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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.