Your coffee grinder has been humming along smoothly for months, grinding your beans precisely, consistently and efficiently for well-balanced coffees or espressos. But suddenly it has stopped in its tracks. The machine’s motor is running, but it’s no longer dispensing any coffee into the burr chamber. Or the coffee beans aren’t feeding down into the burrs. You and your grinder are in a jam. But don’t panic – there are a few things to keep in mind when troubleshooting grinder issues.
Your grinder is probably not broken
Good news! A coffee grinder generally stops working because it’s clogged with coffee grounds, not because it’s broken. Not surprisingly, a grinder’s job is to break down whole coffee beans into smaller particles, which can get stuck in both the lower and upper burrs, which are the steel or ceramic mechanisms that grind the beans, as well as other difficult-to-reach places in the machine. But even if those particles don’t ruin a machine initially, you’ll eventually start hearing a harsh whirling sound coming from the grinder – this can mean a broken part or even a dead motor.
There’s more than one way a grinder can become clogged
When a grinder is jammed, generally the motor won’t be able to spin the burrs to grind the beans. This can happen for a couple of reasons: coffee oils and debris can easily build up in the burrs if they have been left to collect over time. And the burr chamber can become jammed if the burrs are set too fine for the grinder to force the beans through the machine. Additionally, by holding the portafilter too close to the discharge chute, the peak of the pile of coffee grounds can become lodged in the chute opening and cause a blockage.
A little elbow grease can go a long way
Coffee beans are a naturally oily and sticky substance. So when coffee passes through a grinder’s hopper, burrs and chamber, it leaves behind a pasty residue. Which makes it more likely for coffee gunk to grow over time, especially on the burrs where the beans are actually ground.
One way to provide some relief to a dirty machine is to physically remove the burrs for a manual scrubbing. Before removing components of any coffee equipment, make sure the machine is turned off and unplugged. For many grinders, taking off the top set of burrs is done by turning the collared outer ring and lifting the burrs up. At this point, you’ll notice a coating of stubborn coffee specks lodged in the burrs. Once the burrs are free from the machine, simply wipe away the coffee particles with a dry cloth or brush. During this process, the burrs should not come into contact with any moisture – this would cause coffee particles to stick to the grinder, and the grounds won’t flow as easily through the machine.
Grinder cleaning is simple with Grindz
You don’t have to roll up your sleeves or get your hands dirty to thoroughly clean a grinder. Using our Grindz grinder cleaner is an easy and efficient way to rid a grinder of coffee particles and residue without taking apart the machine. Simply deposit a cap-full of Grindz in the grinder hopper and run it through the machine, like coffee beans. The Grindz tablets will gently dislodge coffee particles from the burrs while also removing coffee residue and oil. It can be used to clear out a clogged grinder or before grinding a new batch of coffee, preserving the flavor characteristics of the new beans.
Small grinder adjustments will prevent another jam
When running a cap-full of Grindz through the grinder to remove the stuck coffee particles, begin grinding on the coarsest setting of the machine. This will allow the largest jammed particles to be freed from the discharge chute. Then slowly adjust your grinder to finer settings while the grinder is still running. This way, you’ll gradually knock out the smallest particles that were stuck in the machine. Jumping to a fine grind setting too quickly could possibly cause another clog in the machine.
Your grinder is unjammed!
Congratulations - you’ve worked your way out of a grinder jam! Next time you come across a clogged machine, check back here for a reminder on how to keep your cool in a jam so you can continue to make better tasting coffee.
For more on mastering your grinder, check out these five tips to elevate your grinder skills.