Isn’t my propeller grinder good enough?

in Buying Coffee, Coffee Gear

cuisinart-grind-central-coffee-grinder-dcg-12bc     There are two kinds of electrical grinders: the propeller grinder and the burr grinder.

If you open the lid to your grinder and there’s a propeller inside…well, you get the idea.  If your grinder has one chamber into which you load whole beans, and a second chamber that collects the ground coffee, you have a burr grinder.

This week, I wrote a primer on the different grind types, and how they suit different methods of brewing coffee.  In it, I stressed investing in a burr grinder, and that prompted some questions as to whether or not a propeller grinder is “good enough”.

Read: What is the proper grind setting to make coffee?

What’s the big deal with a burr grinder?  Here are some things you need to know!

1) You get an inconsistent grind with a propeller grinder.  If you look at the coffee you’ve ground, some of it is ground coarse, some fine, and some in-between.  There’s no way to get the consistent grind you need for the way you’re brewing coffee.  The ground coffee doesn’t collect in the second chamber of the burr grinder unless it’s consistent with the grind setting you’ve selected.


2) An older propeller grinder will burn your coffee.  All of that coffee is flying around in the one chamber with a propeller that produces heat as it turns.  Heat is an enemy of coffee.  It will sap flavor from the coffee in your cup.

3) You can’t select a grind type.  Check out the article above and you’ll see that each different method of brewing coffee calls for a different grind type.  The best you can do with a propeller grinder is determine that a certain number of seconds that you grind corresponds to a grind type (ex. four seconds = coarse grind, eight seconds = fine grind).  Even if you have such a system, remember that the propeller will slow down over time.  That doesn’t just mean you’ll have to grind longer, but re-read point #2 above, it’s burning your coffee.  Then, re-read point #1 above, it won’t be consistent anyway.

I recommend you make the investment in a burr grinder that provides you with a grind that is consistent, that isn’t burning the coffee, and that properly corresponds to your brewing method.  You can get a great one by Cuisinart for $50 or less.

Check out our Coffee Grinder Report Card, to see our consumers report on how burr grinders stack up.

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