Why should I clean my grinder?
- Grind Smoother
- Collect More Kief (Trichomes)
- Lasts Longer
If you’ve ever broken up a good cannabis nug 🎥 with your fingers you understand that it’s not a clean process. While the parts of a stainless steel grinder are less likely to get sticky as your fingers, they do get gunked up over time as tiny bits of trichome oils and plant matter build up and are compressed by the process of grinding and smashing nugs. This is my technique I use to regularly clean and maintain my herb grinder. I prefer using mainly 70% Isopropyl Alcohol 🛒 which is a solvent that dissolves the cannabis oils, and then I finish with hot water to clear everything out. Isopropyl is relatively cheap and readily available at most pharmacies and bigger grocery stores. I regularly clean all my glass with Isopropyl, so I eventually found a place that sells it by the gallon. You can dilute the alcohol even further if you’d like, 50% still does enough to break down the oils for this process. And the truth is, some people used to use high potency Isopropyl as a crude extraction method to make concentrates or shatter, due to it’s nature of breaking down oils but not the physical plant matter. But in this case we’re just breaking down the gunk that makes your grinder sticky so that you can do it all over again.
TLDR? There’s a video at the bottom.
The Parts & The Gunk
This is a small four-piece grinder (three chamber) that I’ve owned for 3 or 4 years by cleaning it regularly.
(Top) The Grind Chamber pulverizes the herbs in the between sets of sharpened pillars, and once the material is torn small enough the pieces are forced through the holes down into the catch chamber. Tiny trichomes that are knocked loose are able to fall further through the screen and into the bottom kief chamber.
There tends to be a light coating of kief on the grind pillars, but buildup happens where the two chambers contact each other, usually the inside corners of the top piece (pictured above right, buildup in bottom corner) and the outer edge of the second piece which is usually the cause of grinders sticking.
(Middle) The Catch Chamber catches the ground up herbs that were pushed down from the grind chamber. The bottom of the catch chamber is a fine mesh screen. The screen’s goal is to allow tiny trichomes to pass through, but not any plant matter. Different grinders have different size screens. A larger screen might allow more trichomes to fall through but also some small ground plant, a tighter screen will capture a finer selection of trichomes, but also can get blocked much easier.
Remember, you’re going to catch more trichomes when the mesh screen is clean.
(Bottom) the Kief Catcher
The Goldmine of the grinder is the kief catcher, where loose trichomes that have been knocked off the plant are able to fall through. Kief is the most basic form of cannabis extraction, trichomes are what hold the highest concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, all the things that give cannabis the effects it does.
We recommend carefully emptying out the kief catcher into a separate small container or piece of folded parchment paper.
You can absolutely keep the kief chamber building and only wash the screen and grind chamber. Be sure to keep your kief catch covered to prevent dust and hairs (or alcohol spray!) from falling in while you’re cleaning the rest.
How To Clean a Grinder
TLDR: Dissolve oils w/ alcohol & hot water, clean all surfaces & corners, dry.
1. Soak everything in Isopropyl alcohol, and knock out the large debris from the screen with bursts of hot water or alcohol. I usually do this over the sink but for photographic purposes I only use isopropyl into a dish. It worked well because all the other pieces could continue to soak as I washed each individually. Some stuff doesn’t get knocked through one way, so turn it over and do the same thing the other way. Also note the buildup on the OUTSIDE of the chamber in the screw ledge in the image below.
2. Take an alcohol-soaked swab to every surface, corner, edge, and screw thread. The inside of the top piece might have heavy buildup. If any buildup is difficult to remove, leave it to soak again in isopropyl for a few minutes. You can also use a toothbrush for this if you prefer. Use normal cotton swabs and dip them in your bath of isopropyl before wiping and rubbing off any buildup
If there is blockage on the screen, use alcohol and hot water, with a light brushing if necessary. Do not force anything through the screen or put pressure on the screen itself, but make sure to clear all corners and edges. Flush with alcohol, lightly brush the underside, then do the reverse side.
3. Allow pieces to air dry. Alcohol evaporates quickly, but I recommend rinsing with hot water and leaving pieces to air dry for an hour. I sometimes use a compressed air can to quickly dry the screen, but time and air will do the same thing. Be sure any excess water will drip off of the pieces, and not pool in the bottom during drying.
This is all the gunk that was in this grinder before!