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How to Clean a Spice Grinder (or Coffee Grinder)

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Spice up your life -- but first, start with a clean grinder.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder

Where economy and luxury meet, the home cook is happy. Grinding whole spices is such a place: You can spoil yourself with flavors more pronounced than those of a pre-ground option, without any added cost. 

More: Get to know our ten essential spices.

Cleaning a spice grinder can feel like a torturous chore, though -- so many nooks and crannies from which to rescue tiny bits of flavor! And if you don't clean it, you subject yourself to cooking with just one spice, or jumbling together odd combinations, and dealing with bits of months-old flavor dust.

Luckily, to clean your spice grinder, all you need is a bit of rice. This goes for coffee grinders, too, and is especially useful if you value your craft coffee and don't want any stale grinds in tomorrow's cup.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder

Here's how to clean an electric grider swiftly, so you can switch from cardamom to cumin with no risk of cross-contamination. After all, variety is the spice of life.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder on Food52

First: Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup rice into your spice grinder (or coffee grinder), then grind it for about a minute, until it looks like dust. The rice bits will both dislodge residual spices and absorb their fragrant oils, eliminating all traces of flavor.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder

Dump out the rice-sand, and then wipe out the remaining rice-dust with a clean, damp cloth. Make sure to mind all of the nooks and crannies; being thorough is worth it here.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder

And just like that, you have a sparkly new spice grinder (or coffee grinder), ready to go to town on your peppercorns.

How to Clean a Spice Grinder

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: How-To & DIY, cleaning, hacks, spice grinder, coffee grinder, rice, appliances

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Comments (30)

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4 months ago Andie Paysinger

Twenty five years ago (on Prodigy - pre-internet) I posted a recommendation for cleaning spice or coffee grinders of this type using a few broken saltine cracker AND two tablespoons of baking soda.
The bicarb removes oils and stuck-on stuff that rice does not always remove completely.
You can of course use bicarb with the rice but not everyone always has rice on hand but saltines are pretty much a pantry staple.

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4 months ago Alex Txn

I had the same grinder for coffee and spices, and I cleaned with rice and a small piece lightly wet napkins and works every time.

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4 months ago Food odyssea

Wish I knew this yesterday before I tossed an old nasty coffee bean grinder.

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4 months ago Cindy Karnitz

Bloody brilliant! Thank you for sharing

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8 months ago DragonFly

I use a Starbucks Barista Blade Grinder and it's lasted for years.

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8 months ago scott

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good spice grinder? I blew out the motor on my standard Krupps, grinding cinnamon for oatmeal...

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11 months ago Nancy

I've always used a paper towel, or half of one to be precise. Just a quick whiz in the grinders and they're clean. I have one for coffee and one for spices, but there's never been any problem with spice odors cross contaminating with the towel. Well, so far.

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11 months ago ortolan

Any inspired ideas for what to do with that fresh ground rice? I've toasted rice before and ground it in my grinder as a binder for larb, but I'm wondering if toasted rice would leave behind a flavor, which defeats the purpose. Any ideas would be much appreciated!

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over 1 year ago Angel

I have a new coffee grinder, but I don't know how to clean it, I tried searching on a web, and I found this blog, I will try this tips., I think it's good idea on how to clean my new grinders..

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over 1 year ago Miles

The link halfway through "More: Ten Essential Spices" is broken... doesn't come up in the search results either. Could you fix the link or point me to that article?

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12 months ago Kt4

The link is still broken

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over 1 year ago Jim

It's the way I've always done it but it's a good idea to always unplug it after whizzing the rice. Just in case.

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over 1 year ago DragonFly

Only yesterday I was thinking how I should clean my grinder, thank you for that!

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over 1 year ago Rhonda35

I usually grind a piece of stale bread to clean my coffee grinder, but I like this idea, too.

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over 1 year ago Marge Malmquist

Does this method work for a burr grinder, too?

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over 1 year ago Chickenfog

Is there a reason I should not be merely rinsing it out? Oooops?

Also, if the spices are amenable, toast that rice and toss it in a Thai salad, delish.

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4 months ago MRubenzahl

Yes. I rinsed mine out occasionally and after a while, the water damaged the bearings and I had to replace it.

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over 1 year ago Luvtocook

I've been grinding coffee beans and spices for years...my rule of thumb is to BUY A LITTLE BRUSH AND USE IT RELIGIOUSLY EVERY TIME YOU GRIND ANYTHING and brush the contents from the grinder! (Mine's from Home Depot--less than a dollar.) I'm advised we risk breaking the armature in the motor by pounding on the bottom to empty the contents. I grind rice periodically to really clean the nooks and crannies but I have two grinders...one for coffee beans and one for spices.

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10 months ago carswell

So do I - have two grinders. I also employ a bristle brush after each use.

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over 1 year ago Sharon Pajak

I use apple cider vinegar.

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over 1 year ago cucina di mammina

That's a great idea! I have used the baking soda, but I think the rice or a combo would be much better :) Thanks for sharing.

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over 1 year ago Andie Paysinger

If you add a couple of tablespoons of plain baking soda to the rice, it will clean much better, removing all the residual oils from coffee beans (and cocoa nibs) and spices.

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over 1 year ago anna

thanks!!

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over 1 year ago Summer of Eggplant

This came at the right time. Someone just ave us a bag of whole bean coffee and I was trying to figure out how I would get the garam masala bits out of the grinder in order to tackle the coffee.