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Grinder Overview


First, people ate fresh coffee beans. Yech. Second, they cooked (roasted) the beans and eat them. Less yech. Third, they smashed the roasted beans, added hot water, and called it Starbucks.

Basic Science

We need a basic understanding of surface area. In high school chemistry, Mr. Cahill did an experiment. He had two equal pieces of chicken liver and two equal beakers of hydrogen peroxide. When he put one liver in one beaker, it fizzed, bubbled and looked cool. He then cut up the second liver into lots of small pieces, put it in the second beaker and it exploded. Literally, raw liver on the ceiling. Yes, it was gross. Yes, I remember about surface area over 25 years later.

By grinding beans you make more of the bean surface, or bean guts (if you will) available to flavor the water. The finer the grind (e.g., espresso, Turkish) the more surface area, the more flavor released per minute. 

There are two primary issues with grinding. The first is you do not want to heat the beans during the process. This will cook them, potentially burn them, and change the taste characteristics (for the worse). The second is the consistency of the grind (i.e., you want all the pieces to be the same size). 

Types of Grinders

Manual Grinder

Manual spice and coffee grinders do work very well and look nice. BUT, you will do an awful lot of work. It takes a lot of grinding to get enough for even one serving. The grind will typically be even and will not heat up. But you will.

Blade Grinder

A blade grinder is simply a spinning blade. The grind is determined by how long you allow the blade to spin. This gives a very inconsistent grind that often is heated too much. The only time these grinders are acceptable is for a Turkish grind, if you pulse the blade so there is not a lot of heat generated. Basically, stay away.

Burr Grinder - Wheel burr

The less expensive of two types of burr grinder, the wheel burr spins very fast and can be noisy. Since it spins at high speed it tends to be noisy and potentially heats up the beans.

burr grinder - conical burr

Top of the line, the conical burr is the best grinder you can get. The burr spins slower than the wheel type, hence less messy and less heat. Additionally, oily or flavored coffees are less likely to clog in this type of machine. They are the best, hence, the most expensive. 

See my review of the Maestro Plus.


Craig A. Haller 2006 | All Rights Reserved