If you’ve taken Wirecutter’s advice to invest in a good burr coffee grinder—most experts agree it’s as important as good beans—you have to learn how to clean it.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as brushing out the loose grinds every time you use it. I got a hands-on tutorial from Kaleena Teoh, the co-founder and director of education at Coffee Project New York. She told me that even when you use grinder cleaning tablets every week or two—per her recommendation—you still need to give your burrs a scrub once a month.
If you’re busy, you can let this deep-clean slide for a few weeks or so, she said, but it really depends on how dark a roast you brew. Roasted coffee beans are covered in aromatic oils and the darker the roast, the oilier the beans are. Those oils build up with powdered coffee and coat or even clog the burr and chambers of your grinder. Teoh—and most coffee experts—like to use the analogy of an artery and cholesterol.
Coffee oils can also go rancid or oxidize within a few months, and once you acquire those bad flavors, they literally stick around. (Teoh has a grinder purposefully used with rancid beans, and trust me, the smell was not subtle.)
Here’s how to clean your coffee grinder so it gives you good-tasting, consistently ground coffee for decades. (Our top pick can technically last a lifetime, which is why it’s our top pick.)
Your grinder’s manual or a YouTube video: Keep the instructions handy so you know how to remove the top half of your burr.
Possibly a screwdriver: You might need one to open your grinder.
A clean, soft toothbrush or a small, bristled grinder brush: Some grinders, like the Baratza Encore, come with one.
Grinder cleaning tablets: These are made of edible grains that bind with coffee oils to help remove them. Teoh uses Urnex Grindz Grinder Cleaning Tablets, which are gluten- free, organic, and less expensive than a similar retail version.
Coffee beans: They don’t need to be fancy or fresh.
A clean cloth or rag: Barely dampen it on one side and keep the other side bone-dry.
Compressed air, a keyboard air blower, or a vacuum cleaner: These are optional but nice to have for removing powderized coffee.
How long will this take to clean?
Give yourself at least an hour the first go-around. Going forward, it’ll probably take less than 30 minutes.
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