How do you get the freshest, best tasting coffee? Grinding your beans fresh is a huge part of this. And your choice of grinder is just as important.
With burr coffee grinders: you’ll need to compare and contrast flat vs conical burrs. We’ll soon cover how they work and how they change your coffee’s taste. Each has its own pros and cons.
By the end of this article though, you’ll be able to choose the perfect fit for yourself. Let’s get started!
Conical and Flat Burrs: An Overview
First let’s answer what burrs are: they’re metal or ceramic edges, kind of like “teeth.” And these teeth break down coffee beans into they get small enough for water to get lots of flavor out while brewing. Kind of like how you chew food and your saliva gets yummy taste out.
Hopefully this analogy makes sense, haha.
But anyhow, the final size of the coffee bean bits is something we call “grind size.”
Why Grind Size Matters
Basically grind size affects brewing time. If you have smaller grind size? Then you’ll get faster brewing time since the water gets out more flavor faster. The opposite goes for bigger grind size: longer brewing time.
We’ll go over later why getting uniform grind size is super important. For now, let’s get back to flat and conical burrs.
What is a Flat Burr Grinder?
When thinking about a flat burr grinder, you can imagine a setup similar to human teeth. Flat burrs are two rings that lie flat on top of each other. There’s space and teeth between them where the coffee beans go to get broken up.
Then the coffee beans go out into a tube or box area for you to use for brewing.
How About Conical Burr Grinders?
Conical burr grinders are more similar to hedgehogs or porcupines. Sonic the Hedgehog anyone?
These coffee grinders have two cones with tons of “teeth” – that are more like “spikes” in this case. The coffee beans go in between all these cones’ spikes and get ground up. Again falling into a tube or box area for your use.
How to Rate Flat and Conical Burr Grinders
Now that we know the difference between these burr coffee grinders, let’s dive deeper into what factors matter.
This means how same or different the grind size is after grinding. A consistent grind means you get the same flavor throughout your coffee. But uneven grind size means you risk over or under brewing your coffee… which could mean bitter or sour coffee, yuck!
So which type of burr grinder is the better one here? A flat burr grinder produces more consistent grinds than a conical burr grinder because their flat surfaces line up better. Cone shaped burrs have more space in between so you get less even coffee grounds.
The difference tends to be smaller than if you used a blade grinder though. So try to stick with a burr grinder. This is just something to keep an eye out for!
Leftover Coffee and Freshness
What do we mean by “leftover coffee?” Every time you grind coffee, tiny particles stay in your coffee grinder. Those tiny coffee parts become old and might mix with new coffee grounds in the future.
Which means part of your coffee won’t taste as good and fresh.
Most flat burr grinders have more areas where coffee parts can get stuck, compared to your average conical burr coffee grinder. A conical grinder usually has more space so it’s easier for the coffee grounds to get out.
But for both conical and flat burrs – you should also consider the size and materials it’s made out of. Plus remember to clean the burrs often.
Heat and Noise
Flat burr coffee grinders get hotter than conical grinders because they need to spin and rub against each other more. This could cause your coffee’s flavor to worsen.
This same reason is why flat burrs tend to be louder. Something to think about if you’re grinding coffee super early in the morning!
Also check out this article to learn more about getting a quieter coffee grinder.
Don’t need to explain this one we hope!
You might be surprised: flat burr grinders often cost more than conical ones because they’re harder to make and need a stronger motor to spin faster.
Obviously the brand, materials, and other features affect the price too. But all else equal, go for conical burr coffee grinders on a budget.
Which Should You Buy: A Flat or Conical Burr Grinder?
|Flat Burr Grinder
|Conical Burr Grinder
|More even grind size due to flat surfaces.
|Slightly less even grind size due to cone shape.
|Leftover Coffee and Freshness
|More areas where coffee can get stuck, potentially affecting freshness.
|More space, easier for ground coffee to escape, maintaining freshness.
|Heat and Noise
|Tends to get hotter and noisier due to increased friction.
|Generates less heat and quieter operation – even proven by a report from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
|Often more expensive, requiring a stronger motor.
|Typically cheaper and easier to manufacture.
|We tend to prefer conical burr grinders! So does Professor Dave Bayer from Columbia University.
We’ll give you our opinion straight up: we prefer a conical burr grinder.
They’re quieter, don’t produce as much heat, easier to clean… and even cheaper! What more could you want?
All right, grind consistency is important. Remember that flat burr grinders often result in more even coffee grounds. But we think conical burrs have at least fairly uniform grinding.
Usually we can’t tell the difference with drip coffee, espresso shots, or overall coffee quality. We get delicious coffee with either type of burr grinder, as long as it’s high quality.
Tips for Flat Burrs and Conical Burrs
Follow these tips to prolong the life of your conical and flat burr grinders. And get the best quality coffee like what you’d get from a specialty coffee shop:
- Clean your home coffee grinders often: prevent buildup of coffee residues and stale grinds by using both a soft bush and a damp cloth
- Deep clean grinders once a month: disassemble and soak the parts in a mixture of warm water and soap, then brush and rinse thoroughly
- Check and calibrate electric grinders often: make sure settings produce the correct grind size
- Prevent cross contamination: when switching to a different type of bean, run a small bit of raw rice through the grinder and clean first, to remove previous remaining coffee
Burr grinders overall are a great investment. You get fresher and better tasting coffee.
They come with either conical or flat burrs, each with their own advantage. Both aim to produce ground coffee with constant grind consistency. And try not to leave too much coffee parts in the grinding chamber.
Try out different types of burr grinders to see which one is right for you. Check out our opinion above: we prefer the conical burr shape for our grinders. But other people love their flat burr grinder, so it depends.
Let us know your take on the conical and flat burr debate, coffee geeks!
Lexi is happily married to Bryan and works as an internet marketing consultant. As a lifelong believer of frugal living, she constantly strives to satisfy Bryan’s high-quality food and drink cravings while on a budget. Her favorites include (discounted) pumpkin spice lattes and Costco polish dogs.