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 that liquid gold it is that makes you giggle with glee).
Cleaning the grinder is reasonably straightforward and shouldn’t suck too much time out of your day.
It is 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.
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
- Screwdriver (Just in case you need it to remove some pieces)
- Spare (not special) coffee beans to season your 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.
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.
You can see one of the brushes we prefer here.
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 a good one.
Using 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".
Having wood 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.
Again, this step is optional.
Depending on how serious the cleaning was – you might want to season it once you are done.
This makes a subtle difference in taste when you are ready to make your next cup of coffee.
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.
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.
If you are making beautiful espresso drinks like these coffee milkshakes, you want a clean machine that delivers excellence.
A big question for coffee lovers is how to clean a commercial 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.
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.
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.
Another great choice is the Urnex Grindz Professional coffee grinder cleaning tablets.
The Grindz burr grinder cleaner just seems to do a slightly better job.
Want to check them out?
You can find them here.
Just a little reminder, because some of you out 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 the tablets by Urnex Grindz vs rice, the tablets win.
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.
Step # 1: You Must Unplug
Nope, not a yoga mantra.
You don’t need to get all Zen to do this… just unplug the 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.
Step # 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.
Step # 3: Shake It Good
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 you can either put it back together and run some coffee through it to season it, or…
Step # 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 have dried them thoroughly.
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.
Step # 5: Suck It Up
To do a really big clean, when the grinder is apart – you can 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.
You can really get in there, depending on the model – and remove the upper burr to clean out dust from the nooks and crannies.
Then hit the lower burr and do the same.
Next, you 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.
Step # 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.
Then it goes back together.
And for many, there is that wash of relief when all of the parts go where they are supposed to go – and that none of them ended up in the vacuum, on the floor, or being used as a dog toy...
Step # 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 - like these - 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 it is helpful, please share with your coffee-lovin’ friends and family!