How to Clean a Spice Grinder (or Coffee Grinder)

April 30, 2014

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

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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

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Tyler J. February 28, 2021
100% works. I ground cumin seeds in my regular "coffee grinder" and was freaking out this morning because I thought I wouldn't be able to make coffee. I tried this rice trick (plus I added about 1/2 t of baking soda) and voila! No more cumin smell.
AJ K. January 8, 2018
Excellent tip and works like a charm. I usually buy and keep a box of cheap minute rice and use that for the grinding/cleaning.
paula K. January 5, 2018
After grinding the rice, I used a pastry brush to dislodge the rice/spice dust from the grinder's nooks and crannies. That way there was less to clean with a damp cloth and less likelihood of my making a paste out of it. Yuck.
Chris G. April 3, 2017
All I know is that, when we used to grind coffee, I cleaned my spice/coffee grinder really well, ground some pepper corns. Cleaned it really well and then ground some more coffee! The coffee was horrible! I have not tried the rice/baking soda technique, but as you say, the spice grinders are pretty cheap and I WILL always keep one for spices and one for coffee! Never again pepper infused Coffee! (I will always label them, too!)
(by the way, powdered rice coating or in batter makes for crispier/crustier fried foods! Not sure what baking soda who do for it though?)
Yvonne S. January 19, 2017
I just saw this...thank you! The old "grind a piece of bread in there" trick was not working for me. And I just ground peppercorns yesterday!!
Gerrit P. March 5, 2016
chopper grinders are just not as good as the burr grinders for coffee. However burr grinders are expensive compared to the choppers.
Eileen March 4, 2016
My Krups bought in 1984 and used daily for coffee only bit the dust last year. I replaced with one that is (hopefully) exactly the same. They used to build weapons you know!
ChefJune October 22, 2015
Who'da thunk? Many thanks!
Andie P. May 12, 2015
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.
Alex T. May 12, 2015
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.
Food O. May 12, 2015
Wish I knew this yesterday before I tossed an old nasty coffee bean grinder.
Cindy K. May 12, 2015
Bloody brilliant! Thank you for sharing
DragonFly January 10, 2015
I use a Starbucks Barista Blade Grinder and it's lasted for years.
scott January 10, 2015
Does anyone have a recommendation for a good spice grinder? I blew out the motor on my standard Krupps, grinding cinnamon for oatmeal...
Erani M. December 20, 2018
Braun coffee grinder will work for grinding spices too :)
Nancy October 12, 2014
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.
ortolan October 8, 2014
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!
Ascender October 3, 2016
Make broken rice porridge -- jook or congee. It is addictive and a great favorite with children who like to add their own condiments.
Miles May 8, 2014
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?
Kt4 September 8, 2014
The link is still broken
Jim May 4, 2014
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.
DragonFly May 4, 2014
Only yesterday I was thinking how I should clean my grinder, thank you for that!
Rhonda35 May 4, 2014
I usually grind a piece of stale bread to clean my coffee grinder, but I like this idea, too.