How to Clean A Coffee Grinder: Cleaning Burr or Blade Coffee Grinders
As the silent hero of home-brewing, our coffee grinders are the epicenter of our coffee-drinking experience. After all, we only get the freshest coffee when we grind our beans just moments before powering up our coffee machines to brew the perfect cup.
But as an essential player to our coffee experience, it's vital that we properly care for and manage our coffee grinders. Without regular maintenance, even the best grinders can have a shorter life expectancy than intended and can even begin to work improperly just a few months after having them.
An improperly-working machine means poor quality coffee and money wasted (as many coffee grinders can be expensive).
So, what to do about this? We must clean our coffee grinders! Whether you have a burr grinder or a blade grinder, this post will explain all of the necessary steps to keep your coffee grinder happy, healthy, and working at its best.
Burr Grinders Versus Blade Grinders
If you're not sure of the difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder: you're not alone. But the difference between the two is actually quite simple. Knowing the type of grinder you possess is essential for learning how to best clean it.
A burr grinder is a grinder that grinds the coffee between two revolving burrs. The burrs crush the beans between a moving grinder wheel and a non-moving surface.
There are two different types of burr grinders: conical and flat burrs. Flat burrs give you more precision but can be louder and take more heat for the overall process. Most burr grinders (especially burr grinders at home) are conical burr grinders.
Because of its unique grinding process, burr grinders give coffee beans a more uniform grind, creating more uniform ground coffee. This consistent grind results in a more flavorful, richer flavor than blade coffee grinders can produce.
On the other hand, blade grinders have blades that slice beans during the grinding process. As a result, blade grinders grind beans faster but often deliver an uneven bean size, resulting in worse tasting coffee than burr grinders.
How To Clean A Burr Coffee Grinder
As you might expect, cleaning a burr coffee grinder is much more labor-intensive than cleaning a blade grinder. This laborious cleaning process is because burr grinders have many more parts than blade grinders, so it takes much more time.
It also means it's all the more necessary to regularly clean your burr grinder over a blade because it has so many more parts.
In addition to the monthly deep cleanings, you may consider sprinkling in some light cleanings throughout the month to not make the monthly deep cleans as arduous. For example, you can lightly clean your burr grinder with a towel or paper towel by simply wiping off the grind dust and residue in between use.
For deep cleaning, it does get a little more complicated. We recommend doing a deep cleaning about once every month or so.
What You'll Need
- A soft brush
- Grinder cleaning pellets
- Wood toothpicks and cotton swabs
- Coffee beans
You'll need a soft brush to clean out those hard-to-reach places where residue can often build up. You can use any brush (although an unused paintbrush is one of the more common choices). You can even use a soft-bristled toothbrush; just again, make sure that it's unused.
Grinder cleaning pellets are also a necessary aspect of doing a deep clean. Some coffee grinder experts say that you can sub out these pellets for rice, but this is not recommended for burr grinders.
Grinder pellets work like grinding regular coffee and are an excellent tool to use outside of your monthly maintenance cleaning. Run the cleaning pellets through the machine every couple of weeks for routine cleaning.
Toothpicks and cotton swabs or again for those hard-to-reach places, and a screwdriver is there to be able to disassemble your grinder fully. We also think it's a good idea to run some coffee beans through your burr coffee grinder at the end of the cleaning to make sure everything is working correctly.
Steps To Clean Your Burr Grinder
Remove The Hopper
- The first step is to remove the bean hopper. Empty the hopper of beans, unlock the hopper, and entirely remove. Once it's away from the rest of the machine, you can wash it with soap and water to remove all of that bean residue and dust.
- Since the hopper is made of plastic, you can use soap and water to clean this piece, but make sure never to use water on the actual machine as this can cause rust and damage.
Turn On Grinder
- You may want to turn on your grinder to grind up the last bits of coffee beans that you can't see and that are deep in the machine.
- You must unplug your grinder, as cleaning it when it's still plugged in can cause harm to you, your cleaning supplies, and the burr coffee grinder.
Pull-Apart and Remove Burrs
- The next step is to remove and pull apart the burrs as much as your machine allows. Every grinder is different, so you must check with your users' manual. However, most will enable you to pull apart the burrs, at least to some extent.
- Once your burrs are as disassembled as possible, you can do a deep clean and fully get all of that nasty oil and residue from each part and angle. You also may want to see if you can shake the grinder upside down to get out any extra dust.
- After you've got all those hard-to-reach places and given everything a good wipe down, you're ready to put your grinder back together.
- Make sure to do a test run and grind some spare beans to ensure everything's working and get that last bit of gunk out of your grinder.
How To Clean A Blade Grinder
As you may have thought, cleaning a blade grinder is a much more manageable, more straightforward process than cleaning a burr grinder. As a result, some coffee lovers may opt into purchasing a blade grinder simply because it's so easy to maintain.
Though even though it's simpler to clean than a burr grinder, it's still paramount that you put in routine maintenance to keep your blade grinder healthy and running well. Without regular cleaning, the residue in your grinder can bog down the blades and also become foul or even rancid.
What You'll Need
- 1 Microfiber towel
- 1 Sink or large bowl
- 1 Stiff-bristled bottle brush
- 1 Non-abrasive sponge
- Coffee grinder cleaning tablets or Uncooked rice
- 1 Dishwashing liquid
In the case of blade grinders, you can use rice, which will undoubtedly cause less trouble than using it on your burr grinder.
Many people swear by using rice as a cleaner, but it's not great because the pieces can cause harm to your blades and get stuck in your machine. Plus, some studies have reported finding plastic in rice, and so you don't want that plastic caught up in your coffee.
Long story short, if you're determined to use rice, use it on your blade coffee grinder and not your burr coffee grinder. However, we still recommend using coffee grinder cleaning tablets as that's guaranteed not to cause any harm to your machine.
Steps To Clean Your Blade Coffee Grinder
Pour Cleaning Tablets or Pellets Into Your Coffee Grinder
- If using rice, pour 1/4 cup of uncooked rice into the grinder. If using cleaning tablets or pellets, place the recommended amount from the cleaning pellet instructions into your grinder.
Run The Grinder
- Power up your grinder until the rice or cleaning tablets have been reduced to fine dust or powder.
Unplug Your Grinder
- Once you're satisfied with the powder and have run your grinder for an extended period, unplug your machine to begin the rest of the cleaning process.
- You must turn your coffee grinder off because cleaning your grinder while it's plugged in can be highly hazardous to both yourself and your coffee grinder.
- Empty the grinder of its remnants by dumping it into a trashcan. Make sure that all of the residues are clear.
Hand Clean Grinder
- Now's the time where you get to break out all of those cleaning supplies. Damp your towel in some water and scrub the grinder to remove bits, oils, and the rest of that gunk. Ensure to clean the outside too so that the outside shines as bright as the inside does.
What To Do If There's A Clog
Even with regular maintenance, sometimes you'll notice that your machine is clogged. Especially if you grind on a fine setting, coffee dust can quickly get stuck.
Oily beans are another thing that clogs up your engine faster than average, so if you grind on a fine setting or use an oily bean or you haven't deep cleaned your machine for a while, clogs can happen, and when they do, your whole coffee process grinds to a halt.
Clogs tend to happen more with burr grinders rather than with blade grinders. This is because blade grinders are very shallow and only have one part, so clogs don't often happen with those. But burr grinders have so many pieces, chutes, and so forth that clogs do indeed occur.
Once you realize you have a clog, the first step to take is to do a normal deep clean to see if you can dislodge whatever is causing the blockage.
If there's still a block that you can't see or reach, you may need to break out the vacuum cleaner to suck out the clog. You can also try using a long paperclip to push the clog out.
Cleaning Pellets and Tablets
As already mentioned, you should never use rice on burr grinders, but you might be able to get away with it if you have a blade grinder.
Either way, it's probably wise to invest in a quality cleaning pellet or tablet solution that's specifically designed for cleaning coffee grinders.
A popular choice is Urniex Cleaning Tablet Cleaner. Urniex is a popular option because it helps dislodge any hard buildup of coffee grounds found inside your burr cleanup (that can often lead to those finicky clogs).
In addition, it does an excellent job at killing coffee residue, which is ideal if you have a lot of buildups. Urniex is also gluten-free, is food safe, and doesn't leave behind any strange flavors.
What Coffee Grounds Cause Most Buildup
No matter the type of bean, it's imperative that you clean your grinder routinely. However, some beans cause more buildup than other beans. Because of their oiler surfaces, darker roast coffee leaves more oil buildup. Over time, this oil buildup can rot, which can transfer to the taste of your coffee.
However, even if you use lighter roast beans, it's still a good idea to clean your machine monthly, and it still won't hurt to do a light wipe-down of your device (especially if you have a blade grinder) once a week or even in-between use.
Think Long Term
Even with regular cleaning, there's still more you can do with making sure your grinder goes the distance and works for many, many years to come.
Chances are if you've taken the time to invest in a quality grinder, you want that grinder to hold up for many years.
While you were shopping for grinders, you may already know that burr blades need to be replaced every three or so years. This is true: especially if you purchased a brand like Barzta, you would need to buy new burr blades and replace those out every few years.
While this can be expensive (think a couple of hundred dollars), if you've already invested money into purchasing a professional, heavy-duty grinder, spending the extra hundred every few years is a worthy investment to make.
This only really applies to burr grinders. Unfortunately, with blade grinders, there's no piece that you will need to replace or upgrade. Instead, even when you clean the blade grinder routinely, you may still need to replace the machine altogether within a few years, depending on the quality of the device you initially purchased.
We all love the taste of a perfect cup of coffee in the morning; that's why we invest in such powerful machines to grind our coffee fresh.
You don't want to go through the trouble of purchasing a coffee grinder only to have a subpar tasting cup of coffee in the morning. To make sure you're getting the best flavors, it's essential that you routinely clean your machine to prevent buildup and residue. Of course, this causes your coffee to taste bad, but it also will shorten the life of your grinder.
Because of this maintenance, some people may opt to purchase a blade grinder as it's far easier (and faster) to clean and upkeep. However, if you do have a burr cleaner, putting in the work to clean your grinder can be and fun, enjoyable experience.
Especially if you use mainly darker beans, you may need to clean your grinder more as these are the type of beans that leave residue behind. You also should purchase a cleaning tablet, powder, or pellet as this is will help your machine run optimally.