders come with a range of settings that let you grind coffee from coarse to very fine, depending on the type of beverage you’re grinding the beans for. For instance, a coffee brewed from a pour over coffee maker will require a semi-coarse grind, while an espresso calls for a grind so fine, it’s almost a powder.
HOW DOES A BURR COFFEE GRINDER WORK?
Burr grinders, also called burr mills, use burrs, or sharp cutting instruments, to crush or pulverize your coffee beans to a uniform size. In this type of coffee grinding, the beans are ground between a moving surface and a stationary surface vs. chopped as in a blade grinder.
Burrs can be made from a variety of materials, including ceramic and stainless steel. Stainless steel is the most commonly used material for burrs – and that’s what you’ll find on the KitchenAid® Burr Coffee Grinder – but many manual grinders feature ceramic burrs.
4. CONICAL BURR GRINDER
A conical grinder has two cone shaped burrs with ridged edges that crush coffee beans. One burr remains stationary while the other is rotated by a motor, grinding the beans. A conical burr coffee grinder may result in fewer grounds getting trapped in the grinder because the grounds flow straight down. Exact results can vary by model.
5. FLAT BURR GRINDER
Flat burrs consist of two rings with serrated edges and a hollow center. They operate similarly, with a moving burr grinding beans against a stationary burr.
Flat burr grinders also typically run at higher speeds than conical burr grinders, but keep in mind that this extra speed can produce more heat, which can affect the coffee’s taste. In addition, the faster speeds can produce more noise and more static which can lead to messier brewing.
Some users claim that a flat burr grinder might go through more beans over time because they retain more grounds between their burrs. These trapped grounds have the potential to impact the taste of future batches if they’re left in the grinder over time.
6. BLADE COFFEE GRINDER
Instead of crushing coffee beans, a blade grinder uses a propeller-like blade, much like the blades found in blenders, to chop beans. On average, blade grinders are less expensive than burr grinders but they are less likely to produce uniform grounds.
You can help improve the consistency of your grounds with a blade grinder by making a simple adjustment to your grinding technique. Simply stop between pulses and shake your grinder because whole beans tend to get pushed up on top of the blade and can fail to get ground as well as the beans below.
BURR GRINDER VS. BLADE GRINDER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Although you’ll notice some differences between the two, burr grinders and blade grinders both have the ability to create a fresh, delicious brew at home.
1. Depending on the model
HIGH-SPEED GRINDER VS. LOW-SPEED COFFEE GRINDER
Grind speed is measured in RPMs (revolutions per minute). Low speed grinders operate with lower RPMs, generally resulting in less static and heat buildup. High speed grinders typically have larger motors and operate at higher RPMs which can create more consistent grind size but also can produce more noise and more heat. Heating your coffee beans can create bitter coffee.
Most residential burr coffee grinders are low-speed with conical burrs, including the Burr Coffee Grinder from KitchenAid brand.
7. SPICE GRINDER vs. COFFEE GRINDER
A spice grinder is a type of tool that grinds whole spices–such as cardamom pods, peppercorns, or chilies to name a few–into a fine or coarse powder to be used for baking or cooking. A blade grinder can be used for spices but a burr grinder should not be.
Whether you’re creating homemade ground pepper, oregano or paprika, a blade coffee grinder is a versatile tool that can allow you to process a variety of whole spices. If you have a KitchenAid® blade coffee grinder, it can be used as a spice grinder when it’s equipped with the KitchenAid® Spice Grinder Accessory Kit. The kit contains two stainless steel grinding bowls with spice optimized blades that can help you grind whole peppercorns, cardamom seeds, nutmeg and more to bring a fresh, homemade twist on all your recipes.
8. GRINDING COFFEE WITHOUT A GRINDER
Using a coffee grinder is the best way to get the most consistent sized grind for your preferred method of brewing, so other methods and appliances are not recommended. There are a few ways you can grind coffee beans without a coffee grinder if you’re really in a pinch. A mortar and pestle is one method. Or, crushing beans in a plastic bag with a meat mallet or rolling pin is another possibility. These alternative grinding methods will require much more time and effort to produce grounds fine enough for brewing though. You’re also unlikely to achieve consistent ground sizes, so they’re not recommended.
CAN YOU GRIND COFFEE IN FOOD CHOPPER OR FOOD PROCESSOR?
While you can technically grind coffee beans in a food chopper or food processor, it’s recommended to only use a coffee grinder that’s specifically designed for grinding coffee. There are differences in grind consistency between a food processor and coffee grinder. You can use the pulse setting on your food processor to break the coffee beans apart and chop them, but they will not have a uniform grind consistency.
CAN YOU GRIND COFFEE BEANS IN A MILL GRINDER?
A grain mill attachment is not an ideal tool for grinding coffee beans. Grain mill attachments are designed to affix to a stand mixer to grind wheats, oats, corn rice and other low-moisture, low-oil grains. Because coffee beans release some oils as they’re being ground, they are not an ingredient that will work well with a grain mill.
CAN YOU GRIND COFFEE IN A BLENDER?
It is not recommended to grind coffee beans in a blender. A blender is designed to crush ice and fruit, most often for smoothies. However, it is possible to grind coffee beans with a blender by adding in a small amount of beans (approximately ¼ cup) and pulsing on medium speed. Watch closely to see when they’ve been ground down to your ideal grind size. Keep in mind that blenders usually create a coarser grind and will likely lack the uniformity of grounds processed in a coffee grinder.
WHICH GRINDER IS BEST FOR COLD BREW? ESPRESSO? MOKA?
Each brewing method uses a different extraction technique including the time and pressure at which grounds are exposed to water. The grind size needs to match the brewing method. For example, coarser grounds have less exposed surface area and should be brewed in water for a longer period of time in order to extract enough flavor – this makes them best for drip or immersion methods like French press or pour over. Finer grounds have more surface area and flavor is extracted quickly from them. This makes them best for fast, high-pressure brewing as used in an espresso machine.
COFFEE GRIND SIZE RECOMMENDATIONS BY TYPE
Different grind sizes work best for different kinds of brewing methods. Both the KitchenAid® Burr Grinder and Blade Grinder can help you achieve a variety of grind sizes. The burr grinder has 70 precise settings to choose from for all brew methods, and the blade grinder allows you to grind enough beans for up to 12 cups of coffee while watching beans being ground so you can stop when you’ve reached your desired grind size. Learn more about what coffee grind sizes are best for specific brew methods in the table below.
Single Cup Brew
GREAT COFFEE BEGINS WITH THE DETAILS
The secret to a great cup of coffee is in the details. Freshly roasted whole beans, a great coffee maker, fresh water and a quality coffee grinder are all essential for a superior brewed beverage. The KitchenAid® Coffee Collection has all the tools you need to create delicious barista style beverages, like this Cinnamon Almond Coffee in your own kitchen.
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