How Often Should I Change My Burrs?

We spend a lot of time around here thinking about preventative maintenance. While this means keeping your espresso machine functioning flawlessly, your grinder is just as important. And your burrs are the most important piece of your grinder. 

So how often should you be changing your burrs? 

This is a super important question and our answer is below. (Note: we are talking about commercial grinders right now, scroll to the bottom for our recommendations on home grinders).

For espresso grinders, our recommendation is if you use less than 30lbs of espresso per week, change your burrs when you do your annual espresso machine maintenance.

If you are using more than 30lbs of espresso per week, change them twice a year. More simply...
  > 30lbs/week = twice a year
<= 30lbs/week = once a year
We recommend changing your filter coffee grinder’s burrs every six months, regardless of volume. 
Our recommendations are ahead of the manufacturer’s recommendation. Take for instance the Mahlkonig Guatemala, a favorite grinder around here. We recommend changing the burrs on this annually. However, the manufacturer would rate these burrs for up to 11,000 pounds. That’s would require over 200 pounds per week! 
Why the discrepancy? Why not wait until you’ve gone through it’s entire life expectancy? 
First and foremost, if you’re running a coffee program, you have more important things to worry about. Let’s be real. Doing these preventative maintenance things are not going to be on your radar if you don't have them on a fixed schedule. That’s why we encourage everyone to get with our tech department and get on our regular schedule. 
You can reach out to our tech department HERE to get on our schedule.
Secondly, the manufacturer recommendations are far from a perfect number. The life of your burrs is impacted by the density of the coffee, how much time between grinding, the roast level of the coffee. Because of this, two shops using the same grinder will wear the burrs down at different rates. 
Is it a big deal if you use the burrs too long?
For the most part, the burrs we use in specialty coffee are oil quenched steel. They have a hard outer shell around some softer metal. For this reason, you may experience a very sudden drop in quality if your burrs wear out. Once that hard shell is gone, the burrs will dull very quickly, and your grind quality suffers.
The biggest problem that dull burrs will give you is too many fine particles in your ground coffee. These fines will extract way faster than the rest of your coffee, causing some bitter over-extraction. A trained staff will recognize the tell tales signs of over-extraction and change their grind setting, causing you to both under-extract and over-extract your coffee.
You’ll never get that balanced taste again until you change your burrs.
To get the most out of your burrs. We recommend taking care of them by using Grindz on a weekly basis and asking your technician to disassemble and clean them at every preventative maintenance event. This will ensure that oils and fines that build up on the burrs over time can be removed and you can get back to a good starting point.
What about at home?
If you’re just using your grinder for yourself, maybe a guest from time to time, you probably don’t need to worry about it. Maybe plan on changing your burrs every decade or so. If you’re using your grinder a lot, maybe think about changing them every other year.
We’re huge fans of Baratza’s home grinders, so let’s use those as an example. The grinders that come with steel burrs like the Encore and Virtuoso will be good for about 500 pounds while the ones that have ceramic burrs like the Vario and the Forte will last even longer. If you’re making two cups of coffee per day, everyday, those steel burrs will theoretically last you 15 years!
To optimize your grinder you can take care of your burrs at home by using Grindz on them every few months. Doing this will make sure you get the most out of them for the life of the grinder by helping to reduce oil and fines that build up on your burrs. 
Want more info on this? We’re here to help with this and any other coffee/equipment questions you have. Feel free to reach out HERE.