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How To Clean A Burr Grinder (Like A Pro)

The people of the “great cup of coffee” tribe know that a burr grinder is an important tool in making that perfect cup of Joe (in whatever style of liquid gold makes you giggle with glee). 

Cleaning the grinder is reasonably straightforward and shouldn’t suck too much time out of your day. It's easy enough to learn how to clean a burr grinder. And, remember, it’s an investment in happiness – after all, a clean grinder means great tasting coffee. 

Close up image of a burr grinder

What You’ll Need

You will need the following items:

  • A burr grinder (we assume you have this, since you're here)
  • A soft brush
  • Grinder cleaning pellets
  • Wood toothpicks and cotton swabs
  • Screwdriver (Just in case you need it to remove some pieces)
  • Spare (not special) coffee beans to season your grinder


Burr Grinder

You likely have a burr grinder, but maybe not. We’re not judging. Perhaps you’re researching how difficult they are to clean before you spend the coin on one. Check out this great post here that lists some of the best burr grinders.

Soft Brush

Holding a cleaning brush

The brush helps you get the grinds out of those hard-to-reach places. People use all kinds of brushes that work for them and that fit into the crevices of their grinder. A soft-bristled toothbrush works well (just make sure not to leave your grinder fresh and minty).

Grinder Cleaning Pellets

While you don’t always need these – especially if you’re doing a light clean – pellets are great for when you need to do a bit of a deeper clean. There are plenty on the market to choose from – this one is seems like a good choice.

"Can I use Rice To Clean?"

This one isn’t listed in the “what you’ll need” category, but you should know about what it means if you use rice to clean your grinder. There are some who say that using rice is a good substitute for pellets.  

And while it can be a substitute if you are stuck, it isn’t recommended it for a whole whack of reasons.  First off, rice is much harder than the pellets and that can damage the motor of the grinder. Second, rice is a starch and grinding it up might result in a gross residue, which makes cleaning it more difficult. 

Some manufacturers such as Baratza won’t cover damage caused to the grinder when you use rice. I tend to listen to the people who manufactured the item when they say "don't do it" (​1​​​).

"Our experience repairing Baratza grinders has shown that using rice or other natural materials to clean a Baratza grinder can cause mechanical damage to your grinder." -Baratza 

Wooden Toothpicks

Having wooden toothpicks around helps when you need to get into those hard-to-reach spots. While not everyone feels the need for them, I think they are helpful. Don’t buy cheap ones that will snap off as you are cleaning. That doesn’t help the process at all - and is incredibly frustrating. 

Another optional-but-useful tool: cotton swabs. They slot nicely between the soft brush and the wooden toothpicks in size and reach. Because they are usually flexible, you can use them to clean the chute through which the ground coffee exits your grinder. If you like oily dark-roasted beans, this is a crucial place to keep your grinder clean.

Spare Beans

Again, this step is optional. Depending on how serious the cleaning was – you might want to season it once you are done. 

After you clean the grinder, run a few beans through it. This puts a bit of oil back into the machine from the beans and it gets rid of any lingering, yet invisible, residue. This makes a subtle difference in taste when you are ready to make your next cup of coffee (​2​​​).

"Seasoning burrs can easily be achieved in smaller home models by first running through a little extra coffee of whatever new coffee you're switching to." -Serious Eats

How To Get The Job Done

Over time, coffee grinders can get dirty from a variety of things. Coffee dust gets everywhere, and depending on what type of coffee beans you use, the oil from the beans (which also gives the beautiful dark roast its robust flavor) can also be a problem. It can build up and, over time, the oil can spoil. That can seriously affect the taste of your coffee. A good cleaning takes care of all of this.

Whether you are making beautiful espresso drinks or extracting the perfect third-wave flavor from exotic single-source beans, you want a clean machine that delivers excellence.

Whether you are making beautiful espresso drinks or extracting the perfect third-wave flavor from exotic single-source beans, you want a clean machine that delivers excellence.

A big question for coffee lovers is how to clean a burr coffee grinder – it’s not the most glam part of being a member of the great-coffee-at-home tribe, but it is important. 

Grinder Cleaning Pellets For The Win

Everyone likes an easy way out. Everyone. Seriously. And while we’re talking about how to clean electric coffee grinders, let’s be clear here: using grinder cleaning pellets keeps things simple. And it’s easy.  

Follow the directions on the package of the grinder pellets and give them a good run through your grinder on a medium-fine setting. Your coffee grinder will look and work much better (​3​​​).

For most people, doing this once or twice a month is all you need to do. You can also run some beans through right after, just to make sure that the pellet dust is all gone.

There are several choices for grinder cleaning pellets out there. Two of the most popular burr grinder cleaning pellets are the Urnex Grindz and Full Circle brands.

Circle Grinder Cleaner

What is the difference, you may ask, between the Grindz vs Full Circle? They are both good. Lots of people like the Full Circle grinder cleaner.

Grindz coffee grinder cleaning tablets

The Grindz burr grinder cleaner just seems to do a slightly better job.  Just a little reminder, because some of you will think:

“But I have rice in my cupboard; I’ll just use that.”

And you can (hell, it’s your kitchen, your grinder and your rice!), but it’s not recommended. When it comes to grinder gleaning tablets vs. rice, the grinder manufacturers weigh in on the side of the tablets (1).

Rice can work in a pinch, but it has a few challenges that come with using it: it can leave behind a starch residue, it’s a harder substance than the tablets, and it has been reported that some rice has been found with plastic in it… and you don’t want plastic dust finding its way into your coffee.

It’s better to spend the coin and get the tablets. If you want to do a bit of a deeper clean, you can do that too. Follow the directions below for how to clean an electric coffee grinder.

1. You Must Unplug

Nope, not a yoga mantra (and don't put down your Internet device - you have to read the rest of these instructions first). You don’t need to get all Zen to do this… just unplug the grinder.

Grinder, Unplugged, with tools

Cotton swabs, chopstick, brush, and most important: UNPLUGGED GRINDER


That might seem like a ‘duh, of course’ step, but sometimes people forget – and that isn’t pretty.  You don’t want to be in there messing around when it’s plugged in.

2. Pull It Apart

Source: Flickr Nicholas Lundgaard

Well, just the parts that are supposed to come off. Don’t get carried away.

Each grinder is different and you should check your manual to see what your deal is. Typically, you remove the hopper and the upper grinding casing – anything that allows you to access the burrs. This lets you get into the corners and crevices to get rid of the coffee dust and other things floating around.

3. Shake And Scrub

Turn the grinder upside down and give the sides a smack. You may be surprised at how much comes flying out of it. Repeat this until almost nothing comes out. 

Now use your soft brush to scrub out all the coffee grounds and dust that's clinging to the inside of your grinder. Here's where those wooden toothpicks and cotton swabs might come in handy: you want to make sure you get old grinds (and the oils that go with them) out of your burrs and other inside surfaces. 

toothbrush for cleaning burrs

Grinding residue of dark, oily coffee after a few weeks. 

Give special attention to the feeder channel - that's the chute where ground coffee is guided down into the grind drawer. This is one of those spots where the cotton swab just might be your best friend, as you can use the cotton end to wipe down the sides of the channel, and you can bend the stalk to get into tight places.

Feeder channel being swabbed

The feeder channel can get clogged, especially with fine, oily grinds. Clean it often.


If you've recently done a deep clean, you can put it back together and run some coffee through it to season it. Otherwise:

4. Wipe It Down

Wipe down the plastic pieces that you have removed or use your soft brush to remove any dust or… ahem… dog hair. You can use a bit of soapy water for this – just make sure that there is no residue left on the pieces and that you dry them thoroughly before reassembling.

The metal pieces must be kept dry. Don’t run anything under the water or spray anything into the grinder. Use the brush to dislodge any grounds and wipe away any oils from inside the grinder.

5. Suck It Up

To do a really big clean, when the grinder is apart, take a brush or wooden toothpick to clear out all of the grounds and dust the teeth, screws and any other spots you can access. Cotton swabs are also good for getting into crevices and channels that require a flexible tool.

Depending on the model, you can remove the upper burr to really get in there and clean out dust from the nooks and crannies. Then hit the lower burr and do the same.

Next, take the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner and use it to suck up any of the tiny particles that are left. Be careful if you have small pieces like screws that you have set aside – they can easily get sucked into your vacuum – and that’s a pain.

6. Wipe and Replace

Before you put it back together, wipe down the hopper and grinds bin to make sure that you get any oily build up. Depending on your grinder, the bean container and ground coffee container might be dishwasher-safe.

PRO TIP: For the bean container and other plastic parts, a little baking soda on a damp paper towel will scrub away residual coffee oils, plus any dust stuck to them, and leave the plastic shining like new.

Then it goes back together. For many, there is that flood of relief when all the parts go where they are supposed to go – and none of them ended up in the vacuum, on the floor, or being used as a dog toy...

7. Grind It Up

If you want to take this one extra step, it is worth it: Grind a small amount of coffee after you have finished cleaning the grinder. This is done partly to season it and get it ready to do its job again (and this step lets you make sure that it all works).

Grind some beans – you can use a small handful of everyday beans that you might have on hand. This ensures that the adjustment settings are right and everything is where it belongs.

And it’s good to put a bit of coffee dust and oil back into the machine. It might not seem logical – but that’s the craft of coffee for ya!

How Often To Clean?

How often to clean coffee grinder is relative, but for the average person – an easy clean once a week is helpful.

A bit of a deeper clean every couple of weeks will help to keep your burr coffee grinder in good shape and running well.

Source: Flickr John Brian Silverio


Ready To Clean Your Grinder?

So – what do you think? Do you feel ready to clean your grinder? It’s really not that difficult – and it’s up to you how much effort you want to put into it.

Just remember: a clean grinder makes your coffee taste better and gives your grinder a longer life. And if you are going to move out of your comfort zone and make some creative, kick-ass coffee drinks - you want a clean machine!

Please let us know what you think about this piece – and if it will help to make cleaning your grinder easier. And – if you found it helpful, please share with your coffee-lovin’ friends and family!

FAQs

Can I wash my grinder in the dishwasher?

You can usually wash parts of your grinder in the dishwasher. In general, the bean hopper and grind drawer are safe for use in the top rack of a dishwasher, but check your grinder’s manual or the manufacturer’s Web site to be sure. And never wash the steel burrs or any electrical components in the dishwasher.

Can I grind spices, grains, or seeds in a burr grinder?

You should never grind spices, grains, or seeds in a burr grinder. Burr grinders are designed to grind coffee beans, not other substances. You can use a blade grinder for grinding spices such as peppercorns, cloves, and other small, hard spices. Be sure to clean the grinder thoroughly between uses to avoid making your cookies taste like curry. (Unless you like that, in which case rock on!)

Can I grind cocoa beans in a coffee grinder?

Grinding cocoa beans in a coffee grinder is not recommended. Grinding cocoa beans produces an oily liquid called cocoa liquor, which your burr grinder is not meant to handle. Making chocolate from your own cocoa beans is at least as involved and specialized a subject as making great coffee. 


References

  1. Rice, It's Just Not a Good Idea (for cleaning!). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.baratza.com/rice-its-just-not-a-good-idea-for-cleaning/
  2. Clayton, L. (2018, August 09). 4 Quick Ways to Maintain Your Coffee Grinder. Retrieved from https://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/04/how-to-clean-and-maintain-your-coffee-grinder-burr-grinder.html
  3. Grindz™ Grinder Cleaner: Instructions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://urnex.com/professional/product/grindz-grinder-cleaner/?tab=directions


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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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caprockoralsurgery - March 16, 2018

Thanks Brooke!xo,Kellyann

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