Brew Better: How to choose a coffee grinder

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Of the many factors that determine the amount of joy and flavor in a cup of coffee, some might argue that the grinder itself is the most important part of the process outside of the coffee itself. We’ve done our fair share of coffee grinding and thought we’d share what we’ve learned along the way.

Can’t I just use a blade grinder?

Not so much. Blade grinders to do a terrible job of evenly grinding coffee. You will get a lot of fines mixed with a bunch of big boulders. If you have to use a blade grinder, use a french press, or Bonavita dripper so that you get a full immersion brew. Blade grinders will produce an inconsistent cup with drip methods. Don’t even think about trying to brew a Hario V-60 with a blade grinder!


Quality conical burr grinders earn their hefty price tags by creating grinds that are extraordinarily consistent and precise.

How much do I need to spend?

You need to spend about $125 to get a decent entry level burr grinder. Our go to recommendation is the Baratza Encore. Baratza has great service, its fairly easy to replace the burrs over time and the grinder can perform well across a bunch of grind settings with the exception of espresso (which is another can of worms entirely). One grinder that I constantly see in kitchens is the Cuisinart burr grinder. This product is noisy, messy and produces a TON of fine particles. Here is a simple rule of thumb for buying a home burr grinder:

Is it made by Baratza or Breville? Buy it
Is it made by any other company? Don’t buy it

Can a hand burr grinder work?

The short answer is no. It will only be a slight upgrade over a blade grinder, still a fair distance from the grind quality of an electric burr grinder. Cheaper hand grinders are going to be slow (always), and wildly inconsistent in size due to the cheap mechanics that can’t hold the burrs steady (I’m talking about commonly found hand grinders from Hario that were designed to grind spices). There is one notable exception, Lido, who makes a line of grinders that are beautiful beasts. They still have a similar burr set to the Baratza grinders and they are more expensive. They will last a lifetime with proper care.

Can I just grind it at the store or buy ground coffee?

Yes you can, and in some cases you may be better off having your local roaster grind it in the shop if you are going to consume the coffee in less than a week. Your cups are going to get progressively more oxidized as time goes on, however, you will get a professional quality grind.

by Black Oak Team | March 18, 2019 | 2 Comments

Tagged: Brew Better, how to brew

Comments


Jon Frech
March 20, 2019

Jon Frech

Thank Phil. You are right, this is not intended to be a comprehensive review of each grinder.

We really appreciate your input as we plan to generate more regular and in depth commentary on each grinder. We intended it to be a quick guide. Every product that we recommend here we have years of history of use on as a staff. The Baratza Encore is noisy and produces fine particles and chaff, however, we feel, that for the money, over the life of the purchase, it’s the best value entry level burr grinder available. Even commercial shop grinders that cost thousands of dollars have these issues. Baratza grinders are used by coffee professionals in brewing competitions and we feel that they are the gold standard for home grinders at each price point.

Phil
March 20, 2019

Phil

Thanks for the recommendation on grinders. But, I think as experts in coffee your recommendations should get into more detail and address several basic criteria other than grind size. For example, clogging, cleanliness, static cling, and ergonomics. If you review the comments for Baratza Encore on a well known selling site you will see there are several issues that you should evaluate. Bottom line, I think us premium specialty coffee drinkers need a more comprehensive review from you. Much thanks, Phil

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