Breaking In

Like an engine in a car, a leather baseball glove, or even a cast iron frying pan, many items in your daily life require time to break in and become seasoned. Little Leaguers soften their mitts by rubbing them with mink oil, and cooks scrub their skillets and bake them for hours in an oven; both are tried and true rituals performed in order to accelerate the natural seasoning process. If you’re the type of person that reads the last chapter of a book first, the breaking in process for the burrs in the HG-1 can be fast tracked as well.

How Will I Know?

As your burrs break in, chances are you’ll notice a few things. Any micro-spurting or gysering experienced with a naked portafilter will vanish, and the number of rotations required to grind a set dose will fall. Yet at the same time, resistance while grinding might increase slightly.

To an extent, your burrs might improve with age. This axiom always leads to the question should I let the burrs break in on their own or should I accelerate the process? For any set of burrs, it’s difficult to formulate a time period as well as a list of qualitative improvements associated with the breaking in process. The process can be dependent on a multitude of variables such as bean hardness, quantity, darkness of roast, fineness of grind and even surface coating.

It’s your choice. Let the burrs bed in at their own pace or accelerate the seasoning process. The breaking in process can be accelerated by running uncooked dried par-boiled rice through the grinder. We do recommend pulling a few shots with your grinder before beginning the seasoning process! Every burr set is different, and some don’t require any seasoning at all.

Shopping List

You’ve just purchased an HG-1 and you’re dashing off to the store to buy provisions for the impending arrival of your machine. In addition to coffee beans and milk, add a few boxes of instant rice to your shopping list.

We prefer the Minute brand of instant rice packaged in 14oz boxes (aprox. 4.25 cups). If you can’t find this brand, look for a product that is sold as dried instant or par-boiled rice. Make sure you don’t buy the wet pre-cooked, vacuum packed, boil bags which would only gum up your machine or uncooked raw rice which would be almost impossible to grind.

You’ll need 3 to 4 boxes, depending on the desired results.


Preparing to Grind

Before you start this process, we recommend using the grinder for several days. The goal is to see what your shots look like and how long they take to grind, and to have a metric to compare against.

You should plan on putting aside a couple of hours for seasoning, and also have some coffee beans on hand. You’ll want to pull some test shots along the way.

The breaking in process can be physically challenging, so we recommend using a set of clamps to secure the grinder to the counter top. Grinding instant rice is considerably more difficult than grinding coffee beans.

Also have a bowl on hand to catch the ground instant rice as well as a measuring cup. You want to be able to keep track of how much rice you have run through the grinder, so we recommend measuring out the rice in 1 cup portions.

Finally, measure out a standard dose of beans such as 18g and run it through the grinder at your preferred coarseness level. Count the number of revolutions required to grind the dose. Write this number down somewhere if you’re absent minded like we are.

HG-1 Workout

Readjust the grind to a slightly finer setting than that at which you have been pulling your shots. We’ve noticed that this can accelerate the seasoning process, but it might make it more difficult to grind for some users.

Start by adding approximately 20g of instant rice into the upper funnel, and begin to grind. You might notice a groaning sound (coming not from you–from the grinder) as you turn the flywheel. This is caused by rice rubbing against the burrs and creating a harmonic resonance along the length of main shaft and gearbox. Don’t worry, as scary as it sounds both literally and figuratively, it is normal.

CAUTION: ensure the burr lock knob (2012 model) is SECURELY tightened or the locking ring (2014+ model) is lowered COMPLETELY down onto the pins of the burr collar. If you notice any movement in the burr mount, stop grinding immediately and re-adjust the locking ring or re-tighten the knob. By placing a mark on the burr mount, you will be able to see any rotation in the part. Taking these precautions will help prevent future mishaps.

The ground rice should exit the grinder with a consistency similar to table salt. We recommend stopping every 2 cups of rice to check the grind speed with coffee beans.

Remember to set the grinder back to the espresso setting. When you do a test shot, you might notice your machine now requires a coarser grind setting then before.

On average, we noticed a reduction of 5 to 10 rotations with every box (4.25 cups) of instant rice used.

Once you’re satisfied with the level of seasoning, thoroughly clean out any remaining rice dust and run a few shots of coffee through the grinder to purge any remaining residue.