How Does a Burr Grinder Work and Why Do You Need One to Create Perfect Coffee?

Updated: June 17, 2021 by Owen Richardson

how does a burr grinder work

Burr coffee grinders have been labeled as the best type of grinder to produce consistent coffee grinds. But how does a burr grinder work?

Burr grinders are slightly more complicated than blade coffee grinders, and usually, they sport a higher price tag. As a coffee enthusiast, you may be wondering: what is the justification for the expensive prices of these grinders?

If you are wondering if these grinders are worth it, the short answer is yes, they are. However, you probably want to know why these grinders are better for your cup of joe. I have outlined the mechanisms of burr coffee grinders to help you make the right choice when buying a new coffee grinder.

If you are wanting to grind your coffee beans to make fresh coffee, you may also need to choose a top-quality coffee maker for your newly-ground coffee.

Once you have the coffee maker, all you need to do is select the right burr grinder for you, and you’ll be ready to produce cafe-quality coffee.

How Do You Choose a Good-Quality Burr Grinder?

Firstly, coffee grinders are intended to chop up coffee beans into various sizes to make different types of coffee. Purchasing a good-quality grinder will allow you to choose various grind sizes for each type of coffee you would like to make.

It is important to grind your coffee into the right size for your machine to make the perfect cup of coffee. If you use the wrong size grinds, you could damage your machine and produce bad-tasting coffee.

Grind Sizes

You can choose from several different grind sizes based on the type of coffee you plan to make. There are burr coffee grinders that can give you anywhere from five to 18 grind sizes. Some grinders may even have more sizes.

While you can find machines with all several grind sizes, the main sizes are:

  • Coarse grind
  • Coarse-to-medium grind
  • Medium grind
  • Medium-to-fine grind
  • Fine grind
  • Superfine grind

The grind size will vary for each type of coffee you make and these range from a super fine grind for Turkish coffees, which usually require a specialized coffee grinder, up to coarse grinds which are great for cold brews.

grind size

How Does a Burr Grinder Work?

Burr grinders can function using an electric powered motor, or you can find hand-crank grinders that require you to manually grind up the beans. The electric types grind a lot faster than the manual grinders.

However, the electric grinders may produce a bit of friction and heat from the motor that could negatively impact your ground coffee. You want to keep heat and friction away from your grinds or it may affect the taste.

Once the grinder is set in motion by your hands or by the motor, it starts turning one of the burrs inside the machine. This burr moves against a second burr in a continuous motion. The coffee beans are then filtered through these two burrs.

As the beans are filtered through, they get crushed up between the burrs and drop down into a grinds chamber. This chamber can then be opened, and you can use your freshly ground coffee in your favorite coffee maker.

How to Use a Burr Grinder

Using a burr grinder is fairly simple regardless of whether you have a manual or an electric grinder at home. You first pour your beans into the bean loading compartment on the grinder and make sure that everything is closed tightly.

You will then select your grind size, which is usually located on a dial somewhere on the grinder. You should have an idea of the size you want your grinds to be. Then you will either press the start button if you have an electric grinder or start winding the crank on your manual grinder.

Once you have ground your coffee, you should make your coffee as soon as possible to ensure maximum freshness. As soon as you grind up the beans, an oxidation process will start and make them slowly lose flavor.

While it is not terrible to have older coffee grinds, it is much better to freshly grind them with your grinder.

Does a Burr Grinder Make a Difference?

In short, the answer is yes, a burr grinder makes a huge difference to your cup of coffee. This is due to the consistency and freshness of the grind.

When you brew your coffee, the water extracts the flavor from the coffee beans or grinds. The rate of extraction differs when there are small particles of coffee beans or large pieces of beans present.

The extraction of the flavor moves through three phases: it goes from sour to sweet and then bitter. If your coffee bean particles are uneven sizes, you won’t be able to brew your coffee to that sweet stage. Some of your grinds will stay sour, and others may over-extract, causing a bitter taste.

burr grinder

Consistency

Consistent grinds will evenly brew into your coffee, maximizing the flavor of your beans, whereas inconsistent grinds will cause an undesirable bitter flavor. Grind size is important. This is why you need a quality coffee grinder.

Burr coffee grinders force all the beans to filter through the burrs so each bean is ground to the same size. On the other hand, blade coffee grinders consist of a spinning blade in the chamber of uncut coffee beans. This blade may not chop up each bean evenly, as some of the beans may get stuck to the sides of the chamber and miss the blade.

espresso grind

Freshness

 

Another important aspect of your home coffee brewing journey is the freshness of your coffee. You can easily head to the grocery store and stock up on a few packets of ground coffee with your desired grind size. As a result, you should have consistently ground coffee, right?

While you may have a good supply of consistent grinds, you are losing out on the freshness of the coffee bean. The best cups of coffee are from beans that have been roasted recently and have not been sitting on a shelf for a couple of months.

While you may not be able to control when exactly the beans were roasted, you can at least help keep the freshness of the bean for longer by not grinding it too soon. You don’t know how long the coffee grinds have been sitting in the packet slowly losing flavor from the oxidation processes.

However, if you have a good coffee grinder at home, you can grind up your coffee beans right before you brew them, ensuring you have fresh, flavorful coffee at your fingertips.

FAQs

How long should a burr coffee grinder last?

The lifespan of your burr grinder will likely depend on how often you use it to grind the coffee as well as the type of burr that is in the grinder. If you have steel burrs, they will likely be able to handle around 1,000 pounds of coffee, whereas a ceramic burr will manage up to 1,500 pounds.

This means your burr grinder should last somewhere between five to seven years. However, some factors will determine this, such as frequency of use, how often you clean it, and how well you look after your grinder.

How will I know when my burrs from the grinder need replacing?

While the machinery of your burr coffee grinder may last a bit longer, you may need to consider replacing the burr elements to prolong the life of your grinder. If you start noticing your coffee grinds come out coarser than usual, if they are inconsistent, or if you have clumps of ground coffee coming out, you may need to investigate the burrs to see if they need changing.

If the edges on the burrs are starting to feel dull, you should consider finding a replacement set.

How often should I clean my grinder?

You should clean your grinder based on how often you use it. If you are grinding beans in a cafe, an office setting, or any other high-use area, you should probably clean the grinder once a week or every second week.

If you are simply grinding beans for home use, you can probably get away with cleaning your grinder once a month. If you are using beans that have a high oil content, then you should clean the grinder more often.

Final Thoughts

Since coffee is good for your health, you should be prioritizing taste to consume it often!

Burr grinders are the better option when it comes to grinding up your favorite coffee beans for that fresh cup of coffee in the morning. This grinding method will help you produce tasty coffee that isn’t sour or bitter.

While the price of these grinders may put you off slightly, it will be a better investment in the long run. If you get a cheap blade grinder and don’t enjoy the coffee, you may want to replace it with a burr grinder anyway, meaning you will end up spending more money. Investing in a burr grinder from the beginning will ensure you have good-tasting coffee at all times for the next few years.

While the grinder is important to the flavor of your coffee, so is the quality of beans you use. Check out our top picks of the best beans for your home brewing.

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