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I need to get a coffee grinder. What kind is best? I have heard that burr mills are better; are they worth the extra cost? Which ones last longer?

Update: I ended up getting a Hario hand grinder.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The folks at America's Test Kitchen did a review of coffee grinders and found that the burr mills didn't result in superior consistency to blade grinders.

They found that if you stop grinding every now and then and shake the coffee grinder and grind for a total of 25-30 seconds, you get the best results.

From the video review:

"Lots of people said that these blade grinders chop the beans unevenly. They also said they heat up the beans more because of the friction and that degraded the flavor of coffee. I had dozens of people tasting this coffee and no one picked up flavor differences between the blade-ground and the burr-ground. There were differences in the body but not the flavor... and we found a way to use the blade grinders to match that body.

From the text review:

"We found we could improve the evenness of the blade grind either by grinding in short, quick bursts, with stops in between to shake the grinder to redistribute the grounds, or by shaking the grinder as it ground, much as you would a martini in a cocktail shaker."

Their favorite was the Capresso Cool Grind, Model 501.

They did note that you will need a burr grinder for espresso.

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You also need a burr grinder for a French press. Blade grinders are fine for drip coffee, I think, but if you need a consistently fine (espresso) or consistently coarse (French press) grind, you'll likely need a burr grinder for good results. –  Harlan Jul 24 '10 at 15:34
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Note that they had a self-imposed price limit of 50 USD. No self respecting snob would trust existing grinders at that price point -- especially for espresso, where it definitely does make a difference. So at the low end, they're probably right, but I wouldn't trust those results for the general case without further testing. –  Steve S Jan 18 '11 at 15:22

It depends on what kind of coffee you want to make. If you are making espresso and you're going with a more expensive machine, you'll want to spend some cash on a nice burr mill grinder as well (this will be able to achieve a more consistent grind and result in tastier espresso.

If you are just using a drip or a french press and need a coarser grind, then a regular blade grinder will do nicely. In my experience, you can get a finer final grind from a blade grinder, but it won't be as consistent in the grinding. For a drip or a french press, this isn't such a big deal. However, you don't want to grind too much with a blade grinder or you'll burn the beans and mess up the taste of the coffee.

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It can really make a big difference with espresso. coffeegeek.com recommended that you spend as much on your grinder as you do on your espresso machine (up to a few hundred dollars). –  Jon Galloway Jul 24 '10 at 0:56
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I would disagree about the French press. The problem with a blade grinder is that you can't get a consistently coarse grind, so your French-pressed coffee gets gritty. –  Harlan Jul 24 '10 at 15:35

It sounds like this is for home use, if it were for a coffee shop, you need a burr mill so you can get all the coffee ground uniformly and to be able to vary the grind.

For home use, a burr mill gives you that same uniformity and control over the grind, but they do sometimes need the wheels replaced and they're typically more money. You might be able to use one of the cheaper rotating blade grinders, but you can't get a good medium or coarse grind with them, and you won't get a uniform grind. If you always want a fine grind, they can be good enough.

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Burr's are where it's at if you want uniformity and the ability to vary the coarseness for multiple uses (like press vs espresso machine). Plus, the right burr grinder can last years if cleaned properly once in awhile. –  Dave Voutila Jul 23 '10 at 23:21

Bottom line: blades can give you uneven grinding but for coffee you would fine they are inexpensive. Burr are expensive but the amount of options for grinding make it pefect for espresso and any other needs.

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As cheap as possible. I have a $5 grinder from 3 years ago that I still use several times per week. All you need it to do is grind beans. You can spend $20-40 on one, but it will still just grind beans. It will not be exponentially better than a $5-10 one.

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Well, this might be true if you're not too picky about your coffee, but the fact is that a simple "propeller" grinder gives you a pretty broad range of gound bean particles, and you'll either not grind enough and waste coffee, or grind too much and get cups of grit. Chacun à son goût of course :-) –  Pointy Jul 23 '10 at 22:40
    
Strongly disagree - I notice a significant difference between my $25 Bodum blade grinder and the $10-$15 one I bought from Wal-Mart. And that's just with blade grinders. Grinders just grind beans, yes, but they grind them with differing degrees of consistency. Further, good blade grinders cut the beans while bad blade grinders just bash them to death. –  Michael Ekstrand Nov 10 '10 at 14:04

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