The Importance of the Grinder and what the heck burrs are

Your next baby step is buying a good grinder. Whatever you do with your coffee knowledge please do not buy good coffee and then have it ground in the store. The barista always dies a little inside. Instead, save your money and get yourself a really nice grinder. Your palate will thank you.

The main detail your grinder needs to have is burrs.

Now, some of you might have heard of them before but are still asking yourself, “What the heck are those things anyways?”

Burrs are steel circles that grind the beans as they move closer together. They turn in a circle and depending on how far apart they’re set from each other they will grind the coffee into a certain courseness. Jamie says using them is the only way to get a good cup of coffee.

There are two kinds of burrs, flat and conical. Flat burrs move vertically apart. The further away the burrs are from each other the more course the grind is.

Conical burrs look like a stainless steel cone sitting in the middle of a circular burr. The outside circle moves around the cone and the space between them works the same as with the flat burr.

The conical burrs are preferred because they move slower, not allowing the steel to get hot and expand, therefore throwing off your chosen grind setting. The temperature of the steel can also heat the beans and change the flavor of your coffee. Conical burr grinders are typically more expensive, but it’s up to you to decide how in depth you want to go with your at home coffee.


There are plenty of grinder options and the ones Jamie recommends range from $90 to $600.

Let’s start with the best, the specialty toy, if you will.

Top of the line – Barratza Vario W (W stands for weight) – This particular grinder weighs the coffee as its being ground so you can choose your perfect grind for your coffee but also the perfect grammage. $575









Barratza Virtuoso – If you’re willing to spend a little extra money Jamie suggests this grinder for your home. It doesn’t weigh coffee, like the Vario, but it’s on a timer. Once you get familiar with the timer you’ll find how long you need to grind your coffee for to get the right amount. It doesn’t totally get fine enough for espresso, but it will get course enough for chemex or French press. So, unless you have a really nice home espresso machine, this grinder is great for the at home coffee junkie. $250




Breville’s Smart Grinder – This one is supposed to grind everything from espresso to French press. It’s electric and, if this grinder was working in the ideal world you would pick a courseness and a dose. Though not as specific as the Vario, it still has its pluses. It functions by the amount of cups you want to make. You tell it you want to make 12 cups and it recommends how much you need. Jamie has found it doesn’t go as course as you would need for a French press, but it’s fully capable of grinding for espresso. $200







If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg the Cappresso Infiniti is an attainable, good grinder. Jamie uses it at home. It won’t grind fine enough for espresso, but it’s a good choice for any other method.  – $90









Hario Skerton is the cheapest grinder Jamie will recommend, but it comes with a different cost. You have to grind the coffee by hand. But, it’s also really cute. If you want a nice decorative piece as well as an effective grinder the Skerton is perfect. $50


Grind Settings 

Your grind setting will vary with each grinder. No matter which brand you use the main way to tell if your grinder is set correctly is if your coffee is done brewing in four minutes.

Well, how do you do that?

You control the time your coffee brews by how fine or course your coffee is. So, if your Chemex is taking five minutes then tighten your grind. If it’s finishing up around three then loosen it up.

Another thing Jamie recommends for finding the right grind is noticing where your coffee sits on your filter after you are done brewing. If the coffee is sitting high up on the filter and it took a long time to brew then your coffee is too fine and it’s having a hard time getting through your filter.

Your coffee should lie in a nice, flat bed when it’s done brewing. Adjust your grind to match this and the time frame and you’re good to go.

And please note, just because your grinder has markings on it doesn’t mean they’re the right ones for you. Play around with each setting and see which marking has the best result for your cup.

Have fun playing around!


About Chelsea Kallman

I am a Barista Journalist - a baristaist, journalista, barnalist? Anyway you pour it, I love coffee and writing about the whereabouts, who-abouts and what-abouts of it. Follow me @chelseakallman on Twitter! View all posts by Chelsea Kallman

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