Burr vs Blade: What Is A Burr Coffee Grinder & Why It’s Better

When it comes to quality coffee grinding, you’ve probably heard about the burr grinder vs blade grinder debate. Spoiler: the particle consistency of a coffee burr grinder always wins against the uneven grind from a blade model. But exactly what is a burr coffee grinder and why is a better than the blade models?

a picture of a coffee burr grinder

And with so many models to choose from, how do you distinguish between low and high-quality burr grinders?

My aim for this article is to unravel the complexity of burr grinders so you can better understand what they are, how they work, and why they lead to superior coffee. I’ll also hook you up with my top burr grinder recommendations, most of which I’ve used plenty of times.

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What Is A Burr Coffee Grinder?

A burr coffee grinder is a specific design that crushes coffee beans into small pieces for brewing. But before going deeper into these grinder designs, let’s take a moment to understand the significance of grinding more generally and why it is such a big deal for brewing delicious coffee.

Coffee Grinding 101

A coffee grinder is responsible for breaking down whole coffee beans into smaller, consistent particles. Without breaking a whole bean into smaller pieces, the water cannot extract enough flavor from the coffee. As the graphic below shows, small pieces increase surface area, allowing the water to contact exponentially more of the bean’s structure:

in the debate between a burr vs blade grinder, the burr makes more even particles with a similar surface area.

You can read more science in this ultimate guide to coffee grinding, but the short of it is that, without grinding, you can’t make coffee!

How Does a Burr Grinder Work?

What exactly sets a burr grinder apart? And why is it considered the gold standard by coffee enthusiasts? The answer to those questions lies in how the burr design breaks apart beans.

what is a burr coffee grinder? A picture explaining the answer.

In simple terms, a burr grinder utilizes two revolving abrasive surfaces, known as burrs, to crush the coffee beans into precise and uniform particles. There are conical burrs and flat burrs, each with specific benefits. These burrs can be made of either ceramic or steel, and both materials have proven to produce excellent grind quality.

Burr vs Blade Coffee Grinder Debate

The burr vs blade grinder debate may seem trivial to folks who are just starting their specialty coffee journey. But once you understand coffee chemistry and how particle size affects extraction, the debate is easily won by team burr.

The key advantage of a burr grinder lies in its ability to achieve a consistent grind size. This uniformity ensures an even extraction of flavors during the brewing process, leading to a cup of coffee with enhanced clarity, complexity, and balance.

The crucial advantage is that thoughtful burr designs allow you to change grind size precisely, meaning you can find that perfect extraction/flavor!

Is a Burr Coffee Grinder Worth It?

The only winning point for blade models in the burr vs blade coffee grinder competition is its more affordable price. Compared to brewing with stale pre ground coffee, a blade grinder might be worth it.

But, since most coffee blog readers are trying to brew more delicious coffee, my answer is always yes, a burr coffee grinder is worth the extra investment. Especially since there are more affordable hand coffee grinders where you manually turn the burrs, getting an even extraction doesn’t require a huge investment.

So in the next section, I’ll explain in more detail why a coffee burr grinder is worth it.

Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder: Why Are Burrs Worth It?

Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder: A chart showing the differences

If you’re serious about brewing exceptional coffee, a burr grinder is highly recommended. Its ability to produce a consistent grind size allows you to extract flavor evenly. There’s no other way to fully unlock the potential of your coffee beans. Uneven extraction means the good flavors will be masked by negative tasting notes like bitterness and sourness. As a coffee geek, I always prefer a flavorful and balanced cup of coffee!

And, besides consistent grind sizes, blade grinders make it really difficult to accurately change grind type. If you have multiple brewing methods at home, a blade grinder can drive you crazy.

How Does a Blade Coffee Grinder Work?

Blade coffee grinders resemble a blender with a spinning blade at the bottom. The blade chops up the beans into small pieces, and the fineness of the grind depends on how long you run the motor.

These grinders are often more affordable and readily available compared to burr grinders. However, blade grinders have a huge issue: inconsistent grind size. The spinning blade chops the coffee beans into uneven particles, resulting in a mixture of fine dust, medium-sized pieces, and larger chunks. This inconsistency in particle size leads to an uneven extraction during brewing, often resulting in over-extraction of smaller particles and under-extraction of larger ones. As a result, the brewed coffee can taste bitter and lack flavor/balance.

While blade grinders may be a viable option for occasional coffee drinkers or those on a tight budget, I don’t recommend them for anyone who takes coffee seriously enough to invest in other expensive equipment.

Why A Burr Coffee Grinder Produces Even Particle Sizes

A burr grinder consists of two burrs, one fixed and the other rotating. The coffee beans are fed into the gap between these burrs and are crushed as they come into contact with the abrasive surfaces. The two primary designs for this concept are flat vs conical burrs. I’ll go over the distinction in the next section, but they are both similar concepts.

As you adjust the grind setting on a coffee burr grinder, you change the distance between the burrs. And since each coffee bean has to pass through the same space, the result is extremely even particle sizes. You can read more about how uneven particles lead to poor coffee extraction.

Besides evenness, the flexibility to change size means you can speed up or slow down extraction. Every coffee is different, and dialing in a new bean is the process of finding the perfect grind size for your particular brewing method.

Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder: Buying Guide & Different Models

I will recommend a blade grinder at the end of this section for those who still want one. But first, let’s go over some basic considerations and choices you’ll have to make when buying a coffee burr grinder.

Electric Burr Grinder

There’s no doubt that electric burr grinders are the most convenient, and the higher-end models produce a better grind quality than your average hand grinder.

But an electric grinder is usually more expensive. There are budget grinders that have decent grind quality, but many of the manual grinders outperform them.

Works For Espresso
Fellow Opus Conical Burr Coffee Grinder


  • 6-blade 40 mm conical burr set
  • 41 settings
  • Works for espresso all the way to cold brew
  • Powerful 6Nm torque motor
  • Anti-static technology (aka mess-free)
  • Fantastic warranty

So I recommend saving up for something like the Baratza Encore or the Fellow Opus. Neither is crazy expensive, and you will be shocked at how they upgrade your home coffee game.

Manual Burr Coffee Grinder

If you appreciate the value of a burr grinder but can’t justify the cost, a manual burr grinder is a fantastic compromise. You crank a manual grinder by hand, allowing you to control the grind size while providing a more affordable alternative to electric burr grinders. Despite their manual operation, they still deliver exceptional grind quality.

Best Overall Hand Grinder


  • Ceramic conical burrs
  • Grind adjustment nut (plenty of sizes)
  • 60-gram hopper capacity (enough for Chemex)
  • Improved update on the original Skerton design
  • Heat-proof glass bowl & non-slip cover

I’ve used the Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill above since the beginning of my specialty coffee journey! It has ceramic burrs and is fantastic for traveling. Hario also makes a slightly bigger Skerton Pro.

If you’re leaning in this direction, check out this buying guide for manual grinders to see the best options.

Burr Grinder Conical vs Flat

Another big split in the coffee grinder world is flat burrs vs conical burrs. Most people should not get too caught up in the differences as they can each produce professional-level grinds. But in case the nuances apply to you, let’s quickly check them out.

A conical burr grinder has a cone-shaped burr with a ring that fits around it. As you turn the grinder head, the ring screws closer into the cone, resulting in a finer grind. The primary advantages of the conical design are:

  • A single grinder has a wider range of grind sizes—anything from espresso to cold brew.
  • They can grind longer without generating heat.

Conical burr grinders are slightly less consistent than a flat burr coffee grinder, but what you lose in consistency you gain in the breadth of that wider grind range. So on the flip side, a flat burr grinder has two parallel discs that rotate around each other’s sharp edges. The main pros of a flat burr grinder are:

  • More consistent grind
  • Easier to clean

Ultimately, it comes down to a choice between higher precision within one grind size—for example, espresso—or quality grind evenness within a more extensive range of grind sizes.

What Is The Best Burr Coffee Grinder for Home Use?

I recommend reading this regularly updated guide to finding the best coffee grinder to see all the top options. But almost always my overall top recommendation is the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder.

Overall Best Burr Grinder
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder (Black)


  • Baratza's best-selling award-winning entry-level grinder
  • 40 grind settings
  • 40mm commercial-grade conical burrs
  • Fantastic price: quality ratio
  • 1-year warranty

Baratza is a fantastic company that specializes in making high-level coffee grinders. And even though this is their entry-level grinder, I’ve brewed some truly fantastic coffees with it. It is a conical burr grinder with 40 coffee grind settings. The only downside is espresso grinding—it can grind fine enough, but I was mostly frustrated by it on that front.

Read my Baratza Encore review for the full details.

Espresso Burr Coffee Grinders

A standard grinder will work for drip coffee, AeroPress, French Press, and other common methods. However, folks with an espresso machine at home might consider getting a more expensive grinder specific to espresso brewing.

See Also: Cheap vs Expensive Coffee Grinders: Are Expensive Grinders Worth It?

These are often dosing grinders that grind by weight to get the perfect dose every time. A model like the Baratza Sette 270, a conical burr grinder with 270 grind settings, is ideal for espresso.

What Is The Best Blade Coffee Grinder?

If you do decide to go with a blade model, go with the Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind Electric Coffee Grinder. It is hard to passionately recommend this grinder knowing how much better burr systems are. Also, many manual grinders are only slightly more expensive and infinitely better.

However, blade grinders are probably better than having your coffee ground at the store. And for a blade grinder, this product has a solid design and the durable steel blades won’t dull over time.


Before wrapping up this comparison of burr and blade grinders, let’s review the topic by answering some of the most common questions.

What is a coffee burr grinder and how does it work?

A coffee burr grinder uses two sharp surfaces (the burrs) that spin and cut each coffee bean into a uniform size. Burrs are made of steel or ceramic, and you can alter the distance between the burrs so they crush them into smaller or larger pieces.

What is the difference between a blade grinder and a burr grinder?

While regular coffee grinders, such as blade grinders, rely on a spinning blade to chop the coffee beans, burr grinders use two burrs to crush them. This fundamental design difference greatly affects grind consistency and the ability to precisely alter grind size for various brewing methods.

Is a burr or blade coffee grinder better?

Burr grinders are for sure better than blade grinders because of their consistent particle size and the precise way their design allows you to change grind size for different brewing methods.

Is a blade grinder OK for coffee?

Compared to using stale pre-ground coffee, a blade grinder is beneficial, and certain brewing methods like French Press get along better with blade grinders. You can brew decent coffee with a blade grinder, but you will miss out on the complexity and balance that specialty coffee enthusiasts rave about.

What is special about a burr coffee grinder?

The primary advantage of a burr grinder for coffee is the consistent grind size it offers. This consistency ensures that each coffee particle receives an equal amount of extraction, leading to a more even and balanced flavor profile in the brewed coffee.

Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder Debate: Final Thoughts

Burr coffee grinders offer several advantages that make them the preferred choice for a serious coffee lover. Blade grinders produce uneven particles that lead to uneven extraction. However, the high-quality and consistent grind size of a burr grinder allows you to dial in each new coffee bean for any coffee brewing—espresso, coffee maker, French Press, etc. And, the manual models allow you to get this quality at super affordable prices.

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