In the simplest of terms, a static charge is generated when two surfaces come in contact and then separate leaving an imbalance of positive and negative charges. A familiar example is rubbing a balloon on your head, and giggling as the balloon mysteriously clings to various surfaces. In the case of grinders, the act of beans being ground through burrs is what generates a static charge. All grinders experience static. Ours is no different. On any given day, dependent on various conditions, grounds can accumulate in the lower funnel and on the bottom of the burr set.
One of the primary factors that influences the amount of static you encounter while grinding is weather. In drier or more arid climes, which occur mostly in winter months, the amount of static generated is higher. In summer months, which are more humid, the amount of static tends to diminish. Location also plays a role to some extent; even the differences between Northern and Southern California are evident as per our initial tests. As well, different beans and roast levels can be more or less prone to static.
What can we do to counter static?
Following the logic that with higher humidity there is less static, one obvious solution is to add more moisture to the air. However, running a humidifier round the clock or grinding in the middle of a Turkish bath aren’t practical solutions. Fortunately, in the testing phase of the HG-1, one of our customers Tom C., recommended a method that he had remembered. Tom tested it with the HG-1 to great success, and christened the process the “Ross Droplet Technique” or RDT for short.
The process is extremely simple. Instead of making the area around the grinder more humid, Tom added one to two drops of water to the beans prior to grinding. That’s it! Adding a drop of water to your coffee beans prior to grinding will result in less static.
Should you need to address the issue of static, the methods of adding water to your beans are as varied as the day is long. Some prefer to use the steam wand on their espresso machines to give the beans a quick blast, others flick a couple of drops of water from their finger tips. We’ve heard recommendations such as eyedroppers, pipettes, or my personal favorite vermouth spritzers for martinis (filled with water of course).
The choice is up to you. So if you’re living in the desert, or are in the midst of a Mid-Western winter, a couple of drops of water is your solution at hand. For a more in-depth discussion of the voodoo and witchcraft behind the static phenomena in relation to coffee grinders, home-barisata.com has a wealth of additional information.