When we first got our Baratza Encore (and to this day) my biggest complaint is that we get little ground-bean flecks scattered about. The reason? Static cling. Coffee grinder static is such an annoying hassle of big flecks of coffee dust.
Coffee Grinder Static Cling: What’s Happening?
The root cause of the little-flecks-everywhere coffee static issue is electricity. When the beans are ground against the metal burrs (though I think even ceramic would do this) they pick up a little electric charge. Obviously the little amount of static electricity on this ground coffee is not enough to shock you or endanger the electric appliance.
Instead, it’s just enough to annoy you. When you pull out your “ground coffee chamber” and find your counter, floor, etc sprayed with a fine mist of static-y dust. And or when you go to empty your (usually) plastic grounds-holder and leave behind a solid 1-2% of your coffee weight as it clings to the side of the chamber.
Some coffee grinders do have a metal chamber, and I’ve heard that helps. Metal is much more effective at conducting electricity and less likely to “insulate” the bits of ground and so prevent them from keeping their charge. It’s rare, and I’ve not experienced them enough to know how helpful a metal grounds chamber is. But I know that our plastic bin doesn’t help.
Is There a Mess-Free Coffee Grinder?
Perhaps, as I was when we first got our Baratza Encore, you’re even thinking about a new grinder to get rid of this static coffee issue. I’ll caution that it seems a common enough issue across grinders, that it’s not simply about your grinder. I mentioned this issue in my Baratza Encore review.
As mentioned above, a metal grounds chamber would likely help. I don’t know off hand of any grinders available in North America that have a metal grounds chamber. I’m sure one exists. The one I know of worldwide is from Wilfa, but it isn’t available here, and I don’t speak any Scandinavian language well enough to navigate their (non-English) sites to find it.
How to Remove Static from Coffee Grinder
In short, there’s no single solution of coffee static woes. Especially well after a grinder has been designed and built by its manufacturer. A lot of things could help.
First: it’s generally well know that more humid or wet environments are less likely to get static cling (not to mention door know shocks and other electric hi-jinks) than dry ones.
So, you could move to Florida from the semi-arid Colorado or Arizona you call home.
More practically, you can wait. In all environments, this sort of static build up naturally dissipates with time. That’s partly because of the second law of thermodynamics and partly for more mundane reasons.
There are also suggestions you can find about introducing more metal to your coffee grinding system. I find this one a mixed bag. But before I go to far, I want to do that “one weird trick” thing. So here’s one weird trick to get rid of static electricity when you grind coffee…
One Way to Eliminate Coffee Ground Static: Water Trick
I’m a bit of YouTube fanatic. And it was actually one of my favorite Coffee YouTubers that spurred this little exploration. Here’s coffee-man extraordinaire James Hoffman:
For the readers among you, a short summary of James Hoffman’s no-more-static coffee solution:
- Measure out your beans as normal. (This technique works better if it’s a single-brew’s load of coffee beans, vs a full roughly 8oz hopper.)
- Wet a spoon handle. No need to be a big or fancy spoon. The spoon James uses is smaller than a teaspoon.
- Stir your measured beans with the just-wet spoon handle.
- Grind your ever-so-slightly-wet beans as normal.
The video even features some video testimony to the technique’s effectiveness. With a before-and-after shot (started 53 seconds in), I think it’s a pretty compelling case. And James says nothing (because nothing needs to be said) about whether or not this scant bit of water will harm your grinder or coffee. Because it won’t.
But Do Any Anti-static Coffee Tips Work?
Before I get too hyped on this though, I did some research. There are a few brands in and around cooking and kitchen things I revere. Cook Illustrated (and their associated brands of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country) is one of them. So when I found their article on this topic I was intrigued. Unfortunately, their article is pretty down on many internet solutions to coffe grinder static cling. In summary, they say none of these coffee static-fighting methods work:
- “A few drops of water.” One could debate if the technique above is identical to this named one. But they say it doesn’t work.
- Lining aluminum foil into your plastic grind-collector. They say it’s a hassle and does nothing.
- “Stirring the ground coffee with a metal fork to “gather” the electricity before lifting the lid. We found that a fork certainly gathered the static—as well as an abundance of the ground coffee with it.”
- Running a copper wire around your grinder. They skipped this, for understandable reasons. I don’t want to drill my grinder.
Their conclusion about static coffee bean is intriguing though. (Emphasis mine.)
“In the end, the best solution was the simplest: Give the static time to dissipate on its own. For medium-grind coffee (appropriate for a regular drip coffee maker), grind the coffee, wait for 5 minutes, and then remove the grind chamber from the machine. Rap the chamber firmly on the counter before opening the lid to send any stray grinds to the bottom of the container with the others. For finer grinds like espresso, add a few minutes to the waiting period; for coarser grinds for a French press, subtract a few minutes.”Minimizing Static in Burr Grinders, Cooks Illustrated
Since my first experiences with our Baratza Encore, I’ve tried to use the time technique. And the “whack the grinder” one. Both definitely help dislodge grounds that might otherwise stick to the side of the chamber, or in the grinder chute itself. I recommend both techniques.
My Personal Experience Fighting Coffee Grinder Static
Despite my concern following the skepticism about water-based coffee-static management methods, I just went (while writing this article) and gave the “wet spoon handle” technique a try. I also did my customary whacks and wait (mentioned just above). And I’m happy to report: that was the cleanest grind from the Baratza Encore I’ve had in a while.
Now, I’ll admit that one try wasn’t a rigorous scientific investigation. But I certainly think it is good enough to add it to my list of recommendations. Here’s what I think you should do if you’re getting sad about the amount of coffee-grinder static in your life:
- Do the wet spoon trick. (Details in numbered list above)
- Wait after you grind the coffee, for a minimum of sixty seconds, and up to 5-10 minutes. (I often don’t have the patience for this. When I do it seems to help.)
- Tap the grinder and the chamber before you remove your grounds-chamber from the grinder. Partly this works because you dislodge stuff that just didn’t move down all the way, but also the physical taps can overcome some static.
Dealing with your Not-Static-Free Burr Coffee Grinder
I hope that this article made you feel a little less alone in your struggle to combat coffee grinder static. It afflicts thousands (if not millions) world wide, and a permanent solution still has not been found. But some of these techniques to make it less of a hassle really do work. Good luck! And if you’ve got other techniques or experiences, I’d love to hear them in the comments 🙂 Happy grinding!