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Milly's 101: Burr Coffee Grinders

Milly's 101: Burr Coffee Grinders

So often we see customers either spending a lot of money on an Italian espresso machine but skimping on the grinder and then being unhappy with the quality of their coffee. Or, we hear of people who ‘loathe’ coffee from a plunger (or French Press). When asked what our first recommendation is for anyone who enjoys coffee it always starts with a good burr grinder. If you enjoy your coffee and you’ve invested in a great extraction system (espresso – stovetop or electric - or a plunger) and you’ve bought good quality, freshly roasted beans it stands to reason that the way you grind them needs careful consideration as well. And that’s why we recommend a burr grinder.

What’s the benefit of a burr grinder over a ‘choppy’ blade system?
First we need to look at the difference between the two,

Burr and Blade grinders

A burr grinder has two revolving abrasive surfaces (burrs) between which the coffee beans are ground. The burrs are either conical or flat in design and allow you to adjust the distance between the two to make a consistently finer or coarser grind. (This mechanism is also found in good pepper and salt mills).
A blade grinder is effectively a mini food processor as it features a blunt propeller blade in the centre that spins around to crush what’s in the container. This is a great option for spice powders and pastes but the heat generated in the chopping and the inconsistency of the product make these machines very poor if a quality coffee is your goal.
A burr grinder gives you consistency and control. Beans move through the grinder uniformly allowing you to liberate the best oils and flavours from your beans. And if your intended use is for an espresso machine, a consistent finely ground powder is essential to an immaculate extraction.

Yes, you could just buy pre-ground coffee? But should you? It’s definitely convenient. But so is schlepping down to your local to purchase a barista made brew. Events last year (need we mention them!) have seen so many of our customers preferring to be in charge of their own coffee. Fresh beans, ground within 20 minutes of use will give you the best results and can make even a simple pour-over or plunger coffee absolutely delicious. Coffee that’s been ground months ago and miles away? Probably not.

Which is best for you? If you’re a coffee lover who indulges frequently we would certainly recommend you consider investing in an electric burr grinder. Dualit produces our favourite, mid-range electric grinder. It’s ideal for households where you’re generally using a stovetop espresso, plungers or a pour-over. If you’re using an espresso machine regularly though we would encourage you to consider the Mini Mazzer as it’s designed to be used in conjunction with the Vibiemme espresso range and, being semi-commercial, can meet the exacting grind demand of these machines.

Cleaning: Remember to keep all your coffee equipment immaculately clean at all times and this includes your grinder. A deep clean (according to your machine's instructions) should be done at least every few months (depending on how often you use it) but regular cleaning of the hopper and brushing of the grind blades and coffee delivery shute/basket is recommended weekly (I generally do it each time I empty a new bag of beans in). A clean machine definitely makes a difference to the flavour of your coffee.

A final note on blade grinders If you’re just starting out on your home coffee journey and have already purchased a blade grinder you’ll get a better, more consistent and even result if you pulse your fresh (between 3 and 14 days from roasting) beans in small batches which helps to avoid over-crowding the blade and over-processing the beans. Again, be sure to process just before brewing/extracting to ensure all the delicious volatile oils and flavours are as fresh and accessible as possible.

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