You'll be surprised the difference a clean grinder makes
Most of us don’t pay attention to this and don’t clean our grinder regularly. Over time, coffee oils and residue build up and can start to affect both the taste and performance of your grinder. Darker and oilier coffee beans are especially bad for gumming up your grinder. (Take note Globetrotter fiends!)
The good news is that cleaning a grinder is quick and easy.
First up, here are some tips for taking care of your BLADE coffee grinder.
BLADE grinders: A blade grinder is also known as a spice mill and it looks kind of like a blender. It has blades that whir around and chop up the coffee beans.
Usually, blade grinders have stainless steel bowls and blades and are pretty easy to clean. However, coffee oils and residue can build up and can affect the taste (rancid coffee oil - ewwww!) and can even gum up the blades so they can’t whir around.
Cleaning is particularly important if you use a blade grinder for spices, grains or other things besides coffee. Yes, I have made caraway-spiced coffee after forgetting to clean a blade grinder. No, it was not delicious.
Everyday TLC of your blade grinder:
After every use, give a quick wipe of the bowl and blade with a paper towel or something similarly absorbent that will pick up most coffee oils and residue. Consider investing in an inexpensive silicone brush and brush it out after every use.
Give your blade grinder a thorough cleaning weekly or monthly, depending on how often you use it. And do it EVERY TIME between different uses to prevent unintentionally caraway-flavoured coffee, coffee-flavoured flax meal or other unexpected taste adventures.
For a deep clean, grind up 1/4 cup of uncooked rice until it is very finely ground. This should take about 1 minute. If the grinder is very dirty, repeat this until the ground rice stays white. You can use any kind of rice - long grain, short grain, arborio, whatever you have on hand. Dump out the rice and wipe out the bowl thoroughly. If you’d like, you can run some coffee through to remove any rice taste.
Rice works because it is absorbent and will pick up the coffee oils. Some people use a piece of bread instead of the rice. I’ve never tried that but imagine it would work fine.
In addition, once in a while wash the lid / top part of your grind. But don’t immerse the main part in water!
Next up - TLC for your BURR grinder:
BURR grinders work very differently from blade grinders. Coffee beans are fed down between two two hard surfaces (burrs) that turn and crush the coffee beans as they fall through. The distance between the burrs can be adjusted so the resulting grinds are all the same size.
Whether you have a hand-powered grinder, a nice electric countertop grinder or a fancy-schmancy coffee machine / espresso maker with built-in grinder, to clean a burr grinder you’ll need to get in there and do a deep clean once in a while.
Remove any beans from the hopper (the top, where the beans go in) and wipe that down with a paper towel or cloth. If it is very dirty, you can use a bit of vinegar to dissolve the oils and neutralize any smells.
Try and get out any grinds by brushing everything out. If you have a can of compressed air, blast some down into the burrs and up into the chute to clear out as much as you can.
Now it is time to take the burrs apart. Unlike blade grinders, every type of burr grinder is a bit different so you may have to consult with your owner’s manual or the interweb to find out how yours comes apart.
Once they are apart, take a brush (an old toothbrush can work well) and get in there to remove all the caked up coffee and oils. Give everything a wipe with a clean cloth or paper towel, reassemble and you’re good to go.
An alternative for cleaning a burr grinder is to buy grinder cleaning pellets and run a few through. The grinder pellets are absorbent and will pick up oils and coffee dust. Though they are food safe and non-toxic, you’ll want to run some beans through to get the coffee cleaner out before you make your next cup of coffee. You can find grinder cleaners at espresso supply shops.
To make maintenance easier, after every use, brush out the coffee chute so grinds don’t build up there.
Aim to clean your burr grinder at least once a month. You may be surprised at the difference it’ll make in your cup!