Your coffee grinder is just like a car engine. Same as engine oil needs regular maintenance and changing to keep the engine running smoothly, the oils from coffee beans need to be managed to ensure the grinder’s optimal performance.
If you don’t clean your coffee grinder regularly, the oils and grounds will accumulate and create a residue that affects your grinder’s performance. This can lead to increased friction, more heat, and damage to the coffee grinder.
So, how do you exactly clean your coffee grinders? I’ll go through my tips and tricks on how to clean your coffee grinder based on my experience with burr disassembly and cleaning kits. Here’s how to perform everything from basic maintenance to deep cleaning.
Why Should You Clean Your Coffee Grinder
You should clean your coffee grinder because coffee beans release oils during the chopping. These oils build up on the teeth of the burrs over time, and your precious java has an unpleasant taste. The longer you allow the oils to accumulate on your grinder, the worse the taste (think rancid). This is especially an issue with dark roast beans. The darker the roast, the oilier the beans.
This is why cleaning coffee grinders regularly equals optimal coffee flavor. You need to remove these oils and leftover coffee grounds stuck to the interior via cleaning.
Unpleasant taste isn’t the only issue if you don’t clean a coffee grinder. Oils and old grounds coat the burr coffee grinder and can clog the grinder chambers. This affects the grinder’s performance. It wears down the blade, slows down the grinder, and shortens its lifespan.
Overall, cleaning a burr and blade coffee grinder is crucial for the best coffee flavor, preventing blockages, ensuring the blade remains sharp, and prolonging the grinder’s longevity.
You can perform basic maintenance on coffee grinders, which doesn’t require taking out the blade and reassembling the grinder.
You need a coffee grinder cleaner, such as Urnex Grindz. Grindz is a bean-shaped coffee tablet from Urnex that goes into the grinder chamber and cleans it. These tablets mimic the shape of coffee beans and use food-safe ingredients to remove oils and ground residue.
Here’s how to use it:
- Run the grinder to ensure it’s empty.
- Measure about 1/4 cup of tablets for a home grinder.
- Pour the tablets into the bean hopper.
- Grind just like you would normal coffee beans.
Pro tip: Grind a burner batch of beans after you’re done cleaning to make sure there isn’t any leftover cleaner.
Note: You can use another cleaner apart from Urnex, but check the ingredients to make sure it’s food-safe.
So, how often should you clean the grinder this way? As often as you like. I recommend cleaning between a week to once a month. This depends on how often you use your coffee grinder. You can do an experiment: wait a few weeks before cleaning the grinder. If you notice a big difference, clean more often.
Can You Use Rice to Clean a Grinder?
Can you use rice to clean a grinder depends on who you ask. For example, Baratza is firmly against it. They, and many other manufacturers, won’t cover the damage to the grinder caused by rice.
The main issue with rice is that it’s harder than pellets and can damage the grinder motor. Plus, rice is starch and can cause a lot of residues, which makes cleaning more difficult instead of easier.
However, there are also advantages to using rice to clean a coffee grinder. As rice is ground, it pushes out the dust and absorbs the oils, which means you don’t need to disassemble the grinder to clean it.
Overall, you can try using rice to clean your coffee grinder, but I don’t advise it. For me, the biggest issue is the additional residue. You’ll have to use more beans to purge the grinder afterward, which offsets and savings you get. Urnex tablets are inexpensive anyway.
Also, check your warranty before using rice, as you don’t want to risk voiding the warranty. Finally, you can try using dry quick-cook rice. It’s soft and not as starchy, so there’s a lower risk of using it.
Note: Even if you use rice to clean a blade grinder, you’ll need to disassemble and do a deep cleaning from time to time because rice can’t clean all the cracks and crevices.
Here’s how to deep clean a burr grinder step-by-step:
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- Turn the burr coffee grinder off.
- Remove the bean hopper and the grind chamber. Take out coffee beans from the hopper, and wipe the hopper and the grind chamber with a cloth to remove coffee dust and leftovers. In case there are a lot of coffee oils, clean them with soap and warm water. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the soap and fully dry the parts.
- Return the hopper and the bin and press the grind button to grind out any coffee beans left over in the burrs. Grind until you don’t hear any beans being ground.
- Unplug the burr grinder and remove the bean hopper and the grounds bin.
- Remove the outer burr. Gently twist until it comes off.
- Clean the outer and the inner burr and the chute of coffee oils and particles. You can use a wire brush, toothpick, or a lint-free cloth. Move in an up-and-down direction to get the grounds out of the burr teeth. Turn the grinder over to get loose grounds out.
- Clean the grinding chute with a brush. Loosen stuck grounds and give the grinder a knock or two if needed.
- Reassemble the grinder. Check the manual for instructions on how to put the grinder back together.
Note: Never wash the burrs with water and soap because they’ll rust.
Putting the burrs back together and keeping the correct alignment is the trickiest part of cleaning burr grinders, which is why you shouldn’t do it before consulting the instruction manual.
Here are some more tips on how to clean your grinders:
- Add a bellow — Get a bellow for your grinder, which blows air into crevices and areas where coffee grounds accumulate. Most single-dose grinders will have a bellow, but these days you can find bellow attachments for popular grinders like Baratza and Eureka.
- Use RDT to reduce static and mess — Spray the coffee beans with a spray bottle or add a few drops of water to the beans by hand. Make sure not to oversaturate the beans, but only slightly dampen them. This reduces the static when you grind the coffee, and you have fewer clumps and more consistently ground coffee.
- Use a compressed air can — It’s a quick way to get leftover ground coffee out.
- Use a vacuum — Another quick way to get rid of most coffee bits stuck in the burr mechanism without having to take apart any pieces. I’ve found a strong vacuum can remove ~80% of the grounds that you’d get from a deep cleaning.
How Often to Clean a Coffee Grinder
How often to clean a coffee grinder depends on how often you use it and what type of coffee beans you use. If you use your grinder every day or use very oily beans, do a weekly clean. If you use your grinder more rarely or use light or medium roasts, you can deep clean the coffee grinder once every few weeks.
Generally, it’s good to do basic maintenance once a week and a deep clean every two weeks.
How Often Should You Clean Your Grinder?
Cleaning blade and burr coffee grinders is a necessity. Otherwise, you’ll have bad coffee. There’s no way around it. Luckily, it’s easy to do. If you use your grinder daily, do basic maintenance once a week and a deep clean once every two weeks, and your grinder will run smoothly.
If your grinder is past its prime and no amount of cleaning can help, or you’re looking to upgrade, we’ve got you. Check out our round-up of the best manual coffee grinder. Or, if you want an electric grinder, you can’t go wrong with Baratza Encore or Virtuoso.