3 Tips to Keep Your Grinder in Tip Top Shape

Lower burr set
Keeping your grinder clean keeps your coffee flavorful and clean tasting. Pictured is the lower burr set.

Whether your grinder is a shiny new model or a trusted old war horse, if you clean your coffee grinder, there are a couple of big payoffs:

Fresh coffee every time is the biggest one.

Ever have coffee at a bagel shop or bakery and the coffee flavor seems to change slightly from day to day? Yep, I’ve noticed too.

They’ve either messed up the coffees or, more likely, that big commercial grinder they use hasn’t been cleaned recently.

If at all.

Click an item in the table below to skip to your most pressing

question or continue on to read the post.

See, there are a few things going on as you grind the beans. As the grinder works, it’s flinging bean bits and pieces everywhere in the grinding chamber. And while the majority of the grounds are what you want, there are still small amounts that are too fine and too coarse.

Most of this stuff comes out the chute. But some clings to the burrs, gets stuffed into the tiniest cracks and crevices and coats the chute. Coffee oils leave a sticky and staining residue. More so if you use a particularly oily bean.

Then, with exposure to air, the grounds go stale and the oils go rancid. Even a little bit of either can spoil your coffee, but both?

Fail. . .

It gets worse if you use flavored coffee beans. The flavoring agents are strong and will have a residual effect on other coffees to follow.

More?

If the buildup gets bad enough this leads to degraded performance, broken parts and maybe even a dead motor.

How much did you pay for the grinder? Here’s another benefit of regular cleaning, a longer lasting unit.

Ok, you’re on board for cleaning, right? Good.

How often should I clean the grinder?

It depends on how much you use it and what type of beans you use. I’ve created a 3 tiered cleaning process you can use. It’s pretty easy to do. This will keep your grinder in tip top shape and you in great coffee.

Right then:

What tools are needed to clean your coffee grinder?

What you need in the way of tools is cheap and easy. There are some items you need and others that are nice to have. Most are already around the house.

Somewhere. . .

Need:

  • A soft brush like the Espresso Supply grinder brush or toothbrush.
  • A dry clean cloth.
  • Wooden toothpicks.
  • Some coffee beans you can afford to waste. Yes, they need to be fresh beans.

Nice to have:

  •  A can of compressed air.
  • Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment.
  • A screwdriver or a burr removal tool (if provided.)
  • Full Circle Grinder Cleaner or Urnex Grindz grinder cleaner.

Ready?

Daily touch up

Let’s start here because if you have a new grinder, this is all you need for awhile.

Before doing any work on the grinder, unplug it.

Then with a clean cloth, do a general wipe down of the outside of the unit. Next, clean the bean hopper and grounds bin both inside and out. Using the toothbrush, make sure you get the inside corners brushed out.

With the hopper off, brush out the burrs or give them a blast of compressed air like Dust-Off on Amazon. Pay close attention to the tips of the cutting surfaces. Use a toothpick to pry any gunk out.

Use a vacuum like the Black & Decker 2000L at Amazon to clear out the bean chamber and chute and you’re done.

If you don’t use the grinder more than a couple of times a day, weekly is fine. More than that, do these tasks daily to avoid build up.

Monthly easy clean

This cleaning won’t take much more work if you’ve been keeping up on the touch up. Monthly, use a grinder cleaning pellet or tablet and grind it to dust.

A caveat: don’t use any organics like rice. One problem with rice is that it leaves a starchy dust behind that can build up. Kind of defeating the purpose of cleaning.

Another issue is that some rice varieties are pretty hard. This results in extra stress and wear on the burrs and motor. Using rice to clean can also void some manufacturer warranties.

Some advice says to use tablets only in an “emergency” and you don’t have the time for a good cleaning. But, since Baratza and other grinder manufacturers recommend this cleaner sold on Amazon, Urnex Grindz grinder cleaner, you should be fine.

The tablets aren’t organic nor do they use chemicals. They’re food grade safe and grind out to a powder. Grind about a capful on medium grind. Once that’s done, grind a small amount of beans to clear out the pellet dust and pieces that are left over.

These are good to use if the grinder isn’t too dirty. If it’s been awhile since you’ve last cleaned, you’ll want to do the following deep clean first.

Full blown clean up

There’s no guideline on when you need to do a full clean job, use your own powers of observation. Does it look clean? Has the coffee flavor and taste changed? Does the grinder smell bad?

For safety, unplug the grinder first thing.

Empty the hopper and remove it. Then use a damp cloth to wipe it down or you can rinse out the hopper with water. Use dish detergent if there’s an oily film.

Make sure to rinse and dry it completely, so set it aside to dry. Don’t let any water come in contact with the burrs (rust or corrosion concern) or the motor (burnout or short.)

Repeat the process with the grounds bin.

Use a toothpick to dislodge junk in the chute. Then wipe it out with a dry cloth.

Next, remove the collar that locks the burrs in place. Pull the burrs out to clean them. The upper burr is pretty easy to get to and clean. Just wipe or brush off the stuff on the blades and tips.

Because some units make it a hassle to pull the lower burr, you may want to use the toothbrush/compressed air combo and clean it in place.

Grab a toothpick to poke around the nooks and crannies where the gunk, dust and pieces like to hide out. Pick or brush out any stuff around screws or gears.

Because they wear out eventually, you need to replace the burrs from time to time. There’s no set change out point because it all depends on how much use the grinder gets. Figure a change somewhere between 3 and 5 years.

A replacement set of burrs can be found on Amazon and shouldn’t cost much more than $20 or so. Pretty cheap fix for a quality grinder, no?

Got the vac handy? You do. Good.

Vacuum out the grinder chamber and the chute. Take care you don’t have any loose parts or screws inside that can get sucked up.

Once that’s all done, it’s time to reassemble the grinder.

Before putting your grinder back to work, grind a small batch of beans and toss them out.

This will:

  • Force out any bits and pieces left behind
  • Readjust the burrs. They may be slightly out of whack after being worked on.
  • Lubricate the burrs.

I know. All that trouble to remove the old oils. But a bit of oil will make the burrs last a little longer. And now that you’re going to be regularly cleaning your unit, rancidity won’t be an issue anymore.

Last thoughts…

How thorough should I be when cleaning the grinder?

As thorough as you can be, but don’t kill yourself trying to get every last ground out. Try to get into as many of the crevices as you can to get out the really fine bits that work their way in.

The more you can get cleaned out, the more you can slow down the effects of stale coffee and rancid oils.

Are there any types of beans that I shouldn’t use in the grinder?

If you’re using a standalone grinder, you can use any bean that you want. Just remember, the oilier the bean, the more thorough you need to be when cleaning.

If you’re using a super automatic that has a built in grinder, the recommendation from manufactures is to not use oily beans.

Why?

The grinder isn’t removable so it makes it really tough to get into the tight spots to really clean up the residue. This is one of the biggest problems with a super automatic because those oils will start to clog the grinder and lower its efficiency.

If you use regular beans it’s best to avoid the flavored type because their odor and oily residue are longer lasting and harder to clean. They also pass that flavor on to other grinds.

Maybe you’ve tasted this at the local bagelry or bakery. Not so much at the coffee shop.

Hmmm…

Ok, now Old (or New) Faithful is all cleaned up. Enjoy your thoughts of great coffee to come and a nice, long service life for your grinder.

Time for a grind and a nice, fresh cup. Or two, you’ve been busy.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Bob! Very informative article! I have never given my grinder a thorough cleaning, but I’m going to start. I’ll have to check out that grinder cleaner, too. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Pinning this post! Thanks!

    • Hi Marge! Thanks for stopping by. Grindz works pretty well, much better on your grinder than rice. Thanks for the pin!

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