Grinders: You can’t brew coffee, in one way or another, without them. A coffee grinder breaks down whole bean coffee into smaller particles, which have more exposed surface area, allowing water to quickly extract coffee solids. In simpler terms? The finer the grind, the quicker flavors dissolve. 

Now, there are two main types of coffee grinders: burr grinders and blade grinders. Below, we’ll break down the differences between the two, how they handle precision grinding, and why we ultimately recommend burr grinders for coffee. 

Our Favorite Coffee Grinders, at a Glance

First Off: How Coffee Grinders Work

The blade grinder on the left produced large boulders and small fines, while the high-quality burr grinder on the right ground even-sized particles.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Blade grinders, also known as spice grinders, are fairly simple: They’re usually small, motorized devices with a two-sided, blade-shaped piece of metal. Dump your coffee in, put the lid on, and press go and the blade begins to spin, breaking down anything in its path. Burr grinders, on the other hand, are bigger, have a more powerful motor and, notably, feature two grinding burrs with teeth that can move closer together or further apart depending on how coarse or fine you want your coffee. When you turn it on, one of the burrs starts spinning, drawing whole beans into the burrs and spitting out ground coffee below.

Blade Grinders Are for Pulverizing

The blunt spinning blade of a blade grinder.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Despite its dangerous-sounding name, the blade part of a blade grinder is actually quite dull, pulverizing nuts, seeds, and spices instead of cutting them neatly. The longer you run a blade grinder, the more it keeps chopping and crushing, and everything becomes a powdery dust. While this is great for spices, pulverized coffee particles lead to bitter coffee. Stop grinding before the dust stage, and you’re left with different-sized coffee particles—ultra-fine dust, salt-sized pieces, sand-sized pieces, and big chunks. Dump that into your coffee brewer, and it’ll be hard for any sweeter, balanced flavors to shine through the ultra-bitter and sour flavors coming from the ultra-fine and ultra-big coffee grinds. While there are techniques you can try to get more uniform results from a blade grinder, we highly recommend going for a burr grinder, both for ease of use and better coffee quality.

Burr Grinders Are for Cutting

The conical burr from a Baratza Sette 270 and its sharp cutting teeth.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Adjustable burr grinders allow for more precision than blade grinders. As the burrs move together and apart, they create a small gap, and the particles can only leave the grinding chamber once they’re small enough to fit through that space. High-quality burr grinders, like most of the ones we tested, also have precision cutting teeth etched into each burr. These teeth catch and cut the whole bean coffee, which creates far fewer ultra-fine particles than blade grinders. This allows you to fine-tune the flavor of the coffee you’re brewing: if it’s tasting strong, has a heavy body, and is overly bitter, the grind is too fine. If it’s weak, watery, and sour-tasting, the grind is too coarse. That level of control is key to making great tasting coffee at home, since different brew methods (like French press or pourover) brew better with different grind sizes. Even more specifically, different coffees might brew better with slightly different grind sizes even using the same same brew method. 

There Are Many Types of Burr Grinders

The burr adjustment of a handheld conical burr coffee grinder.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

There is only one style of blade grinder out there, but there are many different burr grinders. While general burr grinders are great for drip, pourover, French press, and cold brew, they’re usually not calibrated fine enough for espresso. There are also handheld coffee grinders, too, which require a bit more labor but are cheaper and more portable than a regular burr grinder. And then there are different burr styles, as well. Most of our top picks (including the Baratza Virtuoso+, Baratza Sette 270, and 1Zpresso JX Pro S) use a conical burr set. Conical burrs use a flat ring burr that moves up and down over a cone-shaped burr that spins in the middle. This style of burr is easier to calibrate and is a less expensive way to get high-precision grinds. The Fellow Ode Gen 2, another of our favorite burr grinders, uses flat burrs—two discs with cutting teeth facing each other. Flat burrs can be tricky to align just right and tend to be more expensive. However, if you’re truly after the best quality coffee possible, high-end, flat-burr grinders tend to have better flavor clarity and a slightly more consistent particle size.

The Best Coffee Grinders


It’s no surprise that we highly recommend a burr grinder for coffee, though selecting the best one for your favorite brew methods and budget can be tricky. Our favorite overall burr grinder, the Baratza Virtuoso+, offers excellent grind precision for great-tasting coffee along with a heavy-duty motor. Baratza grinders are also easy to repair—Serious Eats staffers have used Virtuoso grinders for a combined time of 20 years and have kept them running almost as good as new with the occasional part replacement. However, this grinder is on the pricier side, so in our testing, we also picked out the Baratza Encore as a budget pick for coffee fanatics.

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder


For those looking for a low-cost burr grinder, OXO’s conical burr grinder is a solid choice. Its grind quality is good enough for most people’s morning coffee, and its interface is simple. True coffee geeks might want a bit more precision out of the OXO’s burrs, but it’s a massive step up from any blade grinder and has multiple settings well-suited for drip or French press and performed well in all of our tests.

1Zpresso JX-Pro S Manual Coffee Grinder


If you travel a lot (or tend to brew with single-serve devices), and don’t mind an elbow workout, the 1Zpresso JX Pro S handheld coffee grinder delivered grind quality almost on par with the Virtuoso+, and is around $100 less. It’s not the exact model we tested (that one is out of stock at the moment), but it features the same burr set and adjustment dial. If that’s still a bigger investment than you’re ready to make, we were also big fans of the Timemore Chestnut C2 handheld grinder, which is almost half the cost of our favorite budget burr grinder with a grind quality that’s on par.



Finally, if you’re looking to get into espresso, the Baratza Sette 270 pulled excellent shots and has continuous adjustment and, in our testing, it delivered precision fine-tuning at even the finest grind sizes. But if you’re not ready for a dedicated espresso grinder, the Baratza Encore is an entry-level espresso grinder that is also calibrated for drip and pourover, too.


Is a burr grinder really better than a blade grinder for coffee?

Yes—burr grinders use two different cutting burrs that can be adjusted closer or further apart which creates a precise grind size that can be made coarser or finer. This allows the user to fine-tune the exact right grind size for their coffee in order to get the best flavor. Blade grinders, on the other hand, pulverize coffee into irregular pieces that can lead to overly bitter flavors from ultra-fine particles and sour flavors from large coffee chunks. 

How long do burrs last in a coffee grinder?

The burrs on the Baratza Virtuoso+ are rated for 500 pounds of coffee, which translates to eight to 10 years of use if you go through around a pound of coffee a week. Different burrs have different longevity ratings though, so it’s best to double-check with the manufacturer’s instructions to know when it’s time to replace the burrs on your grinder.

Source link