The Blade or the Burr? A Coffee Brewing Experiment

My sister visited from Philadelphia last year.  She brought along a box of her favorite coffee making appliances.  Looking through the box contents, I thought she was setting up a coffee shop in my kitchen.  Like me, she prefers to grind coffee beans before brewing them.  The next morning, she unloads the contents of the box on the kitchen counter.  Laid out, was a bag of her favorite coffee, filters, a large glass carafe looking thing which I later learned was a Chemex coffee maker, and a hand-crank coffee burr grinder.  I thought it was a bit excessive as I use an electric blade grinder and French press to prepare coffee.

The cup of coffee she brewed was far stronger and tastier than anything I had brewed.  Was it the brand of coffee? Was it the coffee maker? Or, was it the grinder?  I had to know.  The next morning, I brewed a cup of coffee with her beans through my method.  It tasted off.  The cup of coffee was nowhere close to the one she brewed the day before.  After she had left, I did a bit of research on the Internet to see if the flavor of coffee was impacted by the way it was ground.  To my surprise, many self-declared coffee connoisseurs preferred burr-ground coffee over blade-ground coffee.  I was still skeptical.

Months later, I purchased a manual hand ceramic burr grinder that was on sale for $10.95 and a Hario V60 coffee dripper.  Brewing the dark roast coffee I usually drink with burr-ground coffee beans and the Hario produced a more robust flavor, I could not believe it.  I stopped using the electric blade grinder and French press.

coffee grinders
Which Is Better?

This past weekend, I wondered if it was possible to produce the same robust brew with blade-ground beans and the Hario.  It was time to experiment.

The experiment controls were simple:

  • Grind Level: fine grind
  • Coffee Quantity:  two full scoops of ground coffee leveled off at the top
  • Brewing Method: Hario Coffee Dripper and Hario coffee filters
  • Water:  1.5 cups of boiled filtered water for each cup of coffee

 

BurrCoffeeGrinder
Burr Ground Coffee Beans

The one issue I have with the manual burr coffee grinder is that it is…manual.  It takes a short while to grind the beans.  On the bright side, it makes a great forearm workout

BladeCoffeeGrinder
Blade Ground Coffee Beans

I selected the fine grind option on the electric blade coffee grinder.  In an attempt to get the finest grind possible, I shook the grinder up and down vigorously as it was running for about 10 seconds.

There is no question that the burr grinder produced finer and more uniform results.  However,  would there be a difference in flavor?

HarioCoffee
The Hario doing what it does best.
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Can you tell which cup is brewed with burr-ground coffee or blade-ground coffee?

The two cups of coffee looked identical after brewing.  Same dark color, same fragrant aroma, however, the burr-ground coffee was noticeably stronger.  To make sure my taste buds were not playing tricks on me, I had my wife perform a blind taste test.  I asked her which coffee was stronger in flavor.  After taking a spoonful of each, she selected the cup brewed with the burr-ground beans.  Keep in mind, stronger does not mean better.  Surprisingly, I leaned towards the brew with the blade-ground coffee in terms of taste preference because it was less bitter.  Now I am tempted to try a medium roast instead of a dark roast.  While I still like my coffee burr grinder, it looks like I’ll be re-establishing my relationship with blade-ground coffee beans.  However, I’ll still brew coffee with the dripper.

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