Highly rated burr-style grinders use two cones or flat wheels made of ceramic or steel to grind your coffee. The cost is also significantly higher than standard blade grinders, which randomly chop coffee beans into smaller and smaller pieces. Instead, burr grinders pulverize coffee beans between the two sets of burrs to a precise and uniform grind level; resulting in a much better tasting coffee. The space between the two burrs determines the final size of the coffee grounds, so it’s easier to adjust to achieve the specific grind coarseness you want. The type of burr makes a difference too. Steel burrs are less expensive than ceramic but can wear out. Ceramic burrs are harder and dull more slowly but can shatter if a small rock accidentally finds it’s way into your beans. Both types require regular cleaning with a small brush or by grinding rice and sometimes need to be replaced. A conical shape produces less heat that can spoil the flavor of your coffee and also collects less coffee between the burrs; making them easier to clean as well. Flat burrs are less expensive but run hotter and messier.
We also used the refractometer to measure the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of each brew. TDS, explains Counter Culture’s Banbury, is a helpful way to measure how many solids are in a solution based on the light refracted by the particles within. For the purposes of our testing, it provided a useful guidepost for evaluating the grind quantitatively as well as qualitatively. But it’s not necessarily a be-all-end-all decider when evaluating coffee, says Banbury. “Presently, there is no tool on the consumer market capable of substituting for a developed palate when it comes to coffee extraction. Tasting the difference between over- and under-extraction remains the best tool for ‘dialing in’ a brewing recipe.”
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This blade grinder is certainly nothing fancy, but it sure does get the job done, and for a fraction of the cost of the rest of the grinders on our list. It can grind up to three ounces of beans in about 10 seconds, enough for about 12 cups of coffee. You won’t be able to use the grinds for espresso, but for a drip coffee maker or even for something like a French Press, they’ll be perfect. (It’ll even work to give your single cup coffee maker a boost if you’re using reusable K-Cups.) Its compact design means won’t take up much space on your counter, and there’s even a lid activated safety switch to keep your fingers intact.
Serious coffee aficionados may prefer a seriously expensive coffee grinder. High-priced models, such as those from companies like Baratza and Breville, typically are burr grinders. Rather than chopping beans, burr grinders shave and crush them, either between abrasive plates or a cone circled by a serrated disk, to produce more uniform grounds. Burrs in expensive grinders, whether conical burr grinders or flat burr grinders, can be either steel or ceramic; ceramic burr grinders are the more expensive option and some say better for delivering the best tasting espresso. Lower-priced electric burr grinders, including some slightly above the Cheapism ceiling, feature flat disk burrs that tend to be made from cheaper materials and are a tad less effective.
For the espresso drinker, a consistent, fine grind has traditionally been preferred. However, recent studies have shown that a controlled mix of particle sizes was important for generating the subtle flavors an espresso can generate. For the purposes of our grinder testing, we are excluding espresso and focusing on the other most common methods of coffee making and the grinders that work best for at-home use.
The Encore boasts a ton of great features that will please everyone from the coffee connoisseur to the average person stumbling through their morning in search of a caffeine pickmeup. Its conical burr grinding system has 40 individual grind settings, which means it can precisely grind your beans to any texture, from super fine all the way to coarse. (This matters because different types of coffee require a different grinds consistency. You’ll want finer grinds for espresso, for example, and coarser grinds for your press coffee.)