A grinder is used to prepare organic substances to use in cooking or smoking. Grinders became popular back in the 1960s to break down herbs and plants to improve the smoking or edible experience. What you grind becomes much finer in consistency and more manageable than the original substance.
Who Invented It?
Historical reports dating back to the early 20th century claim the grinder, or grinding machine as it was originally called, was invented in 1886 by an engineer named Lewis Heim. Heim worked for the Ball and Roller Bearing Company in Danbury, Connecticut. The company provided services to Danbury’s hat-making industry.
Heim’s invention, known as the first centerless grinding machine, was used to grind plant matter on a large scale. Smaller grinders were soon created for individual use. They became popular gadgets used in pharmacies and apothecaries to break down herbs and medicinal plants.
What Does It Do?
For the smoking aficionado, grinders serve the essential purpose of breaking down organic matter into smaller pieces for smoother smoking. This helps to keep your pipe or bong from getting clogged. It also allows for a more consistent burn for joints.
Basic grinders have two pieces — a lid and a grinding bowl. However, you can also purchase more complex grinders with one or more mesh screens and collection chambers. Some have up to six pieces in total.
How Many Parts in a Grinder?
A two-piece grinder is the most basic type, with a lid and a grinder bottom. A three-piece grinder has a lid, bottom, and a storage chamber for catching the ground material. A four-piece grinder contains a lid, bottom, storage chamber, and a kief catcher. Kief is the resin gland that falls to the bottom of the chamber as dry sift and contains the most potent terpenes and cannabinoids. A five-piece grinder has an additional kief catcher. You can also purchase grinders in a variety of shapes and sizes. Flat grinders are the most common type, as they fit in a pocket, backpack, or handbag easily.
Manual or Electric?
Most grinders are manual and require some gripping and a little muscle to work. You have to physically move your wrists and hands in a twisting fashion to activate the grinding mechanism, or “teeth,” inside the chamber. So, if you have arthritis or weak wrists or hands, this may be a bit of a challenge. You can purchase electric or battery-operated grinders that do the work for you. Electric grinders will grind more consistently, especially if you have high-resin plants or large buds to break down. But they are more expensive.
Keep in mind that if you are trying to grind buds with a high amount of resin, your grinder can become sticky, and the process may take longer. No matter what kind of grinder you choose, it’s important to keep all its working parts clean and sanitized for optimal performance.
Why Is Cleaning Your Grinder Important?
Over time, resin and debris can build up in your grinder and make it function less efficiently. It can also become a breeding ground for mold and harmful bacteria if not maintained properly. That’s why it’s important to clean your grinder regularly — about once a month, depending on your usage. Keep in mind that even if you don’t use your grinder that often, the bacteria and mold can still be growing on the device, so you still need to clean it regularly.
Beyond possible bacteria and mold, any grinder accumulates resin and debris the more it’s used. These materials can collect quickly and make your grinder sticky and less effective. When your grinder is clogged or gummy, it yields less product to smoke and subsequently detracts from your overall smoking enjoyment. Since there are several types of grinders, the cleaning method for each is slightly different.
It’s important to clean plastic grinders pretty often. If left unchecked, the plastic teeth could break off, rendering the utensil almost useless. First, separate out the working parts of the grinder and remove any big pieces of debris by hand. Spray the pieces down with the faucet nozzle in your kitchen sink, then place the pieces in a plastic container filled with soapy water. Let stand for about 20 minutes.
If you’re looking for a more deep-cleaning method, place the pieces in boiling water for about 10 minutes, then rinse with room-temperature water. If persistent debris or resin is still stuck here and there, use an old toothbrush or cotton swab to remove them. Then, lay them out on a paper towel to dry.
Generally speaking, metal grinders are easier to clean because extraneous matter doesn’t stick to them as much. However, left uncleaned over a period of time, tiny metal specks may actually blend in with the product, so be sure to still clean it about once a month to keep it at peak performance and prevent mold from growing in it.
Similarly to the plastic grinder, first take it apart completely, including every single part. If it has more than two parts to it, take apart all of them, as the grinder’s efficiency is only as good as all its clean parts working together.
Once the gadget has been disassembled, rinse each part with warm water under a pressurized tap to remove whatever debris you can. Then, use a cotton swab or small toothbrush and dip it in rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol. Run the swab or brush around all the hard-to-reach parts to clean away all remaining resin and gunk. If your metal grinder has a mesh covering, gently use a spatula or toothbrush to scrape out the debris stuck in the mesh. Be careful to use only enough pressure to free the particles; otherwise, the screen may puncture or tear. You can also soak metal grinder parts in hot, soapy water as an additional step. Then, use a small towel to dry the parts where you can. Lay them out on a paper towel to dry completely before reassembling.
No matter what type of grinder you have, routinely cleaning it will ensure optimal performance and a better overall experience for you. Plus, it will last longer, which saves you money in the long run.