emradguy Senior Member Joined: 31 Mar 2011 Posts: 3,172 Location: Houston Expertise: I live coffee
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Posted Fri May 2, 2014, 9:59am Subject: Re: is it okay to change grinder setting without the grinder running if it empty
Better if going coarse, and depends on the grinder adjust mechanism and how far you're moving it. You don't want to place the burrs in contact and then try to run it. Otherwise, no problem. Basic adjustment merely lowers the position of the upper burr assembly, so that when the motor runs the burrs are just closer together (finer) or farther apart (coarser).
What grinder do you have?
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
If "empty" means surgically clean, then it doesn't matter.
The thing about running the grinder when you adjust fineness is to even out the forces across the burrs so that they're translated evenly to the axis of rotation and don't cause the burrs to misalign so that they're not completely perpendicular along the axis.
If you're adjusting the grinder coarser, there are very few scenaria which could lead to any sort of problem. The only common one occurs with a mix of fines and oils forming a cement that stick the burrs together at some point. If you get that unholy mix, cleaning your frikkin' grinder and quit using oily beans.
If you're adjusting the grinder finer, and there's anything at all in the burrs, it's very easy to cause misalignment. Almost any clump or deposit can cause it.
At best, misalignment will result in a too wide range of particle sizes -- too many chunks AND too many fines. At worst, it can damage the burr carriers -- especially common with lightly built grinders with a lot of plastic -- by way of a few examples, most of the Baratzas and the Breville Smart.
The problem of soft clumps between burrs, you can be solved by running cleaning media (Grindz or instant rice) through the grinder. However, if you bend an arm, damage a bearing by running the grinder off axis, or a bunch of other nasty things causing misalignment there are a few possibilities in terms of repair. Sometimes it's enough to smack the grinder (my favorite!). Sometimes taking things apart, cleaning them and putting them back together is the good juju. Sometimes you have to replace some fairly easily replaced parts -- like Baratza burr carrier arms. But sometimes you're pretty much screwed.
Don't be pretty much screwed. Everything considered, it's a good idea to make running the grinder when doing any grind adjustment an unbreakable habit. After all, why not?
Do you have a problem with running it when empty? Is the electrical grid so fragile in Canada that you may plunge the entire province of Saskatchewan into darkness if you run the grinder for 5-10 seconds while adjusting the burrs? ;^)
Seriously, I can think of no reason why you couldn't run the grinder -- even when empty -- to adjust the grind finer. Regardless of whether there are beans in the hopper or not, always run the grinder when adjusting it -- ESPECIALLY if going finer.
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