Burr or blade, the ongoing coffee grinder dispute. While burr grinders come out on top with a majority of coffee fiends, due to its consistent grind, a consistent grind isn’t always important. The right grinder has far less to do with its cutting process than it does with your preferred method of brewing. Before you spend more than you need to on a grinder, you should keep in mind that certain grinds work better for specific styles of brewers, and, in some circumstances a blade grinder may actually serve you best.
About Large Grind Brewers
French presses and cold-brew coffee makers work well with a large grind. French presses and cold-brew systems, on the other hand, work by maintaining contact between the water and grounds for a longer period of time, so the size of the grind matters less than in brew systems where coffee trickles through, or pushes up through, the grounds.
The size of the grind created by a blade grinder depends upon how long the grinder is run. With these brewers that use larger grind sizes, the blades don’t have to run as long, which prevents scorching of beans and makes a blade grinder a rather effective option at a lower price.
Of course, you can also set a burr grinder to a large grind for these brewers.
About Medium-Grind Brewers
Many coffee brewers work best with a medium grind, somewhere between the fine texture of pre-ground espresso and the larger texture found in most pre-ground coffee. Getting to this grind size is possible with a blade grinder, but the uneven grounds can make for uneven brewing. This is when a burr grinder comes in handy.
Brewers that prefer a medium grind include commercial auto-drip coffee makers, automatic household coffee makers, Clever and Chemex coffee makers, and stovetop espresso makers. Automatic coffee makers, Clever and Chemex browers work in the same way, by pouring hot water over grounds, which gives the water limited time to extract the coffee flavor as it sinks through the coffee. A medium grind allows the hot water to extract enough flavor, without damming up water, which can cause prolonged extraction and lead to increased bitterness.
About Fine-Grind Brewers
A finer grind best serves brewers that need the coffee to dam up to ensure enough flavor extraction. Brewers that fit into this category include the AeroPress brew system, pump espresso makers, and one-cup pour-over systems.
Turkish coffee requires the finest grind of all. These grounds are left in the boiled with the water, and left in the bottom of the cup during drinking.
While you will always get a more consistent grind with a burr grinder, if you’re using an automatic, French press or cold-brew coffee maker, opting to use a blade grinder, whether automatic or manual, that you already have on hand can save you money. For any other brewer, the burr grinder is well worth the additional cost to get the perfect flavor.