How to get the most out of blade grinders, and why you might want to upgrade
to a burr grinder.
Coffee grinders come in two styles: blade and burr. A blade grinder, sometimes called a mill grinder, is what most people have in their kitchen to grind spices. It literally chops through whatever is put into it; be it peppercorns, nuts, or coffee beans.
Blade and burr grinders are not equals, so to get the best results from either of them you need a little know-how. We’ll take a good look at blade grinders here, since it’s the trickier machine to handle. We promise that a better grind helps make better coffee, so it’s well worth your effort to learn the ways of the blade grinder.
Tips for Grinding Coffee with a Blade
The first trick is to always clean your grinder. There will be small, dusty particles of the previous grind left behind and getting in the habit of brushing out your grinder before each grind is a good practice. This ensures that you will be brewing with today’s fresh coffee today, rather than a strange mixture of yesterday’s stale coffee dust and today’s fresh grounds.
Second, make sure to grind only what you need no matter what grinder you utilize. It is difficult to be consistent with a blade grinder—not impossible though—and grinding a bunch of beans at once will yield a rather inconsistent batch of grounds (unless you are reducing all of it to Turkish coffee powder, which we hope you are not). It is much easier to concentrate on getting the grind right for one brew of coffee than it is to get it right for multiple brews at once.
Third, use short, pulsing grinds instead of long, sustained grinds. A blade grinder will turn an ounce of coffee beans into dust in about 15-20 seconds. Remember that you want coarse grounds about twice the size of table salt for most coffee drinks. Grinds—not powder. Using short bursts of grinding will ensure that each grind doesn’t have enough time to powderize the beans.
Also, shaking up and down (the grinder, not your hips) can help to keep the beans in motion inside the grinder, helping to ensure a more uniform grind.
Fourthly, if you have one hand on top of your grinder to secure the lid, flip the blade grinder over once or twice during the grind to force all the beans/grounds to re-order. This helps you get even more consistently uniform grinds.
Finally, learn to accept that some chunkier coffee pieces will make it through. Not every bean will get the same treatment, no matter how much effort you put into pulses, shakes, and turnovers. You’re going for a consistent average; don’t be bothered if some half or quarter beans make it through. Better this than running the blades too long and ending up with coffee that it is too fine.
Above all, be patient and be consistent with your technique. You’ll eventually learn the tricks of your blade grinder and before long you’ll be able to get a decent grind most every time. It takes a few attempts to learn what won’t work. Once you know what does work, it’s very easy to repeat your technique.
The Difference Between Burr and Blade
Burr grinders crush the beans and result in a much more consistent grind. The coffee beans will all be ground to about the same sized bits. These machines usually have a gauge that lets you select how fine or coarse you want the grind to be. Burr grinders also generate less heat since they make less friction while operating. The main reason more people don’t use burr grinders is that the good ones cost more than $60—many of them over $200. Considering that you can have excellent coffee brewing systems for less than $30, some buyers can’t justify the expense for the grinder alone. We have justified it because we make a lot of coffee around here, so burr grinders save us time at the office and home. And besides, the best grind comes from a burr grinder, so it’s one part of the tastiest and most efficient cup of coffee. And while inexpensive and easy to use, a blade grinder doesn’t offer the bestflavors. That said, many people use blade grinders to do the job anyway. If you can afford a burr grinder, by all means get one. If not, you should keep using a mill grinder, much as you always have, and still be able to enjoy your coffee beverages. So, although a blade grinder is not ideal, it shouldn’t be said that a blade grinder is unusable. Quite to the contrary, in fact. Used sparingly and expertly, a blade grinder can be quite effective to get your whole-bean Thrasher coffee ready for brewing.