Ceramic Vs. Steel Burr Grinders

ceramic vs steel burrs

Ceramic Vs Steel Burrs – The Basics

Ceramic burrs run a bit cooler compared to steel burrs. And according to some coffee experts, extra heat impacts your coffee’s flavor, since it burns off some oils present in coffee. Now, going by this reasoning, ceramic burrs might just have an edge over their counterparts (steel burrs).

best coffee grinder for french press coffee

The Breville Smart Grinder (pictured above) is a classic steel burr coffee grinder – Click image to read our review

Nevertheless, this may not be entirely true; in fact, many other coffee experts say that there aren’t enough facts out there to back this claim up. What about hand grinding, which is slower to begin with?  Well, this kind of argument may not apply since there is no high powered grinding going on to create the high temperatures in the first place.

When it comes to hand coffee grinders, you really have to consider whether or not they give you control over the grind’s fineness.  If you decide to opt for a hand grinder to avoid the issue of too much heat entirely, you don’t want to sacrifice grind control.

A Practical Example – The Kyocera Coffee Grinder

Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Coffee Grinder

The Kyocera ceramic burr hand grinder – Click image to read customer reviews now

The Kyocera ceramic burr grinder is a good example of grinders that give you total control over the fineness of the grind. You can effortlessly adjust the distance between burrs by simply adjusting the screw located at the top.

If you are the kind of person who likes exploring different brewing methods, or if you are just looking for that perfect brew, it’s beneficial to have the freedom to switch between different coffee grounds.

armin trosser history grinder review

A vintage Armin Trosser german “box” grinder – Click image to read more about this brand

On the other hand, with typical steel burr grinders which operate by hand, which mostly sit on top of wooden boxes,—or in simple terms, box grinders—things may not run as smooth.

Some box grinders are even worse; they don’t allow you to adjust the grind size, and you’re stuck with whatever you get grind-wise.  That said, some do have adjustable burrs, but you definitely need to check first.  Usually, as with our example above the Kyocera grinder, the adjustment of the burrs is found on the top of the grinder itself where the handle attaches.

Whether your grinder will have this function will depend on the brand, and sometimes on the specific model.  We think that the main “perk” to these more ornamental types of grinders is that many of them make very nice looking decorations for your kitchen, but coffee quality could be said to suffer.

More information on differences between ceramic and steel burr grinders

difference between ceramic and steel burr grinders

A lot of taste testing has been done especially since the these various types of grinders with their different burr materials were introduced.  This shows you how consumers and vendors alike are concerned about this issue.

While some coffee drinkers might not notice any difference between coffee ground with a ceramic or steel burr grinder, true coffee fans will notice a difference and this is what many vendors are worried about, because preserving the taste of the genuine coffee bean is always a concern.

Ceramic Burrs & Coffee Flavor Profile

ceramic coffee grinder burr

Ceramic coffee grinder burrs

Ceramic burr grinders have been found to produce a traditional flavor profile.

Ceramic burrs are particularly good for coffees that are roasted for espresso. Note that most of these tests are specifically based on tasting espresso.

Orvite Ceramic Burr Manual Coffee Grinder - Portable Stainless Steel Conical Mill with Hand Crank - Aeropress & Espresso Compatible

The Orvite Adjustable Ceramic Burr Manual Grinder – Click image to read our review

Compared to steel burrs, ceramic burrs produce cup flavors that are more complex.

The flavors certainly have more mouth and body feel. Remember, all this depends on your coffee.

Steel Burrs & Coffee Flavor Profile

steel coffee grinder burr

Steel coffee grinder burrs

Steel burr grinders have been designed to produce less fines, and a particularly even particle distribution. Steel burrs are great for batch, pour over, or home coffee brewers. They are perfect when it comes to preparing modern style espresso.

mazzer mini doserless grinder

The Mazzer Mini – A classic pro steel burr commercial coffee grinder – Click image to read our full review

With steel burrs, you get espresso that tastes a little different, since it has extraordinarily small grind particles or lacks fines.

Steel burrs produce coffee grounds with a more uniform particle size, in comparison with ceramic burrs. The resulting flavor profile is quite simple; it has a clean mouth feel.

You notice that steel burr grinders work better with single origin coffees. The results will be different if you opt for coffees roasted for espresso (espresso roast).

=> Click here to visit our burr grinder section to see grinders with both steel and ceramic burrs

Longevity

Ceramic burrs retain their sharpness for a longer time, as compared to steel burrs. However, ceramic burrs are not as sharp as steel burrs.  So that’s a bit of a toss up!

Cleaning

There is not much difference when it comes to cleaning ceramic and steel burr grinders. You can clean a steel-burred Breville Smart Grinder the same way you’d to for ceramic burr Baratza Vario 886.

It all boils down to your preference

best coffee grinder reviews 2016

We can’t tell you which one to choose, whether its a ceramic or steel burr grinder. You must know what you think is best for you. According to recent taste tests, there is a thin boundary between those who are for ceramic and steel burrs.  The point is, you really need your taste buds to be awake in order to gather information by drinking and really tasting various coffees.

Espresso Vs. Non-Espresso Roasts

best espresso machine reviews 2016

The difference only comes when we consider espresso and non-espresso roasts. Ceramic steel burrs work best with coffees roasted for espresso. On the other hand, the flavor profile resulting from steel burrs is greatly improved when one uses non-espresso roasts.

Due Diligence In Coffee Taste Testing

tap water

We are not saying these tests are fool proof. Before coming to any conclusions, we have to know exactly what type of analysis was used. Did the tests take into account all the factors that affect a cup of coffee’s taste?  There are, of course, many.  Things like the freshness of the roast would be one major factor, the water is another thing.  

A lot of factors come into play during taste tests. For credibility purposes, tasters should be blinded. Double-blinding is more effective.

Although ceramic burr grinders have been preferred by a majority for some time now, results of recent taste tests clearly show that steel burr sets also have some desirable properties.

Baratza Vario 886 - Flat Ceramic Coffee Grinder

Click image to read our review of the Baratza Vario 886

Contrary to popular belief, steel burrs are not just designed for brewing; they also have the capability of grinding for espresso.

If you still don’t believe this, you can try it out with a product that has steel burrs, like the Baratza Vario 886. You’ll be surprised to find that your brewing grinder is an effective espresso grinder too.

Difference between blade and burr grinders

blade grinder review

Steel blade grinders are cheap but effective if you aren’t a stickler. They have whirring knives, which fly around and slice coffee beans in a chamber. Since blade grinders do not produce the right grind sizes for espresso, it’s preferable to go for burr grinders instead.

Burr Types

best conical burr grinder

Conical burr set

Burrs can either be conical or flat. Both shapes are available in either ceramic or steel.

Burr grinders enable you to control the fineness of you coffee grounds.

You adjust the grind by moving the burrs closer or away from each other.  Fineness of the grind determines the rate of flow of water. When making espresso, you need a grind that is fine enough.

Can one use the same grind for both a Chemex and a French press?

grinding for chemex

This is a tricky question, but easy to answer nonetheless. It’s not advisable to use the same grind for a Chemex and a French press.

Rather, the grind for a Chemex should be fine; it should fall between one you would use for a French press and a drip brewer.

Bottom line

drinking espresso at home from a demitasse

Steel burrs are best for manual brewing methods while ceramic burrs are good for espresso. So, if you don’t make espresso often, you don’t have to worry so much about getting ceramic burrs.  With steel burrs, you’ll get a coarser grind. You might not get consistent results if you swap between drip and espresso, though.

Today, most good burrs are made of ceramic; however, other popular burrs are generally made of steel.

You see, we are only giving you the facts so you can determine—on your own—what tastes best. Our opinion is unbiased. We hope you are now more knowledgeable.  🙂

=> Click here to read more about different burr grinders

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Summary
Ceramic Vs. Steel Burr Grinders
Article Name
Ceramic Vs. Steel Burr Grinders
Description
This article talks about the major (and minor) differences between ceramic and steel burr grinders, and how it can affect the flavor of your coffee.
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Know Your Grinder
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