Flaky coffee grinder

Thursday 18 July 2002

My coffee grinder is flaky again (no, it doesn’t grind coffee beans into flakes: it behaves erratically). Last time this happened, I remembered a story my brother-in-law told me. My brother-in-law is a physicist, and not one to let mechanical failures be. When his coffee grinder stopped working, he took it apart, found the problem, and wrote to the manufacturer to explain what he found (I don’t remember what the problem was, but he couldn’t fix it, so writing to complain was the best he couild do).

When my coffee grinder first failed, inspired by John’s can-do attitude, I took my coffee grinder apart too. It had been slowly getting less and less eager to begin grinding when I pressed the button, so I assumed the switch was broken in some way. I figured I couldn’t fix it, but I should at least see the problem.

When I opened the bottom of the grinder, the problem was clear: the entire inside of the grinder was filled with finely-ground coffee! The upper cup was sealed to the body of the grinder with a strip of what looked like ordinary electrical tape. The tape had come loose, and over the course of its lifetime, little bits of fine coffee dust had been making their way into the grinder. Once the electrical contacts of the switch became completely clogged, it stopped working.

I was able to empty out the dust, clean everything, re-wrap the upper seal with ordinary electrical tape, and put it back together. The grinder worked perfectly (and was about a pound lighter). As an engineer, I was very proud.

So that was the last time my coffee grinder didn’t work (there are three separate grinder failures in this story, remember: John’s, my first, and my current). So I opened it up again this morning expecting to find a cascade of coffee dust, but alas, my electrical tape had held, and the inside was only dusty from the last cleaning. I blew around inside, and put it back together, and it seems to work OK, who knows?

Is there a lesson in this? Maybe not...

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