Here are our thoughts about which coffee grinder to choose as a gift
If you’re thinking of buying a grinder as a gift for your coffee nut partner, or you’re a coffee novice looking for a neat gadget for yourself, then read on… We are trying here to impart a bit of knowledge to help you make a more-informed decision.
This article explores our considerations when buying a grinder as a gift. And remember, the great thing about buying a coffee grinder as a gift is that the lucky recipient will think fondly of you each time they use it. A win-win all round then!
We won’t get embroiled in the pre-ground versus non-ground debate here. Best to say that most coffee nuts would prefer to grind – because grinding gives more control over another (and important) part of the brewing process. Besides, there is something very satisfying about grinding to your own precise taste.
Main types of grinder
There are, as you will have noticed, many types of grinder, so we will explore the two main types – from two different perspectives. These are:
- Blade or burr
- Hand powered or electric powered
Blade or burr
A blade ginder is a lower cost electric device that uses a fast rotating blade (like a mini food processor). This basically slices up the beans at a high speed, and keeps slicing the same bits of bean until you stop. This is just fine for the occassional grind and for a coffee noobie. They grinders are (usually) low cost and easy to use, and actually quite useful if you only grind beans once in a while, or you also want to grind other things like spices. But they have some big downsides for the coffee nut:
- They provide little real control over the coarseness of the grind
- They don’t provide a consistent grind
- They can heat up the grind enough to taint the flavour of the coffee. You don’t want your grinder to burn the beans.
A burr grinder is a different beast. It uses opposing grinding surfaces (usually circular or conical) through where the bean passes to be ground to the coarseness required for the brew in hand (fine for Espresso, coarser for cafetiere, etc). They provide more control and much greater consistency over the grind, and they doesn’t heat the bean or grind (they will, in my humble option, produce some heat but not like a blade grinder). Burr grinders are basically slower, more controllable, consistent, cooler and quieter. And the bean usually undergoes some crushing rather than furious slicing which is a different (and superior) process.
Overall, we think burr grinders are better than blade grinders – if you care about the quality of the resulting brew which you do of course.
Note, there are different types of burr grinder – some use flat wheels (disc) and some use cone shapes grinders (“connical burr”). Some burrs are made of steel and some ceramic. I’m not sure that many could tell the different between steel ground and ceramic ground coffee. Ceramic burrs will run cooler but steel blades are probably sharper. Wider wheel steel burrs may get hotter as they run faster at the point of grinding but that may be a marginal issue for a small grind volume in the domestic kitchen.
In summary, we would opt for a conical burr grinder – with steel or ceramic burrs. As a second choice we would be good with wheel/disc burr grinders.
Electric or hand powered
Actually, this is a trickier discussion. Although some electric grinders are low cost, they tend to be blade grinders. To get a low cost burr grinder, they would usually be hand powered. The combination of a conical burr mechanism and an electric motor tends to push up the cost. However, the electric grinder is more convenient and generally has more control as hand grinders tend to be single setting (or fiddly).
And although some coffee nuts will say they enjoy turning a handle, I bet they won’t when rushing to catch the train.
What to buy
A new grinder can be a big outlay so be careful what you buy, especially if this is a gift. Here are some pointers to help:
- Generally a mid price, quality burr grinder will delight the coffee nut and serve him/her well for years.
- Don’t buy a blade grinder for a coffee enthusiast. Always buy a burr grinder for these folk, preferably with conical burrs.
- Buy a blade grinder if you have mixed use in mind (e.g. for an amateur cook who likes the odd coffee), or where it’ll be used to grind only occasionally – ideal for the Sunday-morning-only coffee drinker!!
- Buy electric. Yes, I know that hand powered is “arty and earthy” but just….no. I’ve been there.
- You don’t need to spend a fortune, but you need to spend a bit more than for a basic grinder if you want the best results.
As with all “gadgets”, every brand tends to promote specific selling points. For example, some top-end grinders will grind a precise amount of coffee for you and deposit it directly into your espresso handle/holder. Some will claim to give you “control” over the grind (e.g. some cheap blade grinders do) but the end result (inconsistent or mixed grind) is not suitable for a coffee nut.