At Baratza, we’re all grinders all the time. We don’t make anything else (except these cute cups that is!). So, we know a thing or two about them – and we’re always happy to share. You might not know everything about your grinder at home, and that’s okay. That’s part of why we have an ace support team ready to answer your questions!
You may have heard some facts about what coffee grinders can and cannot do that might be less than accurate – rumors, tribal knowledge, etc. They seem reasonable and logical, but the truth might be quite different than you expect. So, let’s clear the air around some of the more common myths surrounding the trusty machines that make coffee smaller.
- Want to give your grinder a truly deep cleaning? Throw minute rice in and run it through the machine – it’ll clean out your burrs and absorb coffee oils.
This is one of the most popular myths we hear from users about grinders. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the most fiendish as well. Not only does rice do a poor job of cleaning a grinder, it will likely break multiple components in the grind system! Dry rice is very dense, and doesn’t break apart the same way brittle, roasted coffee does. This is in part because of the structure of a roasted coffee bean (thanks Mssr Maillard) which is what coffee grinders are built to grind. In our tried-and-true Virtuoso, rice will damage the burr holder, will destroy the paddle wheel, and will impact the discharge chute – stopping throughput of coffee until cleared. The time you save by grinding rice to clean your machine is simply not worth the cost of parts and the time it takes to fix your machine.
- Want fresh-ground spices for your favorite recipe? Your coffee grinder will get the job done much faster than the old mortar and pestle.
Just like with rice, grinding spices will also break your grinder. We really can’t stress enough how important it is that your machine only grinds roasted coffee beans. That’s what it was built for, and that’s what it will do with aplomb. Grinding flavorful, aromatic spices through a grinder also means you’re going to be tasting those spices instead of coffee the next time you grind beans. Cumin is certainly delicious, but it’s not necessarily going to pair well with your high-quality, fresh-roasted coffee!
- If your grinder breaks, it’s the end of the line – you’ll need to buy a new grinder.
This might be true for a lot of products nowadaysBaratza’s philosophy is best summed up as Don’t Dump it – Fix it! We have parts and guides available for DIY-friendly coffee fanatics, and a comprehensive mail-in repair program for those who are less comfortable tinkering with their grinder. Unless you’re looking to upgrade, there’s no reason to replace your grinder outright – they are almost always fixable!
- You ground coffee too coarse but don’t want to waste it. No problem, just grind it again!
This is understandable: it’s a coffee grinder after all. Unfortunately, this won’t go as well as you hope. The machine won’t break, but it will clog. Thankfully a clog usually doesn’t harm a grinder, but it’s definitely no fun unclogging a machine when you could be enjoying fresh coffee. If your grind is accidentally too coarse, you’re better off adjusting other variables in the brew to compensate.
- Buying a burr grinder means you will see perfectly even coffee particles at every .
While we definitely take pride in the grind quality produced by our machines, it’s important to remember that no coffee grinder will produce perfectly identical coffee particles. Each time a piece of coffee is broken, it releases a little bit of very fine particulate (called “fines” aptly enough) that will then intermingle with your ground coffee. Burr grinders produce relatively few of these fines compared to a blade grinder, which doesn’t grind so much as pulverize coffee. Don’t fret over fines too much, though, as a small presence can actually improve the overall experience of espresso and brewed coffee.
- If a grinder’s adjustment system controls grind size by regulating the distance between the burrs, that means that any one setting on this machine will produce exactly the same size of coffee particles every time!
This makes a lot of sense, but is actually not entirely true! At any given setting, the biggest particles will be the same maximum size, but remember that coffee is an agricultural product. Each coffee is a little different, and won’t grind exactly the same. So, while your particles may stay within the same range of sizes, their shape and particle distribution will vary! On top of that, each coffee will extract differently and will need a finer or coarser grind accordingly. You can’t expect a light-roasted Ethiopian coffee to perform identically to a dark-roasted Guatemalan just because both were ground on the same setting.
- If you adjust grind size without running the machine, your grinder will break!
This one is kind of on us. We advise running your machine while adjusting the grind because of the many benefits to performance and longevity that provides. That being said, there are actually certain situations where it’s not necessary to do so!
If coffee is in your grinder, it will be between your burrs. the grind finer in this situation puts strain on the adjustment system – this is bad for longevity. Adjusting coarse, however, simply moves the burrs farther apart, and won’t add any strain.
Grinder’s also retain some ground coffee in the system between grinds, which means making a change while the grinder is not running will put some of that old grind size in your next dose.
So if your grinder is empty, you can change the grind size all day without trouble!
Armed with the truth, you can confidently use and maintain your grinder. Of course, there’s always more to know about coffee and the equipment we use to make it, so feel free to explore our educational pieces, or to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.