Online Sales & Marketing, Kendon Shaw and Head Roaster and Green Buyer, Dennis Peseau
Is it better to pre-grind coffee beans ahead of time with a high-quality burr grinder or grind fresh at the moment of use with a blade grinder?
You probably think we’ll say grind fresh unequivocally, don’t you? But this is not as straightforward as it sounds. Let’s begin by discussing the differences between burr grinders and blade grinders and journey to an answer from there.
A blade grinder is similar to an old-fashioned spice chopper. It contains a single blade that spins at high-speeds to chop material while mixing it. A burr grinder is a mill containing two revolving abrasive surfaces separated by a distance that can be changed per the user’s requirements.
What does this mean for the beans? It is difficult to regulate chop size in a blade grinder. The beans are hit by the blade multiple times which results in an uneven consistency. The grind becomes a mixture of coffee dust and larger particles, which will affect the uniformity of your brew. In a burr grinder, the beans pass through the burrs only once. The resulting grind is very uniform, resulting in a consistent brew.
Still think we are going to say grind fresh? Hold on. It depends on your circumstances. For instance, if you don’t have access to a good grinder at work, but will be drinking the coffee within a few hours of grinding it, use your burr grinder at home and transport your grind in an airtight container. However, if you were thinking of taking your coffee on a business or camping trip, and drinking it over the course of a week, you’d be better off using a blade grinder right before you brew.
Why, you ask? Because no matter how well you store your grounds, the volatiles hidden inside the beans begin escaping within hours after grinding. This affects the flavor of the coffee, and no amount of attention paid to measuring and water temperature can bring back taste.
Our answer? A burr grinder is better unless you won’t be preparing your coffee for some time. In that case, use a blade grinder and a French press, which is traditionally more forgiving with an inconsistent grind. At the end of the day, we recognize that palates differ. Try it both ways and see what tastes best to you. For more, check out our Brewing Fundamentals Guide.
We’d love to hear about your coffee quandaries. Please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and we’ll answer either on the show or via e-mail. We’ll send you a free t-shirt if we answer your question on the show!