Coffee Grinders 101

Coffee lovers know that there is nothing quite like grinding your own coffee beans. From the aroma coming from the grinder to that first sip of piping hot, freshly brewed coffee the entire experience is sheer pleasure to the taste buds.

Today’s grocery stores typically carry many flavors of coffee beans. You can purchase them there and grind them as well if you like. However, for the best coffee flavor you should purchase your own grinder and grind them at home. There are several reasons for this.

Grinding your beans at home assures you that you are only getting your coffee beans only and not residual coffee grounds from everyone who has ground coffee before you. In your home you will be cleaning your grinder between uses, in the grocery store you have to rely on the machine to self-clean. Another reason for grinding your coffee beans at home is freshness. The best coffee is brewed from beans that have just been ground. Pre-grinding allows some of the flavors to escape.


There are basically two types of coffee bean grinders available, a blade grinder and a burr grinder. Blade grinders are the least expensive, starting around $10 – $15 dollars while burr grinders start around $50. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for and with coffee grinders the difference is in the taste of the coffee. Your choice will depend on how much you are willing to pay for the grinder and how sensitive your taste buds are to the resulting product. If possible try finding a sample coffee ground from each one to make your comparison.

A blade grinder uses a single blade that moves in circular motion much like a blender blade. Blade grinders tend to heat the coffee beans as they grind them which can result in a scorched taste and a loss of flavor. If you use a blade grinder you should grind in short bursts rather than a long grind that goes on for a minute or more. This insures that you aren’t scorching the beans as they grind.

Burr grinders use a grinding wheel and a stationary surface for grinding the beans. Burr grinders create a much more evenly ground coffee with no scorching or heating of the coffee beans as they grind.

Burr grinders come in the wheel burr or the conical burr. The wheel burr is the less expensive of the two but can be very noisy and messier. The conical burr is the best coffee grinder but will cost you more. It is quieter and less messy than the wheel burr and doesn’t clog as easily.

Types of Grinds

If you look at the commercial grinder in your local grocery retailer you will see that it is labeled with many different settings. These setting correspond to how you are going to use your coffee, such as drip coffee maker, espresso maker, percolator and more. Not all home grinders are labeled like this and you will need to practice how long you grind the coffee to reach your desired grind. This is particularly true with blade grinders as the grind is determined more so by the amount of time the beans are ground. Where burr grinders have settings.

There are three basic coffee grinds: fine, medium and coarse. Most household coffee makers work fine with a medium grind. The amount of time in the grinder determines the grind.

Coarse: Coarse ground coffee works best in mixer grinder percolators. To achieve a coarse grind the coffee beans should only be ground 5-10 seconds at most.

Medium: Medium ground coffee is the suggested drip coffee makers or a French Press. This usually takes 10-15 seconds in the grinder, using short burst to avoid scorching.

Fine: A very fine grind is used for espresso makers. This grind takes 25-30 seconds and must be done in short bursts to prevent scorching. If using a blade grinder you should shake the grinder between bursts to achieve a uniform grind.


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