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Steel Burr vs Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinders: What’s the Best Option and Why?

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Steel burr coffee grinders are better for most people as they don’t break easily and can either be more affordable or better quality. However, you might prefer the sharpness and durability of a coffee grinder.

To help you make the decision as to which one to go for, I’ve been curating all the best and worst bits of both options.

I’ve used both types of burrs for many years so today, I’ll be explaining all the differences between the two.

Stay tuned to find out all about…

Let us begin.

Key Takeaways

  • Steel burrs is in the most cases the better option and is far more popular
  • Ceramic burrs stay sharper for longer but can crack
  • There’s more scope in budget and quality for steel burrs
  • Steel is better for espresso

Steel Burrs vs Ceramic Burrs: Which is Best?

The most common burr material for a coffee grinder by far is stainless steel. It’s more versatile than ceramic in terms of quality. So, you can get budget steel or high quality steel. Ceramic tends to be around the same quality and price point. 

The main difference between steel and ceramic burrs is the durability. Stainless steel can wear down over time and this means you’ll need to replace the burrs every few years, depending on the quality of the steel and the frequency of use.

However, ceramic burrs can crack when you apply power to them. You’ll often find ceramic burrs in manual grinders instead of electric ones for this reason. 

But it’s not unheard of to find electric ceramic burrs. These might be expensive though as the ceramic needs to be a lot thicker.

But there’s more to it than just durability and price. Here’s a look at how each burr material stacks up in a head to head.

Low NoiseXX
Grind SpeedX
Consistency X
Ease of UseXX
Maintenance and DurabilityX
Fine GrindX
Medium GrindX
Coarse GrindX

As you can see, there are a lot of ties. But within those ties, there are a few benefits to either burr material. So stay with me to find out how I chose which burr material won or drew each category.

Taste – It’s a tie 

The main factor that could impact the taste of your coffee with regards to burr material is heat. Ceramic burrs conduct less heat than steel ones, and this means your coffee won’t get as hot when you grind it.

Personally, I think the difference in taste is going to be minimal at worst. But it could be worth considering if you’re going to be grinding a lot of coffee at a low speed for the likes of French press and filter coffee (as it’s low speeds that also conduct more heat).

On the flipside, some types of coffee are said to taste better when ground at a slightly higher temperature. In this case, steel might be the better option [1]. 

Price – Steel burr is the winner

It’s hard to say one way or another whether ceramic or stainless steel is going to be more expensive as there are a lot of variables. 

Stainless steel can vary a lot in price as the quality can be very different. Cheap, bottom of the line stainless steel is going to be a lot cheaper than ceramic. But if it’s super compact and lined with titanium then it’s going to blow ceramic out of the water financially.

If you’re on a budget, steel is going to be the better option for you. You can get it cheaper. And at the same time, if you want to spend more to get super high quality, you can do that with steel as well.

That’s why I’ve selected steel as the winner for this category.

Consistency – Steel burr is the winner

Ceramic burrs tend to be sharper than steel ones and this means they’re going to be able to slice through coffee beans with ease. As a result, the consistency is going to be more even and the grind quality is going to be high.

This is great for espresso and other coffee drinks that require a fine and even grind. But the distribution might not be so good for coarse grinds for the likes of French press.

High quality stainless steel is probably going to be able to match the consistency of ceramic burrs. And steel can be versatile with its distribution which means it’s often good for more coarse grind drinks as well.

For the versatility of the consistency, I’ve picked steel as the winner for this category. 

Low Noise – It’s a tie 

You won’t notice a difference in noise level between these two burr materials. Both ceramic and steel are going to be equally as loud as each other.

Noise is generally affected more by factors like the quality of the grinder in terms of the build and the materials used, the speed of the grinder and a few other things.

You can read more about grinder noise in this article. 

Retention – Ceramic burr is the winner

You won’t notice much of a difference between ceramic burrs and steel burrs for retention. The level of retention is mainly affected by the shape of the grinder and the burrs. 

For example, flat burrs have better retention than conical burrs. To find out more about the differences between these two burr shapes, take a look at this comparison guide.

That being said, ceramic burrs may hold ever so slightly less coffee residue when they’re older, compared to steel burrs of the same age. Steel burrs can get scratched over time and these scratches can hold coffee. So, ceramic burrs just about edge the win for this category.

Grind Speed – Steel burr is the winner

The material of the burr does not have a direct effect on the speed of the grind. But you’ll be able to achieve a much faster grind speed with steel burrs than you will be able to with ceramic burrs. 

That’s because ceramic burrs are prone to shattering more easily. And this is going to be much more of a risk when the burrs are moving at high velocity.

As such, you’re only really going to see ceramic burrs in manual grinders or slower RPM electric grinders. Steel burrs, on the other hand, can go up to thousands of RPM. That’s very fast indeed! 

So, steel burrs technically have to win the grind speed category. 

By the way, you can find out more about grind speed in this article. 

Ease of Use – It’s a tie 

The burr material won’t make a difference for getting your grinder set up and then using it day to day. Both ceramic and steel burrs are both as easy to use as each other. 

This is because they operate in the same way. To the user, it won’t make any difference.

Cleaning – Ceramic burr is the winner 

As mentioned earlier on, steel burrs can get more easily scratched over time (especially lower quality steel). The small scratches can hold onto coffee residue more easily.

This means that ceramic burrs are going to be easier to clean when they’re a few years old.

You won’t notice much of a difference when the burrs are brand new but over time, you’ll start to see the effects.

Maintenance and Durability – Steel burr is the winner

This is the area in which there’s most of a difference between the two burr materials. Steel burrs will wear down more quickly but it won’t crack as easily as ceramic burrs will.

Stainless steel comes in a number of different forms, and the quality varies substantially. Budget steel won’t last more than about five or six years if you use it every day. 

You’ll sometimes find stainless steel reinforced with titanium. This is super expensive but it does mean that it will last a lot longer, and it can be sharper as well. 

Ceramic burrs will stay sharp for a very long time but there is one key issue – they are vulnerable to cracking. That’s why it’s worth keeping the speed down if you use ceramic burrs. 

There won’t be too much of a difference in terms of the ease of actually maintaining the grinders. Just make sure you keep both of them clean to avoid any damage! 

Best for Fine Grind – Steel burr is the winner

Steel burrs are generally going to be for finer grinds, e.g. espresso and aeropress. This is because they’re better suited to faster grind speeds and flat burrs.

Fast grinding means more even particle size and that’s what you’re going to want for the finer grind coffee drinks [2]. 

That being said, you can still make a decent cup of espresso with a slower, conical burr ceramic grinder if it’s configured right. Or, you could do the same with a manual coffee grinder.

But overall, steel burrs win this category.

Best for Medium Grind – Steel burr is the winner

Steel burrs are also better suited to grinds of medium coarseness, used for filter coffee, but only just. Ceramic burrs can be a little too sharp to get the perfect medium grind. That means steel is just a little easier to control. 

So if you want to make drinks such as pour over or cold brew coffee, steel burrs will just about be the best option. 

Best for Coarse Grind – Steel burr is the winner

Finally, steel burrs can be better for a more uneven distribution and this makes them better for more coarse grinds such as French press and filter coffee. 

You’re just going to get more choice of grinder with steel burrs. Plus ceramic burrs are very sharp and this means it could be harder to control the level of coarse when you’re trying to grind coffee beans for French press etc. 

Steel Burr Coffee Grinders: Who Are They Best For?

Steel burrs are way better suited to faster coffee grinders. They’re highly unlikely to crack even when grinding coffee at thousands of RPM.

Partially as a result of this, steel burrs are better for flat burrs. You’ll rarely find a flat burr ceramic grinder. Flat burrs are better suited to faster speeds. 

So if you’re a professional barista looking to make great espresso in a coffee shop, you’re going to want steel burrs. And high quality steel burrs at that.

You’re also going to want to look at steel burrs if you’re on a budget. The starting price point for steel is a lot lower than ceramic even though it can work out much more expensive for premium grade steel. 

Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinders: Who Are They Best For?

The main benefit of ceramic burrs is that they’ll last longer than steel if they don’t break. They’re more vulnerable to shattering but if they don’t, they’ll stay sharper for longer. So if you’re looking for longevity with a slower grind speed, they could be the best option for you.

And as mentioned, you’re more likely to find a ceramic burr on a manual coffee grinder than an electric one. This is because of the fact that the chance of cracking the burrs is going to be very slim. 

If you want to know more about manual or hand coffee grinders (and to find out which are the best examples of them), then this guide will be the place for you. 

FAQ on Steel Burr and Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinders

People have been asking a couple of extra questions about ceramic and steel burrs, and I’ve got the answers.

Does burr material affect how often I need to clean my grinder?

No. You’ll need to clean your coffee grinder just as frequently, no matter which burr material you go for. I recommend wiping your grinder down after each use and then giving it a deep clean every couple of weeks if you use it every day. 

Want to know more about coffee grinder cleaning? Find out here

Can I use a ceramic burr with a fast coffee grinder?

You should keep the speed down if you’re using ceramic burrs. The faster you grind, the more you’re going to risk shattering the burrs. This is a common issue with ceramic. 

I wouldn’t recommend ceramic burrs for anything faster than about 700 RPM for this reason. 

Wrapping Up: Steel Burrs vs. Ceramic Burrs 

Most people are going to be better off with steel burrs, especially if they’re opting for an electric grinder. Steel burrs are more versatile in their quality and affordability. And they can be a lot better for certain tasks like making an awesome cup of espresso. 

But ceramic burrs definitely do have their parks. They’ll last for ages and they’re great for manual grinders and slower electric grinders.

Ready to buy a coffee grinder? You can find all the best ones in this directory.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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2 thoughts on “Steel Burr vs Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinders: What’s the Best Option and Why?”

  1. Great article! Just curious, so when the burrs wear down over time, does that mean that we are essentially “drinking” the ceramic or stainless steel material that is wearing down as we grind the coffee? I mean, where does the burr material go except into the coffee grounds and into the coffee itself. ugh

    • Hey Violet,

      Great question, and it’s definitely a thoughtful one!

      The scenario with burrs is akin to using a well-seasoned iron pan: just as the pan may release tiny iron particles into food over time, worn burrs in coffee grinders might also shed minuscule particles into the grounds.

      Whether they’re from ceramic or stainless steel burrs, these particles are incredibly small and don’t meaningfully impact the taste or health safety of your coffee. This is a natural and very minor aspect of the grinding process.


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