Cleaning a coffee grinder can be a bit like that dreaded spring clean. You know you should do it. You know it’s a good idea. You know that you won’t regret it. And yet it is so hard to get the motivation to actually get off the couch and do it.
We know how it feels! But we want to encourage you in this article that it is absolutely worth it and likely easier than you think!
The equation to keep in mind is: Clean Coffee Grinder = Better Tasting Coffee.
In this article we will cover why to clean your burr coffee grinder, how often to clean it, and most importantly how to clean it.
Why you should Clean your Coffee Grinder
So why should you take the time and effort to clean your coffee grinder? There are basically two answers. A grinder that is regularly cleaned lasts longer and makes for nicer tasting coffee.
The first reason to clean your grinder is that it will significantly aid the life and performance of your burr grinder. This remains true whether you have a relatively cheap grinder or a top-of-the-line grinder like the Niche Zero or a Mazzer.
Especially if you use your grinder regularly, coffee fines build up over time and can clog the machine or get inside the machine itself.
The other (and perhaps more compelling) reason to clean your grinder is that it simply does translate to nicer tasting coffee. Simply put, every time you use your grinder most of the coffee is grinded and then brewed but inevitably some coffee particles and fines remain in the grinder and on the burrs. And so the next time you grind coffee some of these old grinds end up coming out with the new grinds and impact the flavour of the brew.
This isn’t too big of a problem in the short term, but if some of those old coffee particles have been sitting in your grinder for months or even years . . . well you get the picture. Cleaning your grinder at least somewhat regularly helps offset the risk of old grinds hijacking your morning brew.
How Often Should You Clean Your Grinder?
So if we are convinced that we should actually do it, then how often is it needed?
Well the general advice for a home coffee setup is a minor clean (more on this later) every 1-2 weeks and then a deep clean every 4-6 weeks.
This takes a bit of work, but probably less than you think and is absolutely worth it.
How to Clean an Automatic Burr Grinder
How to do a Minor Clean
To do a minor clean is remarkably easy and helps a grinder maintain optimal performance.
Basically all you need is some grinder pellets and a cloth. Now I know there are rumours floating around regarding using rice for this so I will address it head on.
Some people claim that rice (especially quick-cook rice) can work equally well as grinding pellets, and of course it is far cheaper to buy. The short answer is that rice can produce adequate results but we don’t recommend using it. The reason being is twofold, firstly the use of rice can nullify a warranty, and secondly and more importantly, rice is both harder and has more starch than professional grinding pellets which can damage or strain the motor.
Grinding pellets aren’t that expensive and are a generally the more reliable option that has been intentionally designed to clean and not harm burr grinders. We recommend the Urnex grinding pellets which you can purchase here.
So basically, to do a minor clean you remove any coffee beans still in the hopper. Put one capful of grinder pellets into the hopper, set the grinder at a medium grind setting, and then grind the pellets. These pellets are intentionally designed to attract and deal with both coffee oils and dust. Now give the hopper a general dust and you are done!
Any leftover dust from the pellets is a yellowish colour and while it can be slightly off putting is perfectly safe. To get rid of it you can grind some old beans through the grinder before brewing. And that’s it. It takes about five minutes max and is surprisingly effective at cleaning your grinder and burrs.
How to do a Deep Clean of Your Burr Grinder
Even if you manage to be disciplined about doing minor cleans, every now and then you will still need to do a deep clean. This is a more comprehensive clean and is surprisingly satisfying.
What you will need
Step One – Disconnect from Power
Obvious right!? But still an important step. Turn off the burr coffee grinder and unplug from the wall. Pour any beans in the hopper into a container.
Step Two – Disassemble the Grinder
The next step will be largely determined by the specific model of your grinder. Either way the goal is to remove both the hopper and the upper burr from the body of the grinder.
To do this it is a good idea to refer to the manual of your grinder which will explain how to do this. For some like the Encore you can simply screw off the Hopper, while for others like the Rancilio Rocky which we own you need to unscrew the Hopper from the body.
Once the Hopper is removed you will need to remove the upper burr. This can usually be done simply by twisting it until it comes off but again it is worth checking your manual to be sure.
It is also a good idea to dissemble your grinder over a clean and clear surface so that you don’t lose any screws or parts
Step Three – Vacuum the Grinder
Now that your grinder is all opened up you can probably see why cleaning it is such a good idea. Especially if you haven’t cleaned it before there will likely be coffee dust everywhere.
So get out the good old vacuum cleaner with the hose attachment and suck up as much you can of the coffee dust and particles. Try and get the dust from around the burrs and also from the feeder channel where the grinds come out. This channel often has a fair amount of coffee dust in it.
Step Four – Get Cleaning
You are now ready to get into the cleaning proper. Start by using the brush or toothbrush to give both the removed upper burr and lower burr a good clean. Get as much of the coffee dust and oils off as possible. As well as using the brush, a toothpick or cotton swab can also come in handy to get into those hard to reach places and ruts. Also try and clean out the feeding channel.
Don’t put any water near the burrs or the inside of the coffee grinder as this can damage it.
Once you have cleaned as much as you are able to, do another quick vacuum to pick up any stray coffee dust that you have assembled. It should be looking clean and shiny!
Now clean the bean hopper. You can either do this by using a lint free cloth or else you can clean it in hot soapy water. If you opt for the latter it is vital that you then let it air dry until there is absolutely no liquid left. Water in the inside of the grinder can quickly cause either rust or corrosion.
Step Five- Reassemble the Grinder
Now you are ready to put the grinder back together. Screw the upper burr back into the grinder until it is tight. Make sure the thread is in correctly, it should screw back in with minimal resistance.
Then reattach your hopper and screw in if necessary. It can often give a sense of relief that it is back together!
Now is a good time to give the outside of the grinder a quick clean with a cloth.
Step Six – Run Some Old Beans Through It
Finally, it is a good idea to grind some old beans through the grinder before grinding for brewing. The reason for this is that when you reassemble your grinder the adjustment settings can be slightly out and grinding some beans will help realign it again. Also, somewhat surprisingly, a little bit of coffee dust and oil on the burrs helps maintain the burrs.
So if you have any old beans lying about (or new beans work fine as well of course), put 10-20g through the grinder.
Now set your grinder on your normal setting, but your favourite specialty beans in, and brew away!
Well we hope this has been helpful and we would just reiterate that cleaning your grinder is easier than you think and helps both maintain and optimize your grinder’s performance.
We recommend a minor clean every 1-2 weeks (presuming you use the grinder every day) and then a deep clean every 1-2 months.
If you have got any questions we would love to hear them below.