Back to the Grind – Grinder Review

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We test a Blade Grinder Grinder. Can we get a good grind at a low cost?

In this review, we look at coffee grinders; and for the benefit of the ‘everyday coffee lover’ we take a closer look at one particular product category – the blade grinder. Specifically, we used a “James Martin” Coffee and Spice Grinder (manufactured by Wahl), costing about £20. So, we are not formerly testing this machine – because the actual make of the grinder didn’t matter too much here – we just wanted to try a consumer-level “blade-type” grinder. But as we carefully looked at the machine and actually used it – we have outlined the grinder’s main features below.

See a great range of grinders in the Amazon store.

The machine

James martin grinder
It’s well built as you would expect from this manufacturer. This unit has a separate grind chamber, making it easy to tap the grind out, although not 100% of the ground coffee came out easily. It also has an attachment for small amounts of spices, but we didn’t test that here. The top incorporates a lever that interlocks with the on switch. The power cable winds around a retainer in the base – which is a nice, thoughtful touch.

Parts and Cable

Types of grinder

There are two main types of grinder: blade grinders and burr grinders. For those that are interested in more information about grinders, you can read our related article here , but in summary – Blade Grinders are lower cost consumer type machines, and Burr Grinders offer more features but are usually more expensive (some are very expensive). Burr grinders are consider the best type for enthusiasts and professionals.

The type of grind (e.g. crushed or cut), its granularity (coarseness), consistency of ground particle throughout the grind, and temperature (generated by the grinder) can affect the taste of the coffee. But, then again, so can bean freshness and water quality – so the resulting flavour is about getting all of the ducks in a row. Nonetheless, you really don’t want your grinder to re-cook the beans!

Our test (of a blade grinder)

Whilst many coffee drinkers just love good coffee – most are neither connoisseurs nor trained Baristas. They just want good quality coffee but perhaps cannot justify the cost of a professional conical burr grinder in these days of stressed family finance. It was with this in mind that we wanted to test a “cost-effective” electric blade grinder to see if we can get a good grind, suitable for everyday, light use. So, we tried a “James Martin” Coffee and Spice Grinder (manufacture red by Wahl). This unit costs about £20. We wanted to test granularity and grind consistency – nothing more – from a low-cost grinder.

The review process

The testing was simple, in line with the design intention of the grinder. We tried various methods to see if we could get a consistent grind, and various grind granularities.

Because this grinder runs at a (high) single speed, we found we had two techniques available: Run it for a continuous grind (which whizzed the beans about) or pulse it so that the grinds drop to the blade between pulses. Each time, we ground 1 tablespoon of beans (about 7g) of Lavazza Rossa beans (one of my personal favourites). For both tests, we found that a little coffee remained in the grinder which is actually not great if you want a fresh grind each time. Cleaning is important.

Continuous grinding

You can see by the results that, although we could get a consistent grind if we ground for 10 to 20 seconds, the grind became finer the longer we ran (as you would expect). On shorter grinds it was too inconsistent, while we attempted to get a consistent but courser grind. You can see the various grinds in the images below, and we found about 10 seconds to be the best balance between coarseness and consistency.

5 second continuous
5 Second Continuous
10 second continuous
10 Second Continuous
20 second continuous
20 Second Continuous

Pulse grinding

This essentially means repeated “pulsing” of the ‘on button’ which gives a short burst of grinding to the beans. The notion was that the beans could fall back toward the blade between pulses, hence giving more control over the end grind. We were expecting this method to give us greater control over size and consistency. It didn’t turn out that way though! Again, you can see the various grinds in the images below. In this test, the pulse grinding didn’t deliver the same consistency of grind.

5 second pulse
5 Seconds of Pulsing
10 second pulse
10 Seconds of Pulsing
20 second pulse
20 Seconds of Pulsing

The test outcome

The best way we found to get a consistent grind was to run continuously for between 10 to 15 seconds. The coarseness of the grind was finer for the longer spin, as you might expect. Overall, we found we could get a reasonable grind from a blade grinder, although it does not give the degree of control that a more expensive burr grinder might offer (as you would expect).

Summary

We deliberately picked a low cost blade grinder for the purpose of this specific test, and if you just want get the job done quickly for an occasional coffee – or you have a tight budget – then a blade grinder will give you an acceptable result. If you want more control over the process and have the budget, then investigate burr grinders.

See a great range of grinders in the Amazon store.