When you are in the market to buy a coffee grinder (see my reviews), you will be presented with two options – a blade grinder and a burr grinder. Although a burr grinder is slightly more expensive than its counterpart, it does a better job at grinding coffee beans.
The question is – how long does a coffee grinder last? It’s tough to give an exact answer, however, a flat steel burr may last for grinding 500-1000 pounds of coffee and ceramic burrs may last for 1000-1500 pounds of coffee. On average, if you use a burr coffee grinder regularly, it should last for 5-7 years.
The life expectancy will vary greatly depending on the type of brand, coffee beans, grind size, degree of roast, volume ground, and any foreign particles that may be present. The lightly roasted beans tend to be harder on the burrs than the ones that have been roasted well.
It’s difficult to know when it’s time to change the burrs but one clear indication is when the coffee starts tasting different than usual and lacks the sweetness. It’s a good sign that the burrs have become dull. Read on to find out other signs that tell when to replace the burrs and how to clean them in order to extend life expectancy.
Why You Need To Change Burrs Of Your Grinder
If you want your burr grinder to last longer, remember to replace the burrs as needed to maintain the optimum level of performance. Several things like unroasted beans and rocks can damage the burrs of your coffee grinder and it’s quite evident when that happens. However, the slow and gradual dulling of the burrs may not be so easy to detect.
After churning out several bags of coffee grounds, the slow change is not noticeable. The ceramic burrs become dull at a much slower rate than the stainless steel burrs, however, they are more susceptible to cracks and breakage due to hard objects that may find their way into the coffee beans.
By the time you realize that you need to change the burrs, chances are that your coffee quality has gone downhill and your grinder is also deteriorating slowly. The uneven grinding leads to a messy coffee as the grounds don’t brew at the same time.
The extra small grounds extract too much and turn bitter while the large grounds stay under-extracted (see how to fix it) and lend a sour taste to the coffee. The good news is that you can reverse this effect by simply changing the burrs of your grinder and your coffee will start tasting great once again.
With a change of burrs, the coffee grounds will again become consistent and have a lot of precision, leading to a tastier mug of coffee. Below I have shared with you some simple ways to identify and confirm when the burrs need to be replaced.
Signs That Tell It’s Time To Replace Burrs Of Coffee Grinder
While 5 years is a minimum estimate for how long does a burr coffee grinder last, you need to change the burrs for most espresso grinders at least once or twice a year. For the retail grinders, the burrs should be at least changed once in every one or two years. Here are some signs that tell the burrs need to be replaced.
#1. The edges of the burr become dull
The most obvious method to find out whether the burrs are getting dull is to feel them with your hands. If you remember the sharpness of the burrs and how they felt when brand new, it is the easiest method to tell the level of damage incurred.
Those who can’t tell the difference by recalling their memory, disassemble the grinder and use a clean paper towel or soft cloth to wipe the burrs. Rub your fingers over the edges carefully. Do they feel sharp enough? Are they not as defined as they are supposed to be?
Use your sense of judgment and if you feel that the burrs are not like they were when brand new or they have worn out with time, you will need to buy new burrs.
#2. Grounds become increasingly inconsistent
As the burrs turn dull, they perform less of grinding job and do mashing instead. The blunt edges no more slice through the beans, they only smash and crack them into smaller sizes. So, grind a few beans and look at them closely. Are they consistent in size? If not, then it’s not a good sign.
Bear in mind that different types of grinders are capable of producing a wide range of grind sizes. So, don’t stress out if you find a slight diversity in terms of grind size. However, if you find grounds cut so inconsistently that there is no single size comprising a major part of the grounds then there’s a reason to worry.
Continuing to brew coffee with different sized brew will not only result in an inferior quality coffee but the texture will also keep deteriorating with time. Change the burrs immediately to not only revive the life expectancy of your grinder but also save yourself from drinking an inexplicable mess.
#3. Do you need to grind finer
Over the years of use, you may find a slight difference in the quality of grind produced at the same setting. If you feel the need to make your grind size finer then this could mean that your burrs are wearing out. For example, if you used a 9 setting to get a good grind for pour-over-coffee but now you have to grind at 6, 7, or 8 settings then the burrs are close to replacement time.
This happens because the burrs become blunt and dull after several uses. When it loses the razor sharpness, burrs will not be able to grind with precision like before. Hence, the grounds come out with a coarse texture.
So, when the burrs become dull, users tend to grind at a finer setting with the hope to get the same results as before. This is a temporary solution and you still have to deal with consistency issues until you replace the burrs altogether.
#4. Chunks of coffee grounds stick together
If you own an espresso grinder, this can be a good indicator of burrs becoming dull. When the burrs have just started becoming blunt, the coffee grounds may come out in clumps. While the thick mass can be easily broken with your fingers and they don’t influence the flavor of your coffee, it is a good sign that says your burrs need to be replaced soon.
When you notice that most of the grounds are now clumped together, don’t waste any time and replace the burrs immediately to avoid losing the authentic flavor of your espresso.
Tips To Increase The Life Expectancy Of Your Burr Grinder
Every equipment that you buy will inevitably come to retirement age, and burr grinders are no exception. No burrs last forever and it’s normal to have slight wear and tear throughout its lifetime. If you are a little careful and take good care of your machine, you can ensure it stays healthy for longer. Here are some tips to increase the life expectancy of your burr grinder:
#1. Keep your burr grinder exclusively for grinding roasted coffee beans and never put any non-coffee items such as whole spices or nuts in it. Be careful about using unroasted coffee beans or the presence of rocks or stones that may look like beans. Although these are rare, they can considerably damage the grinder.
#2. Always remember to grind coffee beans upright. If you attempt to grind at an angle, this can create pressure over the burr shaft, causing it to grind unevenly. This is a common mistake people commit and this results in inconsistent coffee grounds and tasteless coffee.
#3. To avoid drinking bad tasting coffee, keep an eye on the early signs that indicate your grinder burrs need replacement. It’s not something you need to do every day but check the burr sharpness in every two months.
#4. Avoid using low-grade or improperly roasted coffee beans as they can not only make the burrs dull but also degrade the flavor. The low-grade beans are picked even before they get the chance to ripen fully. These beans differ in density and weight but they are packed in the same coffee bag.
#5. Always clean the burr coffee grinder after use to remove the oils and residues as they can attach to the walls and turn rancid in the long run. This can impact the flavor of the coffee. Below, I have mentioned the steps to clean a burr coffee grinder.
Steps To Clean A Burr Coffee Grinder
Cleaning the burr grinder is not difficult but there are several steps involved. While it’s ok to quickly clean with water after every use, you need to do a deep cleaning once a week. Here are the steps:
- First, turn off the grinder and unplug it from the power source. Take out the hopper and chamber. Clean these with a coffee filter or lint-free cloth to remove any oil buildup or dust.
- If there are any stubborn oil stains that don’t go away, use warm water and mild soap (unscented). Rinse immediately to prevent any soap flavors from contaminating the device.
- Dry immediately using another clean lint-free cloth so that moisture does not get into the burrs or motor to cause corrosion.
- Now, remove the outer burr by twisting it gently until it comes out of the grinder. Don’t attempt to remove the inner burr as it’s harder to remove.
- Clean both the burrs and also the chute of coffee beans, oils, and dust. You can use a toothpick, earbud, and lint-free cloth to clean any place that you can reach. Some people also resort to using compressed air or vacuum to clean thoroughly.
- Reassemble all the parts of the coffee grinder and do a test grind of a small number of roasted coffee beans to ensure that everything is fine. It should take about 15 minutes to do the deep cleaning.
Can I clean my burr grinder in a dishwasher?
Well, you can clean some parts of your grinder in the dishwasher and I would say a grind drawer and hopper are safe to be washed in the top rack of a dishwasher. However, remember to check with the product manual or manufacturer’s website before putting anything in the dishwasher.
What type of coffee beans work best for a grinder?
To keep your grinder in the best condition, always use high-grade and fully roasted coffee beans. You can buy the best quality beans online.
Can I grind cocoa beans in a coffee grinder?’
It is better to avoid grinding cocoa beans in a coffee grinder because they produce an oily liquid known as cocoa liquor and the burrs are not designed to handle it. You should also never grind grains, spices, or seeds in a burr grinder or else you will greatly reduce the machine’s life expectancy.