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What is a burr coffee grinder?

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Dean Cartwright

30th Sep 2022

4 minutes for reading

What is a burr coffee grinder and why are burr grinders the coffee industry standard? In this article, we explain how different coffee grinders turn beans into grounds, why burr grinders produce better results than other types and what the differences are between flat and conical burr grinders.

The two types of coffee grinder

When it comes to grinding coffee beans, there are ultimately two types of grinder on the market: blade and burr grinders. The choice between the two grinding mechanisms is one of the easiest you will ever make as a prospective barista, because apart from speed and price point, there are absolutely no advantages to buying a blade grinder over a burr grinder.

In truth, blade ‘grinders’ don’t even grind at all. They simply smash coffee beans against a couple of spinning propellors, leaving you with a heap of misshapen grinds practically guaranteed to spoil your brew. In the meantime, the heat energy created during this butchery will destroy the more subtle compounds you are releasing.

Sure, if you are forced to choose between pre-ground coffee and fresh grinds from a blade grinder, you should go for the freshly ground beans. However, in every other situation, there is really only one choice: the burr coffee grinder.

What is a burr coffee grinder?

A burr is simply a sharp edge, usually formed during a machining process. All burr coffee grinders contain a ‘burr set’, a pair of surfaces with sharp edges.

There are two basic designs of burr coffee grinder: conical and flat. We will go in to some of the subtle differences between these below, but unless you are an experienced barista, you are unlikely to notice much of a difference in results.

In both cases, the coffee beans are fed between one rotating and one stationary surface where they are ground down. The grounds then pass into a chute and are either collected in a container or directly by a portafilter.

What is a burr coffee grinder useful for?

The most important quality of a burr coffee grinder is its ability to produce an even grind. This produces a much more consistent flavour than any blade grinder.

Another advantage of burr coffee grinders is their adjustability. By altering the spacing between the two surfaces, the barista can change the coarseness of the grind.

Burr grinders are also more durable than blade grinders and operate more slowly, which means you don’t end up burning the coffee.

Conical versus flat burr grinders

While both conical and flat burr grinders outperform blade grinders, some baristas have a preference for one style.

Flat burr grinders consist of two horizontally aligned serrated discs. The beans are fed into a central channel and the resultant grounds are forced out sideways due to centrifugal force. Flat burr grinders produce the most consistent grind size of all, but since the motor has to rotate faster, they do generate more heat. There is also more of a tendency for grounds to get stuck between the discs, so flat burr grinders require more frequent cleaning.

Conical burr grinders consist of a rotating central cone, containing curved burrs, set within a serrated disc. The beans fall through the mechanism and out of the bottom when ground. Since the process is aided by gravity, the conical burr grinder can turn more slowly, creating less heat. There is also less retention of coffee grounds. However, those grounds will be less uniform than those from a flat burr grinder (though nothing like as irregular as the grounds from a blade grinder). While some baristas argue that this makes for a better quality shot, others prefer the fine control over extraction that comes from a perfectly even grind.

What is a burr coffee grinder Cartwright would recommend?

Coffee businesses are forever battling against product wastage and inconsistency, especially when quality baristas are hard to recruit and retain. The Mahlkonig E65 GBW is one of the most effective tools for tackling both of these problems.

GBW stands for ‘grind by weight’. This type of grinder will deliver the precise weight, to 0.1g, you specify for each dose. What is a burr coffee grinder for if not to guarantee a consistent flavour? With the Mahlkonig E65 GBW, you will make it much easier for staff to produce consistent shots without wasteful trial and error.

Head on over to our dedicated coffee bean grinder page to find out more.

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