Cleaning your coffee grinder is one of those routine essentials that people tend to see as an annoying chore. Few know that by properly cleaning your grinder regularly, you can see an almost immediate improvement in the taste of your coffee.
As you run more and more beans through your grinder, the natural oils inside and along the surface of the coffee beans will stick to the grinder burrs as residue. Over time the oil will turn rancid. Imagine what will happen when you grind your lovely fresh beans over this old oil – not a pleasant wake-me-up in the morning, that’s for sure!
Then again, few know how to thoroughly clean their grinders. Whether it’s a fear of breaking something, or confusion from the dozens of “guides” out there (using RICE to clean your grinder? Really??), many don’t bother giving it a shot. No more excuses – with this detailed tutorial to walk you through step-by-step, it’s finally time to breathe new life into your coffee grinder. Here we gooo!
How to Clean a Coffee Grinder: Burr Grinders
Prepare What You Need
Step one is to gather everything you need in one place. I don’t know about you – but I hate scrambling around looking for a spare cloth when I’m halfway through cleaning. That said, here’s a handy checklist of what you’ll need:
- Your grinder (duh)
- Your grinder’s instructions manual (uh-oh, better hope you haven’t chucked it out)
- A screwdriver (if needed)
- A vacuum cleaner
- Damp cloths
- A brush (nice, long bristles)
- Grinder cleaning pellets (optional)
- Extra/unwanted beans (time to put those stale beans to good use)
- A clear, flat surface (so you don’t tear your hair out after losing a random screw)
Step 1 – Unplug it
Please, please make sure the grinder is switched off and unplugged at the wall. This is the number one thing I want to drum into your head. You don’t want the sharp burrs to accidentally start rotating anywhere near your fingers.
Well, what are you waiting for? Yank that plug now!
Step 2 – Empty It
Empty out any beans left in the hopper. Shut the trapdoor, take the lid off and tip the beans into an airtight container. Set the beans aside in a cool, dry place; away from direct sunlight. Ideally a nice, dry cupboard.
If there are any unused coffee grounds in the grounds bin, empty it into the trash. There really isn’t a point in saving it. If your grinder has a portafilter holder instead of a grounds bin, great! That’s one less step you’ll need to take.
Step 3 – Disassemble it
All right, blow the dust off that instructions manual. Every model is different, so this is where you do what the instructions say in order to take your grinder apart.
Firstly, remove the hopper (the place where the beans go). Some grinders require a twist and click, before the hopper comes off. Other models just need the trapdoor to be shut, then you can freely lift the hopper up and out.
Then, slide the grounds bin out. Pop these two parts into the sink and leave it there for now.
Now, you want to expose the burrs of your grinder. In most home models, after removing the hopper, you should be able to see the burrs sticking out. Other models require you to loosen a couple of screws before you can get to the burrs inside the grinder body. Following your instructions manual, remove the burrs. Some can be twisted open, others require a tool that came with the grinder when you first bought it. This is typically as far as you have to get when it comes to disassembling your grinder.
Tip: If you see any beans sitting above the burrs after the hopper has been removed, just scoop them out. But be careful. The burrs are sharp.
Don’t try to force something if it’s not meant to be opened. Most grinders will only allow you to take the top or the inner burr off, whilst the other burr is fixed into place. Don’t get itchy fingers and try to pry it apart. Read the instructions.
If you have loose screws, put it in a little cup and set it aside so you don’t lose it.
Step 4 – Brush it
Great job so far. You should be able to see a giant mess of brown coffee grounds all over the burrs, inside the grinder. Grab your brush and begin dusting away. Tilt your grinder gently, and brush the coffee grounds off the burrs and out of the grinder.
If there are any stubborn coffee grounds that are stuck to the burrs, tilt the grinder slightly and give it a couple of firm whacks alongside the body to dislodge it.
Step 5 – Vacuum it
This step is optional. If brushing it alone does a good job of cleaning it, you can move on.
Pull the flat cleaning head off the vacuum cleaner. You just want the flexible hose part. Switch your vacuum on. Bring it close to the burrs and watch it happily suck up the stray coffee grounds.
Do a quick clean of the surrounding countertop while you’re at it too.
Step 6 – Wipe it
This step is optional. Using a slightly damp cloth, wipe down the burrs you have removed. Emphasis on the word “slightly”. Don’t ever use a soaking wet cloth to wipe the burrs. A tiny bit of hot water though, will help clear out any stubborn leftover oils stuck to it.
A microfibre cloth works best, but really any spare fabric should do a decent job. Take this opportunity to wipe down the exterior surface of the grinder too.
Then, go over the burrs once again with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. You want to ensure there’s no moisture left on the burrs before you reassemble it later.
Should you opt to use a damp cloth on the burrs, you must let the burrs air dry later before reassembling it. Under no circumstances do we want to risk any residual moisture getting into the grinder circuitry.
Step 7 – Wash it
Remember that hopper and coffee grounds bin we chucked in the sink earlier? Time to get scrubbing. Use warm water (and a bit of soap if it’s really dirty) to rinse it out.
Only wash the hopper and bin. Never, ever wash any other part of the grinder with water. Not the burrs, not the body. You don’t want any of the sensitive electronics to short out! On that note, don’t spray any sanitizer or cleaning agent into the grinder as well.
I always advise washing the hopper and catcher by hand instead of relying on the dishwasher, as it really lets you target any stained areas and scrub it squeaky clean.
Step 8 – Dry it
Wipe the hopper and grounds bin dry. Make sure the burrs you wiped down are completely dry too. Leave the individual parts out in the open to air dry.
Step 9 – Reassemble it
And here we go again! Place the top/inner burr back. Replace any screws. Hopper on. Bin in. Don’t forget to switch it back on, and you should be good to go.
Step 10 – Purge it
One last step before you throw that celebratory party. Purging your grinder is basically clearing it out one last time.
Firstly, open that bottle of grinder cleaning pellets. Grab a small handful of tablets and drop it into the hopper. Start your grinder and let it grind up the cleaning pellets into powder.
Grinder cleaning pellets are designed to absorb any residual oil or old odours. They reset the “taste” of the burrs back to zero, and are great to use in-between different bags of beans. They are non-toxic and tasteless, so you have nothing to worry about.
Secondly, run a handful of old or stale beans through the grinder. This pushes out any last bits of cleaning pellets and “primes” the grinder ready for your new batch of beans.
Use this opportunity here to readjust your grind settings. You’ll have the peace of mind knowing that everything is up and running again, as it should be, with real, proper beans.
How to Clean a Coffee Grinder: Blade Grinders
Cleaning a blade grinder is a lot simpler than cleaning a burr grinder. Follow your instructions manual and take it apart. In select models, the blades can be unscrewed and removed. Again, make sure the power is switched off!
Wash the blades with warm, soapy water. Wipe down the interior and exterior surfaces with a slightly damp cloth. Be careful not to let any water drip into the motors or you risk damaging the unit. Then leave it out to air dry, or wipe it over with a dry cloth.
If your grinder does not allow the blade to be removed, simply wipe it down, or use a stiff brush to sweep any grinds out of the chamber. An age-old trick is to tilt it sideways and give it a firm whack on the bottom. The sharp movement should dislodge any extra grounds still stuck under or around the blades.
Common Cleaning Questions
Question: How Often Should I Do It?
Make a habit of doing a full, deep clean at least once a month. A deep clean involves disassembling the grinder and clearing out every nook and cranny, exactly as this article has covered.
To keep your coffee tasting top notch and fresh, run a small handful of grinder cleaning pellets through once or twice a month to clear out old oils. Doing this regularly will help avoid build up, especially if you’re using oily, dark roast beans. You’ll save yourself the headache of your grinder clogging up.
It’s also a good idea to use these pellets every time you’re switching to a different brand, roast or type of beans, to reset any lingering aftertaste on the burrs, and start fresh on a clean slate.
The grinder cleaning pellets are no substitute for actually getting into the grinder and cleaning it, though, so don’t think you can get sneaky and get away with it! It’s your coffee at stake, after all.
Another tip as to how often you should clean your grinder is to use your senses: whenever you see oil build up, or whenever the coffee taste starts getting wonky. Trust your gut. So, if you’re thinking, “Should I clean it?” You should probably clean it.
Question: Can I Use Rice to Clean It?
Should you use hard, uncooked rice to clean your grinder? Or bread crumbs? My answer to this question comes in 3 parts: no, NO, NOO!!!
Seriously, where did this idea even come from? I get what the arguments say: running rice through until it turns to powder can absorb the oils too. But rice is not a valid replacement for grinder cleaning tablets. Uncooked rice is rock-hard, and running it through your grinder will dull the burrs, or at worst, damage it. You do so entirely at your own risk. I do not endorse this method at all. And why would anyone even think of running bread through a grinder?
On that note, please don’t use your COFFEE grinder to grind your nutmeg, black peppers, or any other spices. Coffee is extremely delicate in terms of taste and aroma, and unlike your stew for dinner, you don’t want to have an amalgamation of flavours. Keep your coffee grinder separate. It is an invaluable piece of equipment that should be used for coffee, and coffee alone. Take care of it, and it will serve you well.
So, rice? No.
Congratulations! You’ve achieved a great milestone – successfully cleaning your coffee grinder. Give yourself a pat on the back. It’s really not that difficult to do. Do it a couple of times, and you’ll be able to clean your grinder with your eyes closed. Honestly, the most difficult part for me is getting my lazy bum off the couch.
Time for you to kick back, relax, and enjoy a fresher, cleaner, more delicious cup of coffee.