I’ve used both of these coffee grinders extensively throughout my career and worked with a number of coffee experts who prefer either. So, it’s about time I put my findings about each of them into one article.
Here are the main things we’ll be looking at in the article:
Let’s get into it.
The Key Takeaways
- Blade and burr grinders grind the coffee in completely different ways (random vs fine)
- The conical burr coffee grinder is the most popular type of grinder in the world
- Flat burrs are better for a finer blend
- Blade coffee grinders can save you money and convenience
- Conical burr grinders are more versatile which is why I recommend them
What’s the Difference? Burr Grinders vs Blade Grinders
Burr grinders uses metal or ceramic ‘burrs’ (curved pieces of metal) which revolve and grind the coffee. Blade grinders, on the other hand, use a sharp spinning blade to shred the coffee into tiny pieces.
Burr grinders crush coffee more consistently while blade grinders are a little more random in the grind output as they use a spinning blade to chop the beans into shreds.
That’s why I generally recommend using a burr over a blade. The extra level of control means you can finesse your grind to make it work for the coffee drink you’re trying to brew.
Although a blade grinder does have the benefit of being easier to use and it starts lower in price.
Let’s find out more about which type of grinder is better for which type of person (and coffee) in the next section.
Burr Grinders vs. Blade Grinders: Which is Better?
I’ve pretty much already established by now that burr coffee grinders will be better than blade grinders. But let’s find out more about which is better for who.
|Burr Grinder||Blade Grinder|
|Aroma and taste||*|
|Ease of use||*|
|Control over grind||*|
|Best for spices||*|
Let’s unpack these categories in more detail.
Aroma and taste – Winner: Burr
Because of the fact that a burr crushes coffee into a consistent grind, it’s possible to get the blend a lot finer. This means you’re going to get a better taste and aroma than a blade grinder, which just chops the beans into randomly sized particles.
Grind consistency – Winner: Burr
A burr coffee grinder is a much smoother blend as we’ve just found out and this is much better for those who like to make a particular blend of coffee. You’ll be able to grind much more fine with burrs, for example, and this is better for espresso drinks and such.
With a blade grinder, the beans are thrown around a lot more so the amount they get sliced up will be a lot more random, even if you grind for longer. That’s fine for French press coffee but not much else.
Affordability – Winner: Blade
One of the key benefits of a blade grinder over a burr grinder is that the starting price point is lower.
Be warned about this though. Just because a blade grinder is cheap, it doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. I’ve found that some of the cheapest blade grinders create a pretty horrible grind and at that point, you might as well be buying pre-ground coffee from the store. It’d taste better!
Ease of use – Winner: Blade
There’s no denying that using a blade grinder is easier overall. All you need to do is chuck the beans in and give it a spin or a twist. Coffee beans and ground coffee are less likely to get stuck than with a burr grinder.
The blade grinder is also going to be easier to maintain as it’s a lot less awkward to clean. The parts are a lot straighter and you won’t necessarily need to worry about dismantling the whole grinder to clean it every single time.
Speed – Winner: Blade
Blade grinders grind your beans up quicker than a burr grinder. There’s a sharp piece of metal that spins round and annihilates the beans whereas burrs move more slowly and crush the beans down over a period of time.
Sure, this might only save you a few seconds which ain’t much in the grand scheme of things. But then again, every second counts for a lot of people!
Durability – Winner: Burr
A key negative of the blade grinder is that the sharp blade will dull over time, a lot quicker than a burr grinder deteriorates.
You might find that a blade grinder lasts a couple of years if you use it every day. However, a burr grinder should last up to 10 years if you take good care of it.
That being said, you can technically sharpen a blade grinder but it’s not possible to elongate the life of a burr grinder in any other way than to just generally look after it.
Of course, the actual quality and the material of the grinder itself will have a key part in how long your grinder lasts for with either type. That’s why I always recommend opting for a branded grinder made from stainless steel or high quality ceramics.
Control over grind – Winner: Burr
Any coffee expert will tell you that being able to tell you that being able to control how fine your coffee grind is will help you craft the perfect cup of coffee, no matter which coffee drink you’re making.
I’ll take a look at the best grinds for each type of coffee in the ‘Which grinder is best for which type of coffee section?’ later on. But for now, I can tell you that a burr grinder is much better for finesse.
It crushes the beans in a very precise way, no matter whether you opt for the conical or the flat burr.
On the other hand, a blade grinder flings beans around and crushes them up at random, so it will be impossible to get the grind to a precise level. For that reason, I’d only ever recommend a blade grinder to those looking to make French press coffee.
Best for spices – Winner: Burr
Because spices need to be ground super fine, I’d never use a blade grinder for them. You’re going to want a burr grinder, and the best option of two would be a flat burr as this is able to grind up the spices to a finer degree than a conical burr.
By the way, it’s always best to make sure that you keep your coffee and spices separate by using a different grinder for each. It’s harder to clean spices in a grinder so you may find that those spices ruin the taste of any coffee beans you grind up after.
Overall Winner: The Burr Coffee Grinder
There’s a reason that professional coffee makers use burrs instead of blades. In fact, there are a few reasons: they’re easier to control the grind, they’re more durable and they make better tasting coffee are the key ones.
That all being said, if you want to make French press coffee and save some time and money in the process, you could still get away with a blade grinder. Just make sure you don’t buy a super cheap one, as budget blade grinders are a bit of a waste of time.
Let’s take a closer look at each type of grinder in the next section.
Burr Coffee Grinders
- More control
- Better taste
- Stronger durability
- More expensive
The most popular type of coffee grinder in the world is the burr grinder. You’re likely to see conical and burr coffee grinders in most coffee shops (and homes) around the world.
The ‘burr’ itself is the part of the grinder that actually grinds up the beans. This style of grinding is preferred by most baristas around the world as it has the benefit of grinding up the beans more finely than with a blade grinder.
There are two main types of burr grinders, and the main difference between them is the shape of the burrs. Here’s a look at each of them.
Conical burr coffee grinder
In a conical burr grinder, you’ll see two blades. One of them is shaped like a cone and it’s on the inside of the grinder. It spins around against a stationary outside burr to create the grind.
Conical burrs are a fantastic entry level coffee grinder because they’re well priced and they’re very versatile in terms of the types of coffee drinks they’re suited to grinding.
Flat burr coffee grinder
As the name of this grinder suggests, there’s a single flat burr on the inside. The burr itself has a number of teeth that are used to grind the beans as the grinder turns.
As such, this type of grinder can be more expensive and a little harder to maintain or clean. But the key benefit is that it grinds finer, which benefits some drinks.
Conical burrs vs. flat burrs
Of the two, the conical burr is more popular than the flat. It has a lower starting price point and a more versatile grinder, making it better for beginners and those who like to grind a wide variety of coffee drinks.
But a lot of baristas prefer the fine grind of the flat burr grinder. It’s better suited to Turkish and espresso coffee, for example. But we’ll find out more about that later on in this article.
Blade Coffee Grinders
- Easier to use
- More affordable
- Less consistent blend
- Not as good a taste
If you want to save a little money and time, you could opt for a blade coffee grinder instead. Personally, I’m not a big fan of blade grinders but I can definitely see the appeal of them.
Blade grinders could be suited to those who aren’t so particular about the grind of their coffee and are willing to sacrifice some of the taste and aroma.
A blade coffee grinder features a spinning blade that chops the beans into tiny bits instead of crushes them like burrs do. The result comes about much quicker but it does mean that the grind ends up being pretty inconsistent which can affect taste negatively.
This is fine for coffee that goes into a French press, for example, but it’s far from ideal for an espresso or a Turkish coffee.
Which Grinder is Best for Which Type of Coffee?
It’s all well and good picking between a blade and a burr coffee grinder. But if you like to drink a particular coffee drink all the time, you should also consider which grinder is better for that.
Here’s a look at some of those coffee drinks:
|Coffee grinder||Grind finesse||Best for|
|Flat burr||Extra fine||Espresso, Turkish|
|Conical burr||Fine||Drip coffee, espresso|
|Blade||Not so fine, uneven||French press, pour over|
By the way, when I say that the blade grinder is best for French press and pour over, it doesn’t mean I specifically recommend it for that. If I were mainly making these two types of coffee, I’d still be buying a conical burr grinder for the reasons described throughout this article.
Other Factors to Consider
Outside of deciding whether to go for a blade or a burr grinder, I recommend thinking about the following things when you choose your grinder.
If you want to know more about the general factors of coffee grinders, check out our ultimate coffee grinder buying guide.
Coffee grinders from quality brands are likely to offer higher quality than unbranded or unheard of-branded grinders. They might cost a little more money to buy, but I always recommend spending a little more to make sure you get the best quality product.
Not only will the grinder put out a better grind, it’ll also be more durable and could also be easier to use.
A good brand is likely to have a better warranty program as well. With budget brands, you might find that it’s harder to claim against a manufacturer issue but the big names out there will be more likely to look after you.
Of course, you should never spend any more money than you want to. There’s a lot of range in price between coffee grinders!
Conical burr grinders can cost anything from $20 to $100s. I’d generally recommend spending around $50 as an entry level amount though. $20 burr grinders are likely not to be very good quality. For flat burr grinders, you should spend $80-$100.
You can go even cheaper with a blade grinder as these can be as low as $10. But this is worth staying away from as blade grinders aren’t ideal and super cheap ones won’t do a great job.
Manual or electric
Another way that you can control your budget is by opting for a manual grinder. This is by far the cheaper option and it can be pretty fun to grind your coffee by hand.
If you can afford to spend a little more, I’d recommend getting an electric grinder though. With this, you’ll be able to control the speed of your grind and electric grinders are a lot more convenient.
Controlling your grind speed is important as different speeds are better for different coffees as you can see in this table:
|Coffee Maker||Grind Recommended||Coffee Grinder Speed|
|Drip coffee maker||Medium||Medium|
The reason for this is that lower speeds create a more well distributed grind.
If you need a little help in buying an actual coffee machine, you can check out my buying guide to espresso machines here.
Bean hopper size
If you like to make a lot of coffee in one go, consider the size of the bean hopper. You can get an extra large hopper for extra grinding, although most home coffee users will be fine with a regular sized hopper.
Those opting for an electric coffee grinder may also be able to pick from these features:
- Timer: This device will measure how long your current grind has lasted for.
- Auto stop: You can often set the timer to stop at a certain time.
- Digital interfaces: An interface will show you the numbers.
Blade and Burr Coffee Grinder FAQs
Check out the answers to some more important questions about burr and blade coffee grinders below.
Can I use my blade or burr coffee grinder to grind spices?
I do not recommend using your coffee grinder for anything other than coffee. Spices and other foodstuffs can damage the mechanisms of the grinder and stain the metal or ceramics, which will affect the taste of your coffee.
How should I clean my coffee grinder?
It’s really important to clean your coffee grinder every week or two. There are specific tablets you can get to clean your grinder like this, and you can read about those and the process in general in this guide.
Should I buy an electric or manual grinder?
This depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s portability or affordability you’re looking for, a hand coffee grinder will be better for you. But if you want speed and convenience, an electric grinder is the one to go for.
If it’s a manual coffee grinder you’re after, you can find out the best ones in this article.
Final Thoughts on Burr vs. Blade Coffee Grinders
A bad grinder makes a bad cup of coffee, so choosing which type of grinder to go for is a great place to start.
I’d recommend the conical burr coffee grinder to most coffee fanatics out there. That’s true of those just getting into it, or experts looking for a new grinder.
The exception to this would be if you wanted to consistently create a very fine blend. In that case, the flat burr coffee grinder is probably going to be a better option.
Sure, you can still get a blade coffee grinder if you’re not so worried about getting the perfect taste out of your coffee beans. It will save you some money and some time.
Now that you’ve picked between a burr and a blade coffee grinder, it’s time to think about what coffee to buy. You can learn everything you need to know about coffee in this article.