How to Maintain Your Coffee Grinder's Performance

We'll go over the two different ways you can clean your coffee grinder. The first is a piece of cake: simply use a coffee grinder cleaner, such as Urnex Grindz.

Sure enough, not nearly enough people are giving their coffee grinders a good scrub.  

That's fine with me, actually There's a chance that you're reading this and remembering that you have to clean your grinder. However, coffee grinders are enigmas: with the touch of a button, they transform attractive whole beans into the consistent particle sizes necessary to extract all the deliciousness of coffee.

This may sound farfetched, but in our coffee grinder review, we spoke with a few baristas who all agreed on one point: a good grinder is probably the most important piece of equipment for making coffee.  

Although you can save money on just about every other aspect of your home coffee setups, a quality burr grinder is essential to producing a consistent cup of joe every time. Burr grinders are superior to blade grinders because they produce uniformly small coffee grounds. A blade grinder is like taking a knife to a carrot and chopping it randomly. That's how crucial a burr grinder is.  

After making the purchase, you'll want to give your new piece the TLC it deserves. However, please wait to disassemble your grinder just yet. Two distinct strategies exist for caring for your cherished bean chopper (that'll stick, right?) ) Most automatic grinders (the vast majority of the machines we discussed in our coffee grinder guide) can benefit from the first method, which entails using a dedicated grinder cleaner, and the second is a bit more in-depth and requires manual intervention. To better explain this, I've written a detailed guide on how to disassemble and wash the Baratza Virtuoso, which came out on top in our grinder review.

Food Network's Ashley Rodriguez's Serious Eats

Oils and other particles in the coffee will accumulate on the inside of the grinder as the coffee is ground. Coffee oils become rancid over time, so if you let them sit on your equipment for too long, your coffee will taste less than fresh. When you're sipping coffee and you get an oily aftertaste or an off flavor at the back of your tongue that you can't place, it's probably time to clean the machine.  

Seriously Delicious by Ashley Rodriguez

Your coffee grinder needs to be cleaned so that you can get rid of old coffee grounds and other debris that has accumulated over time, as well as the oils from freshly brewed coffee. You can use any brush (as long as it doesn't scratch the burrs, but they can withstand a small wire brush, which is what comes with most machines) to clean your grinder periodically, but most home grinders come with a brush or even grinder cleaner.  

The rancid flavor will be the first thing you notice if you don't clean your grinder, and it will only get worse if you wait. Burrs can become clogged or their speed reduced if a grinder is allowed to accumulate oils and old grounds. It's also possible for coffee bean crumbs to accumulate in odd places in your grinder. Therefore, it is necessary to disassemble the grinder on a regular basis and clean it with a grinder cleaner to remove oils and other residue that builds up on the burrs.  

Unfortunately, I have misplaced the wire brush that came with my first Baratza grinder. To clean it, I had to borrow a soft brush from another grinder and a wire brush from yet another (because, yes, that is the kind of house I live in).  

A grinder can be cleaned in two ways: by running a special cleaning product through it, or by disassembling it and cleaning the individual components.  

The frequency with which you brew coffee at home and the type of coffee you use will determine how often you need to disassemble and clean your grinder and how often you should use a grinder cleaner. My suggested routine assumes a daily brew session and a once-daily grinder use. Barazta suggests using grinder cleaner more frequently, and taking the machine apart no more frequently than once every two months, because darker roast coffees contain more oils and leave more residue on the burrs.  

Article by Ashley Rodriguez of Serious Eats

There are many reasons why grinders are difficult to keep clean. “Due to the fact that a coffee grinder sits atop an exposed electric motor, it cannot be cleaned with detergent and water, as this would damage the components,” writes Joshua Dick in his book, “Grow Like a Lobster.” Dick was the CEO of Urnex, a coffee cleaning equipment company based in New York and realized there weren't many viable choices for sanitizing a coffee grinder To remove coffee oil residue from the internal cutting teeth, he writes, "people have historically ground rice as a way to do so," but this "practice risks destroying a grinder in a number of ways." ” 

He met Nils Erichsen, CEO of a modest German coffee grinding firm called Mahlkönig, at a trade show and the two teamed up to create a cleaner for coffee grinders that didn't call for disassembly. Since I had broken several coffee grinders during the course of product development, I enlisted the help of a new friend who had access to an endless supply to create a grinder cleaner. ” 

In a subsequent email, he explained that his motivation behind creating Urnex was to "help customers make better tasting coffee by finding ways to clean away old coffee residue from any part of the brewing process." “When I started to learn about grinders, I soon realized that this was an often neglected part of the system The target was to create something edible that didn't need to be rinsed in water before consumption. We finally got it after about a year of development and several more years of patent applications. ” 

You can also get it at Walmart for $28 (as of this writing).

Urnex (full disclosure: I manage Urnex's Instagram account) patented Grindz in 2005 and began selling it at coffee conventions shortly thereafter. Never will I forget the first SCAA [Specialty Coffee Association of America] show where Grindz was introduced to the public. There was an immediate increase in sales. To paraphrase what Dick has to say It was a huge success as a concept. When I explained the concept and showed off the prototype, I could see the light bulb go off in their heads, as if we had finally found the answer to a problem they had been avoiding for far too long. In the beginning, it was difficult to keep up with demand, and production ran around the clock for several months or even a year. ”

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Grindz is effective because it takes the form of coffee beans and adheres to coffee oils and residue using non-toxic ingredients. Dick says, "The coffee bean shaped tablets fit perfectly into a grinder chamber, and all ingredients were selected both for their cleaning and scouring abilities and their edibility."  

Author: Ashley Rodriguez; Series: Serious Eats

In this guide, I'll be using Grindz, but you can substitute any coffee grinder cleaner you like as long as it's made for that purpose. Using a grinder cleaner is as simple as measuring out the amount you need (for Grindz, it's between 35 and 40 grams, or about 1/4 cup for an at-home grinder), pouring it into the hopper (the V-shaped top of the grinder), and grinding it like you would coffee. All the ingredients in most grinder cleaners are food-safe (just check the label to make sure), but I recommend grinding a "burner" batch of coffee through the grinder just to remove any remaining cleaner.  

An advantage of this approach is that it can be repeated as often as desired. Depending on how often you use your grinder and how much of a difference you'll notice in the flavor of coffee brewed on clean burrs versus slightly dirtier ones, I've seen recommendations ranging from once a week to once a month. If you want to conduct a fun experiment at home, you can wait a few weeks, grind and brew coffee, and then clean the grinder. Prepare the same brew with freshly ground beans from a clean grinder and see if you notice a difference. A better-performing grinder should be able to grind coffee more consistently, allowing you to get more flavor clarity due to the coffee being more evenly ground, and you might notice the difference in the aftertaste (since grinder cleaners pick up old coffee oils) or in the clarity of flavors.

Author: Ashley Rodriguez; Series: Serious Eats

Taking apart a grinder, and in particular the burrs, which are often delicately screwed and threaded into a grinder, is a really time-consuming and easy-to-break process, which is why Grindz was such a big deal when it came to market. If I had to take apart a grinder when I was a wholesale coffee trainer in San Francisco, California, I was convinced I would strip the threads and ruin the machine.  

The people who did try to clean their grinders "stripped threads, misplaced screws, damaged outer cases, and wasted a lot of time reassembling things and recalibrating their grind profiles," Dick says. "Many major retailers were devoting up to 30 minutes per store per week to opening and brushing grinders," ” 

Even though we aren't dealing with industrial machinery, you should still examine the grinder's construction before attempting to disassemble it. Before disassembling the machine, consult the manual or contact the manufacturer for further instructions. If you break a thread while putting the machine back together, you won't be able to use it again until you can get a professional technician to fix it.  

However, many home grinders (especially those by Baratza) are made to be disassembled with minimal effort. Two Baratza grinders are among the five models we recommended in our review. For this article, I compared the Encore (one of their most popular models) to my own Virtuoso to see if there were any striking differences in construction. I was surprised to find that they were remarkably similar. thus, you can use this manual for either machine; if you'd like a gentler walkthrough, you can also watch videos produced by Baratza. Before I started cleaning, I watched a video on the subject three times to make sure I had it down.  

One more time, just to be clear: this manual is written primarily for the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso. For information on how to use a different Baratza grinder, check out their channel on YouTube. Many of Baratza's grinders are built using the same simple principles, with pop-out pieces and intuitive designs. However, each grinder has slightly different components, so it's best to watch someone else disassemble one before attempting it yourself. Read the manual, contact the manufacturer, or look online for videos with advice from recognized coffee aficionados if you have a grinder that isn't listed here. NOT WITHOUT A MANUAL SHOULD YOU ATTEMPT TO DISASSEMBLE YOUR GRINDER.  

To begin cleaning your grinder, remove all of the used coffee beans. Even though I don't often forget to empty my hopper (I measure out my coffee each morning and only use a precise dose), if you do, you can flip the grinder upside down and pour the coffee into a storage container.  

Then, you need to grind up whatever is still in the hopper. You may think you've emptied the burrito of all its beans, but there are probably still some at the bottom. To accomplish this, press the grinder's "grind" button and keep pressing it until you no longer hear any grinding sounds.  

Now, for safety's sake, please unplug your grinder. ), and empty the hopper as well as the grounds container You should have no trouble removing the grounds bin, as this is where the coffee grounds are collected, but you'll need to set the hopper to its coarsest grind setting (the direction in which the numbers increase, and you'll see a little arrow indicating you've reached your mark). Use soap and water to clean both of these items, but only these items.  

Ashely Rodriguez's Serious Eats

The gasket, a ring of black plastic, must then be removed. With a simple uplift, it ought to be able to be extracted. Then, remove the outer ring from the conical burrs by lifting up the section that can be detached from the burrs. This is accomplished by pulling up on the two protruding tabs. One of them is red, and this will become relevant in a moment.  

Even though the gasket can be cleaned without much effort, care must be taken not to damage it as you handle it. I'll wipe away any lingering coffee grounds with a paper towel or microfiber cloth. I'll use the brush on the burrs, and focus on working the grounds up and down into the tiny, sharp "teeth" of the burrs. When cleaning a burr, I usually start with the ring, making sure to get in and around the o-ring (the plastic housing for the metal burr) before moving on to the cone. When I'm done wiping down the cone, I'll flip the grinder over and tap out the crumbs.  

Seriously Delicious by Ashley Rodriguez

Then, use the brush to scrub the coffee grinder's "grinding chute," the narrow outlet at the base through which the ground beans are discharged. There is no science to this; simply reach in and shake out the grounds, and if necessary, give the grinder a light rap on the counter to get things moving. While doing all this, you may have noticed that your burrs are never truly free of debris. They will never again be as pristine as the day you bought them, and that's okay. When you're done cleaning the grinders is up to you. You can get really rowdy and buy a can of compressed air to blast away any remaining dust or dirt, but that is not necessary.  

Keep that red label in mind Take the burr ring and align the red tab with the corresponding red line on the grinder's body to reassemble. You don't have to click or lock it into place, just drop it in. The gasket should be installed next (its two indentations should align with the tabs). Then, rotate back to your original grind setting while pressing down on the hopper's silver line on the side that faces the coarsest grind setting. Finally, that's all there is to it  

Phew You've worked hard; have some coffee. And if you remove the burrs, the flavor will be phenomenal.

You are able to, but you ought not to. Grinding rice, which is hard and brittle, can damage the burrs that are the grinder's working parts. Today's coffee grinder cleaners are gentle enough to use without risking damage to your appliance.  

Burr grinders typically use burrs made of high-carbon steel, which can keep their edge for a long time but will rust if submerged in water.  

The frequency with which you use your burrs will determine how soon you will need to replace them, but eventually you will. You can have a company like Baratza do that for you, or you can buy one and follow the instructions online to change the burrs yourself.  

Yes Burrs in manual grinders need cleaning just as often as those in automatic grinders. Grindz can be used in a manual grinder in the same way that any other spice or herb would be, but before you start dismantling your grinder, you might want to check the instructions.  

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