Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ode to Conical Burr Grinders

I made it to the weekend. My usual routine involves a gourmet coffee freshly ground and steeped in a french press at work, but what to do on weekends? I used to do much of the same, but as of yesterday this changed.

I received my brand new conical burr grinder in the mail yesterday and was so psyched to use it this morning! When my daughter woke me up with her babbling in the next room at 7am, I didn't even mind it; changing her first diaper of the day seemed to be a joy because of what I knew was to come: my love, my new conical burr grinder.

The JuraCapresso infinity was the model of choice for me after much deliberation. I swung back and forth between Baratza, Bodum, Bunn, and the Capresso, but finally decided that an over 96% approval rating on was too good to ignore. Every model looked at had negative comments: things like "it can't grind fine enough espresso" or "the grind collection chamber falls out" or even "it is god-awful" (whatever that means) were fairly common, though a vast minority. So, I chose the cheapest grinder that offered conical burrs (I will discuss in more detail later) of commercial grade steel with easily removable burrs for cleaning, multiple grind settings, and a removable bean hopper. The Capresso Infinity was the clear front runner at $89.00 new on I bought mine on ebay for $79.00.

My coffee of choice this rainy Saturday morning was the Papua New Guinea full-city roast from Northwest Coffee Roasters. The New Guinea is probably the best representation of a medium roasted Indonesian region coffee. Indonesian coffees are almost universally better as darker roasts, but Rick from Northwest really handles these roasts well. This lighter roast in comparison with most Indonesians adds a bit of a flowery tone to the New Guinea; added to the naturally volcanic earthy taste makes for a very interesting coffee.

Anyway, back to the focus of my adoration at the moment, my grinder. The burrs are unique in conical grinders in comparison to other grinders; here's a quick overview: First there are Hand-Cranked: these grinders are like the one in my post from yesterday; they usually offer grinds appropriate for French presses or the most basic percolators.

Next, there is the Blade: These are self contained grinders with spinning blades that slice whole beans into smaller pieces as more time is allowed. These grinders are sufficient for most people, but for the true coffee enthusiasts, there are some reasons to upgrade. Blade grinders cannot grind the coffee evenly. They can have some uniformity, but there will always be unusually large chunks (getting over-extracted) and extremely small particles (passing through filters) causing obvious problems in brewing. Also, due to the high-speed spinning of the blade, the coffee is heated and therefore roasted even more- changing the optimum taste of the coffee itself.

Finally, there is the Burr. Burr: These are the creme of the crop. There are two types of burr grinders, plate and conical. Plate burrs are flat and must spin at higher speeds to achieve the same grinding precision of conical, thus forcing them to add extra heat to the beans, though much less than blade grinders. The second is the conical burr, as seen in my hands in the picture. These are by far the most desirable coffee grinders available to date. Their burrs fit together like puzzle pieces, grinding the coffee very precisely and uniformly, at very low rates of speed- adding little to no extra heat to the beans effectively preserving the intended taste. If you're willing to put up the initial higher cost, these grinders can perform for you like no other on the market. Conical burr is where it's at!

So, today's brew was as mentioned before, the Papua New Guinea. I ground 6 cups worth in my Capresso Infinity and brewed it in my 8 cup Chemex Coffee brewer. The Chemex does a great job with drip coffee, so look for an article on it tomorrow! The coffee was pleasantly light this time. The burr grinder's slower rotation and lower heat levels allowed the New Guinea to taste better than it ever has before. The aroma was spicy, but threw me once I tasted it. Its acidity was mild, and body was heavy. Overall, a very rich coffee and satisfying coffee- even at the end of its life. I receive my coffees at the beginning of every month, so the best brewing methods are even more important at the end of the month!

Lord, thank you for the great coffee. Please help me keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.


  1. I think tomorrows post should discuss the coffee scoop. :) Yes, that highly technical piece of coffee equipment.