A hack for cleaning blade grinders recently went viral, alleging that running uncooked rice through the blades can remove the coffee oils, which can clog up your grinder and impart a rancid taste in your coffee (we recommend a similar method for cleaning your spice grinder).
How to Clean Your Burr Coffee Grinder
But what about burr grinders? They are well-loved by coffee aficionados because they produce a more precise grind than blade grinders. And they're significantly more expensive. Our winning blade grinder is under $20, compared to $140 for our winning burr grinder (even our best buy is about $100).
They also require more careful maintenance. If you've splurged on this next-level grinder, you don't want to inadvertently damage it by cleaning it the wrong way.
I spoke with two industry experts about how to properly care for your burr grinder (hint: It doesn't involve rice).
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Should You Use Rice to Clean Your Burr Grinder?
It’s not a good idea to use rice to clean your burr grinder, cautions Kaleena Teoh, co-founder of Coffee Project New York. You could hurt the burrs, permanently damage the motor, or clog up the grinder with starchy rice. Worse, using rice to clean your grinder may void its warranty if the user manual has such conditions in place.
Plus, oil buildup isn’t the only item on the grinder maintenance checklist. Static in burr coffee grinders can cause coffee grounds to “stick to the burrs, making them less effective at grinding beans evenly,” explained Cara Mitchell, retail training manager at New York City chain Joe Coffee Company. That’s an issue that rice can't solve.
How Often Should You Clean Your Burr Grinder?
You should be cleaning your grinder at least once a month, Mitchell recommends. But it really depends on how often you use your grinder. If you make two to three cups of coffee a day at home, you’ll probably need more cleaning than someone who makes just one cup.
Roast type is also key. The general rule is that the oilier the beans (such as a dark roast), the more regular cleaning the grinder needs.
You can also look inside your burr grinder for visual and physical cues. “If you haven’t cleaned it for a while . . . you can touch the inside of the hopper and you might feel a layer of oily substance,” Teoh explained. You'll also see a sticky layer of built-up gunk on the burr. “That is what you will try to get rid of,” she said.
Here's how to do it.
How to Clean Your Burr Coffee Grinder
Once you’ve figured out that your grinder needs some attention, you’ll take it apart according to the manufacturer's instructions in the user manual. And whatever you do, don't use any water. “Any moisture leftover will mess up your coffee grind,” Mitchell says.
1. Brush Out the Grounds with a Pastry Brush
“I’ll start by brushing out any of the coffee that’s stuck between the teeth of the burrs,” Mitchell said. In some cases, the oils would accumulate on the burrs. If so, “you can take a dry cloth and wipe them down,” she added.
2. Get the Burrs Squeaky Clean with Compressed Air
Teoh also likes using compressed air, which comes in sprayable bottles typically used for cleaning keyboards. Spray it on the burrs to get in every last crevice.
3. Deep Clean with Special Tablets
Once the old grounds are gone, you can use tablets specially made for cleaning burr grinders. Teoh uses Grindz (made by the company Urnex) for her five coffee shops and one roastery across New York City.
Simply insert the tablets into the hopper and grind them like coffee. “You have to keep grinding until you don’t see the yellow powder anymore,” says Teoh. Then, “purge the grinder by grinding fresh coffee with it,” she adds. This step is to ensure that no tablet powder remains in the grinder. (Toss those coffee grounds when you’re finished.)