Purists will always tell you that the best coffee comes from beans ground immediately before the coffee is brewed. This is a familiar refrain that veteran coffee drinkers know from by heart. It makes sense, then, that no kitchen is complete without a coffee grinder up to the task of turning your favorite beans into a savory cup of Joe.
What Makes a Great Coffee Grinder?
In the world of the coffee grinder there are two basic forms: burr grinders and blade grinders. The difference between the two is simply how the beans are processed. Burr grinders use, obviously, burrs, which resemble plates with gears on them. One of the burrs spins and grinds the beans against the other burr, which is stationary. Blade coffee grinders use a spinning blade to grind the beans.
When it comes to great coffee, there are several factors which affect the finished product. The most important of these are heat and uniformity. Since the process of grinding coffee is relatively violent, both burr and blade grinders generate some heat. Heat is undesirable in a coffee grinder because it damages the coffee. The faster the grinding mechanism, the more heat that gets imparted to the coffee. Finer grinds also gather heat because of the extra time they spend being ground.
One way around the issue of heat is to buy the expensive but wonderful low-speed burr grinders. The low speed might mean it takes slightly longer to turn your beans into grinds, but anyone who has used one of these beauties will attest to the quality of coffee they produce.
Another important quality factor is the uniformity of the grind. In the brewing process, the water spends a set amount of time passing over the grinds. Uniform grinds are much more efficient at imparting flavor to the water. It might be difficult to tell from a casual glance, but blade grinders do a poor job of creating a uniform grind. Burr grinders, on the other hand, produce exceptionally uniform grinds, resulting in a much better cup of coffee.
Obviously, when selecting a coffee grinder, the burr grinder is the way to go. Some of the higher-end models can cost several hundred dollars, putting them out of the reach of some consumers. This does not mean that a small budget always gets a poor coffee grinder. Many websites offering burr grinders have models under $100. While that might seem somewhat expensive, it is an investment in improving a daily ritual, and who can put a dollar value on a better cup of coffee each morning?