The 10 Best Burr Grinders
10. Gaggia 8002
9. Baratza Virtuoso
8. Rancilio Rocky
7. Breville BCG820BSSXL
6. Cuisinart DBM-8
5. Bodum Bistro
4. Hario Skerton
3. Capresso Infinity
2. JavaPresse Manual
1. Baratza Encore
Burr, It's Cold Out There
A burr grinder, also known as a burr mill, is an appliance used to grind coffee beans and other food particles. The burr grinder is composed of two abrasive surfaces that come in contact with the food particle being ground resulting in a finer grind of the food particle. The larger the gap between the two rough surfaces of the grinder, the coarser the grind. The opposite is also true; a smaller gap results in a finer grind. The grinder may be manually operated or powered by electricity. Both power sources are capable of a quality grind.
A burr grinder should not be confused with a blade mill, which is another appliance for grinding food particles. A blade mill is composed of a spinning blade that repeatedly comes in contact with the particles, resulting in a grind. The design is similar to that of a propeller blade. While effective, the blade mill is usually seen as inferior to the burr grinder because of the heat and friction the blade mill produces. The excessive heat of the blade alters the taste of the coffee, whereas the burr grinder does not have this variable.
A food grade burr grinder will accommodate peppercorns, flax seed, flour, and coffee. Most likely you have been to a chain Italian restaurant and you have seen the waiter come around and wave that large wooden wand of peppercorns over your salad; this is a prime example of a burr grinder in action to give you freshly ground pepper. Obviously, the wand is a manually operated burr grinder making it easy for the wait staff to travel with from table to table.
For the Coffee Fanatic
As previously mentioned, a burr grinder can be operated manually or automatically. For those of you who don't want to put in the elbow grease or you don't have a minute to hands-on supervise the grind, an automatic grinder may be your best option. Manual grinders can give as great of a performance too, as our list reflects.
Depending on your coffee drinking habits, you might want to factor in the number of coffee cups that can be ground with your grinder. Personally, I believe that you should grind only the amount of beans that you intend to use in that very sitting. Larger burr grinders will allow you the option of grinding up the twelve cups of coffee at once, which may be excessive if you are a solo coffee drinker.
If you intend to store the excess grounds they will lose their flavor by the time you brew again. Coffee beans have a very short window of freshness once ground. If you grind beans en masse for later consumption, it may be simply best for you to buy pre-ground coffee and forgo a burr grinder entirely. However, if you are brewing large amounts of coffee in one sitting for large events, of course, investing in a burr grinder is the wisest option.
The benefit of grinding your beans versus buying pre-ground coffee is the variety of grain size. Some burr grinders are equipped to produced very fine espresso grinds and they will measure it out in cups for you. These machines will also produce a fine grind for Turkish coffee consumption. If you prefer a coarse grind, the burr grinder will be able to accommodate that as well.
Lastly, if you intend to purchase electric-powered grinder, take a moment to consider the motor size; a small motor may take significantly longer to grind the beans and emit louder noises in the process. If possible, test the grinder before you purchase.
A Brief History of the Burr Grinder
The first burr grinders were invented before the advent of electricity, and naturally they were manually operated. The original burr grinder surfaced in England in 1799, created by a blacksmith named Richard Dearmann. The widely popular grinder made its way across the pond and it was embraced by Americans as a simpler way to grind their coffee beans. Increase Wilson patented the first coffee grinder to be installed on a wall in 1818. The design was similar to the pencil sharpeners you remember from grade school.
Peugeot, known today as the popular French car manufacturer, invented the first ever pepper grinder in 1842. The steel prototype was specifically designed for the tough exteriors of peppercorns. The durable grinder was also accommodating to coffee beans, and other softer food particles.
The burr grinder's manual design has changed little in the past 150 years. The adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" couldn't apply more here. The electric models, however, are constantly changing and improving in motor size, design, and capacity. Ideally, a quality grinder should be a staple in your kitchen and it will last decades. The emergence of do-it-yourself gourmet coffee has many consumers creating cafe shop quality brews at home for a fraction of the cost. The burr grinder is your investment for excellent homemade coffee.