How to Clean a Coffee Grinder

A closeup of coffee beans in a coffee grinder.

My top-of-the-line Braun coffee grinder was purchased when I first realized that Folgers was in the business of making money and clearly not in bringing me the freshest and most flavorful coffee beans. My grinder is backed by a workhorse of a motor, and a virtually indestructible set of blades (except for the plastic cotter pin that secures them). This grinder has been used over the years for a number of things other than coffee beans, by some very creative individuals who could probably design a machine that travels the stars. That said, my grinder often smells pleasantly of whole spices (cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg), or less pleasantly of dried plants (jalapenos, rosemary, and truly stinky pyrethrums used as a natural insecticide).  But all that use requires that the grinder be cleaned out on occasion.

Steps to Cleaning a Coffee Grinder

    1. Rough scrubber with a red bar over itUse only soft, non-shredding materials when cleaning a coffee grinder. A dry paper towel might work well, as long as you don’t mind brewing ground coffee with a hint of Bounty left under the blade. Vegetable scrubbing brushes also create problems when the stiff bristles breaking off against the necessarily, very sharp blades. A dry washcloth will work much better.
    2. Soft towelA makeup brush or paintbrush can be used on a coffee grinder. If you must use a brush to clean your coffee grinder, consider a makeup brush or a long-bristled paintbrush. If it is a makeup brush, please use a new one. You will quickly regret it if your morning coffee tastes like stale blush. An artist’s paintbrush can be as much as $10 for a quality one, and if you use it on nothing but your coffee grinder over the years, and it makes the grinder last years longer, saving you money over time.
  1. makeup brushUse course ground or rock salt to clean the coffee grinder. This might not even require the use of tools like cloths and brushes. Some coffee experts recommend nothing more than a regular grinding session with some coarse sea or canning salt. However, salt also creates a burden of dust, so don’t use it unless you are absolutely sure you won’t end up with some of it in your first pot of coffee. Though that would certainly wake you up in a hurry.
  2. burr grinder platesConsider purchasing a burr coffee grinder. These grinders pulverize beans between a moving grinding wheel or cone, and a stationary plate. The wheel or cone can be adjusted if you prefer a coarser grinds. As both wheel and cone types create less static electricity, coffee powder doesn’t build up as fast or create as much of a problem, but you still have to make sure your model is waterproof before you dunk it. Even some submersible units tend to accumulate coffee dust inside the housing, which makes the submersible option moot, at best.
  3. traditional grinderPurchase a manual coffee grinder. If you are young and strong, or have access to someone who is described that way, a manual grinder is an excellent choice. These work like pepper mills, but you don’t turn them upside down. You will never want to oil or grease the inside your grinder, even if it’s manual and fully washable, as even the slightest residue of oil attracts and holds coffee dust.

Keep the Grinder Dry

I cannot stress this enough: Never use water when cleaning a coffee grinder. Don’t even use a wet cloth to wipe out the inside until you have read the instructions which identify it as a submersible or non-submersible unit. Braun coffee grinders usually don’t go well with water. One little drop of water seeping down under the blade assembly can and, most likely, will freeze the motor more solidly than a 16-year-old driver with a brand new license behind the wheel of a classic Mustang. Many coffee grinders were not designed to be cleaned with water.

Other Coffee Grinder Cleaning Options

box of cornmealCornmeal. A buddy of mine from Seattle, a coffee connoisseur in his own right, always uses pure yellow cornmeal to clean his grinder. This gives his coffee an interesting and mildly piquant flavor. For history buffs, American settlers frequently made coffee out of burnt cornmeal when they couldn’t find or afford the real stuff. So, if you want to clean or drink it, you can get a double pack at Amazon.

bags of riceDry rice. Straight out of the bag or box, use a brown or whole grain rice to clean the grinder. Do not use Minute Rice, which quickly grinds down to a fine dust.

loaf of breadDry slices of bread. Whole grain bread is preferred, and once you have reduced it to powder, you can save it in a jar with dried onion, garlic powder, a touch of rosemary, and a dash of turmeric. Use it to coat chicken or fish you plan to bake in the oven.