If you’re new to coffee or maybe you just don’t know, blade coffee grinders are simply inferior to burr coffee grinders for a couple of reasons. I get into those soon enough, but because it’s “known” that blade grinders aren’t as good they are constantly trashed. But with that being said it still doesn’t answer the question, are blade grinders really that bad?
I’ve been grinding coffee since late 1999 and haven’t used a blade grinder since probably 2002. My two burr grinders are fantastic and use them both regularly. For large grinding jobs I use my Bodum burr grinder and for small daily pots of french press or pour-over, I use my manual burr grinder from Hario. Needless to say, I am all about burr grinders.
Even with my grinder bias, I decided to do a little research and answer the question for myself and figured I’d share what I found.
What I want to start with are the two biggest reasons why you should consider avoiding blade grinders.
Why Blade Grinders Are Considered No Good
They Don’t Grind
Blade coffee grinders don’t actually grind. As the blades spin around at incredible speeds the blades chop the coffee beans into all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Small and large chunks of grounds along with tiny particles called fines. That results in a horribly uneven grind.
The larger pieces will end up being under-extracted during the brewing process, so you’ll get less flavor. The tiny particles will over-extract, giving more bitterness to the brew. It’s not hard to see that an uneven grind makes for less than stellar coffee.
The longer a blade in the grinder spins the hotter the blades will become. This can easily burn smaller pieces and the tiny particles in your coffee which is going to really negatively affect the taste of your coffee.
*Many manufacturers suggest grinding 5, 10, 15, or 20 seconds to get the desired grind for whatever you are brewing. Please, don’t hold down the power button for longer than 1 or 2 seconds at a time. Do this to avoid heating up or burning your coffee grounds.*
Recently my sister, who is finally getting into coffee, showed an “awesome” blade grinder she bought. I was less than impressed and maybe I went a little overboard with my response. My rant was “rudely” interrupted with a simple question. “Isn’t it better than no grinder?” she asked. Without even a second thought I told her that of course, it was better no grinder at all.
Is A Blade Grinder Better Than No Grinder At All For Coffee?
Yes, a blade gender is way better than having no grinder at all. Having fresh coffee ground beans for me, and most coffee lovers is an absolute must.
The biggest reason for this is that after coffee beans are roasted, they begin to go stale fairly quickly. The delicious flavors and aromas that come from coffee are found in the oils of coffee beans. Once the coffee is ground it begins speeding up how fast the coffee goes stale.
Moisture, depletion of Co2, and oxidation are the biggest factors that will kill the taste of coffee. Even when freshly ground coffee is vacuum packed, there is a loss of taste and aroma because of the oxidation process. I am sure you can imagine, even when vacuum-packed, how much the coffee degrades over three or four months of sitting on a shelf or sitting in a box.
Again, I would rather have a blade grinder versus having no grinder at all because pre-ground coffee tastes awful to me.
If you’ve already got a blade grinder or you are bound and determined to get one I found the following information about how you can get the most out of a blade grinder.
How To Hack A Blade Grinder For Best Coffee Results
I really wish I could take credit for this part of my post, but I came across an amazing video by James Hoffmann about hacks for blade grinders. So all credit to him and maybe give his youtube channel a like and follow.
- Once you’ve got your coffee beans in the grinder give it a quick pulse of 1 to 2 seconds and then give the grinder a quick shake. Repeat a few times until you’ve got a grind that resembles whatever you need. Obviously, if you are trying to get a medium or fine grind this is going to take a bit longer than if you are trying to get a coarse grind. This is way more finesse than science. It’s not going to be perfect, but you can get pretty close.
- Dump the uneven grounds from the grinder into a sieve over a bowl and filter the smaller pieces and the fines. As a quick reminder, fines are really tiny particles that tend to get over-extracted. We’ll get back to those in a minute.
- Now that all the fines and smaller pieces have been filtered out you’ll be left with the larger size pieces in the sieve. Dump the large pieces back in the grinder and give it the pulse and shake from step one. Repeat this step again. Filter out the smaller pieces and regrind the larger ones. Do this until what in your grinder matches what you filtered out already.
- Grab a paper towel and dump what’s left in the grinder and in the bowl on the paper towel. Rub the coffee grounds around on the paper towel using only light pressure. The reason for using the paper towel is to trap the super-small particles, known as fines, and remove them from the grounds that are ready to brew.
That’s it. It’s not very pretty, but it’ll get you a decent grind for brewing coffee that’s fairly even. Also remember it’s best to add 10-15 % more coffee beans than you’ll need. This is because you will lose some during this modified grinding process.
Wrapping this post up
I think it’s fair to say that blade grinders ARE NOT that bad at all. I do also think that burr grinders are a way better option.
If you already have a blade grinder, don’t believe the hype that they are worthless. You absolutely can make it work for you; it just takes a few extra steps.
If you are considering a blade grinder, I would suggest getting a burr grinder instead. Electric burr grinders tend to be more expensive, but there are a ton of manual burr grinders that cost around the same amount as a quality electric blade grinder. You can check out my post on manual grinders for some suggestions that may help in your search for a grinder.