Nothing beats freshly ground coffee when it comes to making the most flavorful and very aromatic cup of coffee to perk your day. Pre-ground coffee may be very convenient for some. However, true-blue coffee connoisseurs would rather not start their day with coffee if it means using instant coffee.
The only way you can enjoy a truly wonderful cup of coffee is by grinding your favorite coffee beans yourself. The right coffee grinder can give you all the amazing qualities of coffee sip after sip. And this begins with a very clear understanding of the different types of coffee grinders.
Most people think that there are only three types of coffee grinders: burr, blade, and manual. You’d be surprised to know that there are many ways you can classify coffee grinders. Let’s look at all of them.
By Grinding Mechanism
One of the most common way of classifying coffee grinders is through their grinding mechanism. This is that part of the machine or device that does the actual grinding of the coffee beans.
Think of it as the blades of your blender. It’s what chops or cuts your veggies and fruits. This is the same thing with a coffee grinder.
There are two types of coffee grinders according to their grinding mechanism.
These coffee grinders have blades that rotate to grind coffee beans. They look very similar to the blades of your food processor or your blender. That’s why some modern blenders and choppers can also grind coffee beans.
The problem with blade coffee grinders is that there is no way to control the texture (fineness or coarseness) of the coffee grounds. The longer you operate the grinder, the finer the coffee grounds are. The issue with prolonged ‘grinding’ is that the heat generated by the spinning blades might ‘burn’ the coffee beans.
You also get coffee grounds with uneven sizes.
Blade grinders are noisy and can be messy. The good news is that blade coffee grinders are less expensive than burr type grinders. They are also more durable.
This is the type of coffee grinder that your favorite barista uses to grind fresh coffee beans straight from the bag. The grinding mechanism consists of two discs that can either be conical or flat in shape. One-disc spins, while the other is stationary.
Both discs have serrations or ‘burrs’ that allow the mechanism to crush each coffee bean as the disc spins.
Burr grinders allow you to adjust the spacing between the discs. This helps determine the size of the coffee grounds that will go into your coffee brewing machine. The machine will only empty coffee grounds into the collection chamber once the correct size has been achieved.
That’s why the coffee grounds made by a burr grinder are uniform in size.
Burr grinders can be further classified according to the shape of their grinding discs and the material used in the manufacture of the discs.
Conical Burr Grinders
As the name implies, these grinding discs have a conical shape. Baristas and coffee connoisseurs attest to the excellent grinding qualities of conical burr grinders. These grinders typically work at a lower speed setting, avoiding excessive heat generation that can affect the flavor profile of the coffee grounds.
Conical burr grinders are less messy and less noisy. They are also best for grinding oily coffee beans. You won’t have any problems with burr clogging.
The only issue you may have is the steep price of these products compared to coffee grinders with other types of grinding mechanisms.
Flat or Wheel Burr Grinders
Less expensive than conical burr grinders, wheel burr grinders are still superior to blade grinders. You get fast coffee grounds to brew and in uniform size, too.
The only issue here is that the discs tend to spin very fast. This can heat the grinding mechanism and ‘burn’ your coffee beans. They also tend to be noisier than conical burr grinders because of the high-speed oscillation.
Wheel burr grinders also have the tendency to be messier than conical burrs.
Ceramic Burr Grinders
Coffee shops often use ceramic burr grinders because of a few distinct advantages over stainless steel burr grinders.
Ceramic burr grinders are more durable. They are also able to retain their sharpness throughout its life span. This is despite stainless steel burr grinders being sharper initially, only to become dull in the long run.
There are some people who claim that ceramic grinders do not ‘burn’ their coffee beans.
This type of burr grinder is perfect for those who want a more traditional feel and taste of coffee. It provides coffee drinks a very distinct coffee mouth feel. The coffee you drink has more body.
The downside to ceramic burr coffee grinders is that they are more expensive than stainless steel burr grinders. This material may be durable, but not unbreakable. There’s a good chance you’ll break the ceramic burr disks if you’re not careful about its operation and storage.
Stainless Steel Burr Grinders
Stainless steel is a favorite of many chefs and other experts in the kitchen. It makes perfect sense that they would also choose a coffee grinder with a stainless-steel burr disc. The material is corrosion-resistant, allowing for ease of cleaning.
Their burrs are also sharper than what you can find in ceramic burrs.
The main problem is that repeated use can make the burrs dull over time. They can also heat up a lot faster than ceramic discs. This can have an impact on the overall flavor profile of your coffee.
If you’re careful in grinding your coffee using a stainless-steel disc, it is still possible to get a great-tasting coffee. The coffee you get tastes and feels clean because of the precision grinding of the coffee beans.
Here’s another way you can classify coffee grinders. Do take note that the coffee grinder classification we learned in the preceding section (blade vs. burr) can also apply in this categorization according to how you operate the device. One runs on good, old-fashioned hand power, while the other runs on electricity.
Hence, you can have either a manual or an electric burr grinder or blade grinder.
Any device that doesn’t require electricity, either from an outlet or a portable power source, can be rightfully considered as manual. A manual coffee grinder is no different. You will rely on your hand and arm muscles to crank a lever that will spin the grinding disk or blade in the machine.
This is never an issue if you are only going to make a cup for you and your partner. The task can prove daunting if you need to prepare coffee grounds that’s good for the whole team.
Another issue with manual coffee grinders is that they do tend to have very limited grind settings. Most manual coffee grinders typically come with 3 grind settings: fine, medium, and coarse.
On the bright side, good-quality manual grinders can provide you with consistently uniform coffee grounds. It is also durable, portable, and very easy to operate. Above all, you will never spend a fortune on a manual grinder.
Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to electric grinders. You can pour your coffee beans into the chamber, turn on the device, and press a button to start grinding. You can then do other things in the kitchen or even entertain your guests while waiting for the coffee beans to be ground to perfection.
Unfortunately, picking the best electric coffee grinder can be very challenging. The performance, safety, durability, and coffee grinding efficiency are very varied across different brands, models, series, and price ranges of electric coffee grinders. Some say that beginners are better off getting a high-end manual coffee grinder than a budget electric device.
It goes without saying that only high-end electric devices can provide you with a high level of convenience and coffee grinding consistency. Some products can have up to 40 different grind settings, giving you precision control.
A high-quality electric coffee grinder is the perfect choice for people who want absolute perfection in their coffee drinks.
Speed of Grinding
Another way you can classify coffee grinders is the speed of rotation of their grinding discs or blades. In general, the faster the revolution per minute (RPM), the sooner you will be able to brew your freshly-ground coffee. Unfortunately, there are pros and cons to each type of grinder.
Most high-speed grinders have a flat burr disc, instead of a conical type. The parallel orientation of the two discs allows for the more efficient revolution of the grinding disc relative to the stationary disc. However, there are also conical burr grinders that have speed selection modes that can operate at very fast RPMs.
What is amazing about high-speed grinders is the uniform consistency of the coffee grounds. It allows you to enjoy the kind of coffee that you want, extracting all the flavors and aromas of each coffee granule all at the same time.
One downside to high-speed grinders is the effect of heat on the coffee beans. The faster the disc spins, the greater is the heat produced. The good news is that this is often countered by the relatively short period of time that the coffee beans are ground.
Since the coffee beans get ground a lot faster, they don’t get exposed to the increasing temperature of the grinder.
High-speed grinders are more expensive than low-speed grinders. This is because of the more powerful motor that manufacturers must use to turn the grinding disc at high speed.
These coffee grinders often employ conical burr discs. The unique shape of the disc prevents its rotation at a speed that can match a flat burr disc. However, there are still conical burr grinders that can operate at high speeds.
If you compare these devices to flat burr grinders, their speed will be at the lower end of the range of flat grinders.
One major advantage of low-speed coffee grinders is that they tend to produce less heat. They are not as noisy as high-speed grinders, too. The only issue is that this type of grinder may not give you the uniform consistency of the coffee grounds that you may want.
By Coffee Grinder Drive
This is related to the speed of the grinding mechanism. It reflects the kind of motor that will drive the grinding discs of the coffee grinder.
Direct Drive Grinders
These coffee grinders have burrs that connect to a low-speed motor via a direct drive mechanism. There are no gears involved. As such, the speed of the burrs is commensurate to the speed of the motor.
If the motor spins at 1500 RPM, then the burrs will spin at the same rate.
Because of the low speed of rotation of both the motor and the burrs, you get a quieter coffee grinder. You don’t also have problems with the burrs heating up and altering the flavor profile of your coffee grounds.
Gear Reduction Grinders
The main difference between gear reduction grinders and grinders that have a direct drive system is the presence of gears in the former. You can think of it in terms of the gears of your 18-speed bicycle. Going uphill will be difficult if you have the gears of your bicycle in high.
This is because a bicycle’s high gear is often the gear with the largest diameter. To counter this, you need to downshift so that you will be spinning the smaller gears in a more efficient manner.
Having said that, a coffee grinder with a gear reduction system will have different speeds for the motor and the burrs. For instance, the motor can spin at 2000 RPM, while the burrs oscillate at 1500 RPM.
Most gear reduction grinders use a high-speed motor. The gears allow the device to spin the burrs at a much lower speed than the RPM of the motor. These devices tend to be noisier than coffee grinders with direct drive systems.
Coffee Ground Dose Capabilities
Coffee grinders have a bean hopper for holding fresh, unground coffee beans. You put the beans in the hopper and then turn on the machine to start grinding the beans. Coffee grounds then get directed into a coffee ground container before they reach the portafilter or receptacle.
You can also classify coffee grinders according to their ability to provide you with a measured dose of ground coffee in the coffee ground container.
These coffee grinders allow to produce carefully-measured ‘doses’ of coffee grounds. These machines have six equal sections, each capable of holding anywhere between 6 and 7 grams of coffee grounds. There is a lever or a handle in front of the container.
You rotate this so that the ‘dose’ of ground coffee empties into the portafilter or the receptacle for brewing.
This type of coffee grinder is ideal for making coffee drinks that require very precise amounts of coffee grounds. An example of this is espresso. The only problem with this type of grinder is that it can produce noisy, churning sounds.
It’s more expensive, too.
As expected, non-dosing grinders do not have a coffee ground container that provides an exact measure of grounds. There are machines that pour ground coffee directly into the portafilter. Other machines empty the ground coffee into a built-in container.
The downside of such a grinder is obvious. You will have to measure the coffee grounds using another method. If not, you will be left with a coffee that is either too strong or too light to your liking.
The advantage of such a grinder is it’s quieter. It’s cheaper, too.
By Grind Adjustments
Coffee grinders can also come in two types of grind adjustments. This is very important because one of the characteristics of burr-type coffee grinders is the presence of two discs that require adjustments in the space between them. This space dictates the size of coffee grounds that the machine will produce.
This type of coffee grinders has a locking mechanism that allows you to ‘lock’ a grind setting. Every time you use the grinder, there is no more need to adjust the settings again. This is because operating the grinder can somehow change the grind setting as a result of vibrations.
Stepped grinders can come in two types: lever and self-holding. Lever stepped grinders require you to press a release lever before you turn the hopper. This allows for the adjustment of the grind setting.
You lock the setting into place by releasing the pressure on the lever.
The second type of stepped grinders is the self-holding grinder. There is an adjustment knob that you can use to make the desired grind setting. Some models may require you to turn the hopper instead.
In both cases, you will hear a clicking sound, with each click representing one level of grind setting.
The name implies that there are no predetermined ‘stops’ in the grind adjustment. You can turn the knob freely. The obvious drawback of such a grinder is that you may not achieve consistency in coffee grounds in between grinding sessions.
Coffee grinders can come in different types, classified according to their different components and / or functions. You can use this information to help you choose the best possible coffee grinder to bring home.