Articles From Whole Latte Love

Dirty, Dirty, Super Automatic Grinder

Posted: 07/24/07

I’ll be the first to admit it, if there’d been some Xanax in the house I probably would have popped a couple. But that’s because I’ve got some anxiety issues, especially when it comes to doing anything out of the ordinary to my espresso machine. Looking back, I really shouldn’t have been worried about cleaning my super automatic grinder. It’s really easy to do and it’s a nice feeling having a clean machine.

Only a select few have authorization to operate or even touch my stainless steel beauty. I’ll admit, I’m a little quirky and frighteningly possessive of my machine, but I’m sure I’m not alone out there.

So, when Adam, a fellow writer here at Whole Latte Love™, pitched the idea for a hands-on super automatic grinder cleaning story, I was a little nervous.

“Cleaning your super automatic grinder is all part of keeping your machine running smoothly,” he said, especially if you’ve used oily beans. “Don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen. We’ll do it together.” Still, I was nervous as I read over the instructions we’d printed off from our site.

“What are we going to need a pipe cleaner for,” I said. “Are you sure we can figure this out?” And so it began. Our journey into the world of grinder cleaning, on my Gaggia Titanium.

“How long’s it been since you’ve cleaned it,” Adam asked me as I unplugged the machine and moved it off the kitchen counter. “Um, never?”

The fact is, you don’t need to clean your grinder as often as you think. If you’ve avoided oily and flavored beans, you’ll probably never experience a problem. But if your machine is asking you to fill the bean hopper when it’s already full, or your coffee flow is reduced or stopped altogether, cleaning the grinder is a first step in solving the problem. If you do run into something like this, you can actually find the solution at our site by going to your machine and looking for your problem in the troubleshooting section under tips.

Remove the bean hopper cover and vacuum out the beans.
Using a Phillips head screwdriver, remove the three screws holding the hopper in place.
After vacuuming any residual beans, remove the rubber gasket from the top of the grinder.
Rotate the outer ring 180 degrees, until the red mark is in the 9 o’clock position.
Lift out the inner ring and vacuum out the coffee grounds inside.
Using a pipe cleaner, clear out the pathway leading to the front of the machine.
Replacing the inner ring, secure it into place by rotating the outer ring back 180 degrees.
Replace the rubber gasket by lining it up with the four tabs on the inner ring.
Make sure dosage control arm is all the way back.
Replace hopper cover, turn the dials to 0 and +, and screw in the 3 screws.
For me, the grinder wasn’t taking in beans very well so I got the “COFFEE BEANS EMPTY” message. I kept having to push the beans down into the bottom of the hopper to get them to grind, so we knew that meant my grinder was clogged.

I’m not sure exactly how dirty it was, but after brewing 2655 shots, I’m assuming it could probably use a good cleaning.

After we removed the water reservoir and took off the bean hopper cover, like the directions said, I began vacuuming out the beans with my Dyson.

Adam then unscrewed the three tiny Phillips head screws that hold the hopper in place and put them inside his pocket. “You don’t want to suck these up,” he said noting the fact the Dyson sucked the beans out in about .01 seconds. He lifted up the bean hopper and set it aside.

So far, so good.

We opened the front of the machine, removed the grungy drip tray and brew group, adding those to the list of things that needed to be cleaned, and returned to the matter at hand. I removed the rubber gasket from the top of the grinding area – and behold – I saw it, the grinder.

The grinder itself has several pieces – but we’d be dealing with only two pieces. One of them, the rubber gasket, sits on four visible tabs – that’s the inner ring.

The outer ring has teeth on it and covers about ½ of the circumference. Adam rotated the outer ring counterclockwise 180 degrees as instructed and was able to lift out the inner ring no problem.

A red mark on the outer ring was clearly visible and in the 9 o’clock position, just like the instructions said – so we knew we were right on track.

We vacuumed out all the compacted ground coffee. It was really amazing to see how much coffee had built up, as well as how fine the grinder was able to grind.

Even though I have a three year-old, I didn’t have a pipe cleaner anywhere in my house, so Adam and I improvised, searched the pantry and found a bendy straw to clean the pathway that leads to the front of the machine. I can see why a pipe cleaner would be perfect for clearing the pathway – because of all the little hairs on it, but a straw did the job in a pinch.

While I was clearing a pathway with the straw, Adam returned to the front of the machine. He found the gray triangular tab, pinched it with his fingers and a hinged door opened up. By pulling it down, all the remaining coffee grounds in the pathway came out.

At this point I was feeling a little more relaxed, everything seemed to be going smoothly, and I wasn’t freaking out about Adam handling my machine. I continued to vacuum away all the remaining grinds, and cleaned everything I could. I mean, how often do you have your machine opened up like this?

It was my mission to clean everything spick and span.

So I cleaned the drip tray and brew group with warm water and waited for them to dry before reinstalling them. Then I began reinstalling the grinder rings.

I dropped the inner ring onto the grinder with the tab that has the red and blue markings facing the right side of the machine – roughly the 3 o’clock position. I rotated the outer collar so the red mark lined up with the red and blue marks on the inner ring.

I reinstalled the rubber gasket that goes over the grinder and the slots of the rubber lined up with the four tabs on the inner ring.

I let out a sigh of relief, because just like Adam said, everything was going to be just fine. Just a few more steps and I’d have a clean grinder.

One of the last steps when cleaning the grinder is readjusting the doser and grinder settings. When you’re cleaning the machine you actually turn the grind settings all the way to the finest setting, and the doser all the way to the “+”, so turn the dials accordingly before putting the bean hopper back.

Make sure the dosage control arm is adjusted as far as it will go toward the back of the machine. It’s located to the right of the grinder. Then make sure to reset the dosage knob within the bean hopper to the full “+” setting and make sure to reset the grind knob to #0.

With that done, Adam retrieved the three tiny screws from his pocket, reattached the bean hopper, replaced the water reservoir, filled the bean hopper and plugged my machine back in.

Now for the test.

We waited for the machine to warm up, pressed the small coffee button and heard the grinder whirl away. Be sure to wait for the grinder to begin working to adjust the grind settings, and also remember that after you’ve clean it the grinder will be set on the finest grind setting, which you’ll quickly want to change. It took a few times for beans to fall into the grinder, but that’s expected. I adjusted both my grind and doser settings while the grinder was running and Adam began cleaning up. Mission accomplished.

When you think about it, there wasn’t anything to get so stressed out about. We followed the steps and it worked out perfectly. Now if I can just get those select few authorized personnel to wipe down the steam wand after they use it.