My friend is scraping her grinder for weed with a butter knife... help!!
July 13, 2019 11:20 AM   Subscribe

I learned yesterday that a close friend has been scraping her coffee grinder with a butter knife because "guitar tabs don't get everything." I let her know that her scraping with this will likely also scrape off small bits of (aluminum?) metal which she could breathe into her lungs while vaping. She is being stubborn for some reason and refuses to believe me. I would appreciate some second opinions/science so I can convince her that this is indeed a very very bad idea for her health.

This is the coffee grinder she uses. It states "stainless steel metal blades" but I'm assuming the areas she would be scraping are aluminum with I'm also assuming the butter knife could at least partially scrape off:

I am 95% confident that I am correct in saying that my friend is making a big mistake, and that she is indeed likely inhaling metal particulates if she decides to vape while utilizing this scraping method. I'd appreciate if someone could back me up with knowledge/science in order to convince her. I get the feeling she is being this stubborn because she has apparently been doing this for a long time and is afraid to admit that she's been compromising her health for so long.

OR - and this would blow my mind if I was wrong since my intuition is shrieking "bad idea" - if you know I am mistaken in thinking that a butter knife will scrape off the metal coating (could be wrong but I'm assuming it's aluminum) then please let me know so I can stop worrying that she's sabotaging her health :/

posted by CottonCandyCapers to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's a middle answer here: A small brush like this is way better, regardless of whether she's using the grinder for coffee or for weed. Since it's the latter, she'll more effectively, thoroughly, and easily capture anything left behind. Heck, a pastry brush or even a toothbrush would work far, far better than what she's using now.

Also, rooting around in the grinder with a metal knife will just dull the grinder blades. She's ruining the grinder by using the knife.

tl;dr: Use a brush. It works better.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:30 AM on July 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Hey, thanks for the reply and I agree that a brush would be better. Just to clarify though - my reason for asking this question is to verify whether or not using a butter knife is dangerous for scraping, since I'm doubtful she'll stop using her preferred method until she finds out it is.

I'll try to sell her on a brush/whatever once this first criteria is met :)
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2019

The amazon listing for that model mentions the grinding chamber is stainless steel. It's also answered in the questions section. I doubt she's getting any metal particulates into her weed.
posted by Mouse Army at 11:54 AM on July 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

You’re being way overly cautious here. Unless she’s literally gouging visible grooves out of the metal (and as Mouse Army mentions, it’s SS, which would take some serious abuse to dislodge any metal flakes from), she’s not vaping metal.

I’d be far more concerned about the air path of her vape (especially it being isolated from the electronics) than the minuscule risk of her possibly vaping a tiny piece of SS that isn’t medical grade.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:03 PM on July 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

Not trying to threadsit but -

Mouse Army: You could be right, but keep in mind the product description actually says "SOME coffee bean grinders even include a stainless steel grinding chamber." So that looks to be a blanket statement Hamilton Beach plops into all of their coffee grinder descriptions.

Also, the answered question comes from an anonymous Amazon customer and not from a company rep so I don't put much stock in that, they could have read the product description like you did and assumed this particular model was stainless steel; I would assume the company would advertise a stainless steel chamber alongside the stainless steel blades if it was actually a thing, so although the chamber is removable I'm not convinced that it's stainless steel (since many cheap coffee grinders use aluminum)

Oh yeah - I also neglected to mention that she always seems to be hacking up a lung after vaping, which I always found to be odd since I thought vaping is supposed to be easier on the lungs (I personally refuse to use her stuff because - as other posters have already pointed out - I may be taking an overly cautious approach. But seriously she coughs a lot)
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 12:05 PM on July 13, 2019

Our body is exposed to dust all the time. We inhale microscopic bits of everything around us. Unless there’s a significant amount of metal missing from the coffee grinder or it’s made out of something illegally toxic it’s probably not going to cause a problem.

She’s probably not going to dull the blades significantly either; they’re probably a harder steel than the butter knife, and she’s probably not doing much damage to the butter knife either.

My sense is that this is totally fine.
posted by aubilenon at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

What vape does she use? The vast majority of dry-herb vapes sold in head shops are rebranded Chinese crap that actually are hazardous to her health. I’d be focusing on that 100 times more than her grinder.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

[but, for the record, I don’t think you should be focusing on this situation at all. You seem to be stressing out about your own fears far more than any actual risks in front of you, which isn’t useful for you or your friend]
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:19 PM on July 13, 2019 [33 favorites]

I hack up a lung after vaping, so that's not indicative of anything.
You're being much too cautious.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the coughing is a normal biological response to THC, not just to irritants/contaminants. It’s not a reason to be concerned.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:25 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

The vape in question is an E-Nano, it seems to be a pretty HQ vape:

The general sentiment thus far seems to be that I'm overreacting, and I guess that could be the case, I'm not sure what to think at this point.

She seriously coughs a LOT after using though, and it sounds like a pretty deep hacking cough - I've witnessed her coughing up mucus even hours after she's finished vaping, it's like a bong rip cough x10 simply due to how long it lasts and I don't think I am exaggerating. (no clue why I didn't mention this in the original question). So I still think something's got to be up, but based on the advice in this thread I'll probably stop mentioning it to her so I don't freak her out.

There's no way I'm using her weed for myself though since I'm still very suspicious something's up with it, metal or otherwise :/
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2019

If exposure to metal particles in any amount was a "very very bad idea for [one's] health" it seems like sharpening knives and scissors would be regarded as much more hazardous than it is. Not only for the person sharpening, say, a kitchen knife, but for people then eating the food prepared with said knife, or prepared in the same kitchen where knives are sharpened.

Or for an example specifically involving aluminum, there's the use of aluminum foil. Tearing sheets of aluminum foil on the jagged blades built into dispensers must create a fair amount of dust, or at least an amount that's material in comparison to scraping out a coffee grinder with a butter knife.
posted by XMLicious at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

The E-Nano is a great vape, and about as safe as it gets. If she’s not bothered by the coughing, I wouldn’t worry about it. And if she is, she might want to try pairing it with a small water pipe with warm water, which will significantly reduce any harshness of the vapor.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2019

She could certainly have some sort of respiratory issues from any number of causes; this documentary identifies respiratory conditions as the most serious source of non-communicable disease on some axis, I don't remember the exact wording.
posted by XMLicious at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I get the feeling she is being this stubborn because she has apparently been doing this for a long time and is afraid to admit that she's been compromising her health for so long.

Or because you're freaking out over something that's really negligible as a problem? Knives are giving up particles of themselves every time we use them, otherwise nobody would ever need a knife sharpener. Entropy is a thing, but we're all still here. (Ha - I realise this is probably some kind of philosophical nonsense... we're not here forever, because: entropy... but anyway. Knife entropy is a thing but we're not dropping dead from using them so far is my point).

this would blow my mind if I was wrong since my intuition is shrieking "bad idea"

The loudness of intuition's shrieking is generally not a reliable indicator of reality, IME, doubly so if you're someone who has anxiety in your life - YMMV.

And more generally, even if I'm wrong and it's dangerous - you've told her what you think. You honestly can't force her to do what you want her to do by being more worried about it.
posted by penguin pie at 12:51 PM on July 13, 2019 [13 favorites]

Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time cutting and grinding metal I would say your concern is misplaced here. Even if she was exerting enough strength to grind off some metal dust (which would come off the knife as readily as the chamber) neither steel nor aluminum cause problems in small quantities. That's why, as mentioned above, sharpening knives is not considered to be hazardous.

If you ever want an interesting perspective on humans and metal, drop a magnet into a pile of "iron-fortified" cereal. Metal is not alien to our bodies!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:57 PM on July 13, 2019 [14 favorites]

The normal concern in vaping circles about metal is usually around inhaling chemicals that off-gas from metal at high temperatures. At normal vaping temps that won’t cause your weed to just burst into flame (<450f), there’s really no evidence that this would occur, even with non-medical-grade SS like you’d find in the coffee grinder (or butter knife). I get the feeling that OP is conflating things they’ve heard about metal+vaping with a fear of inhaling metal that doesn’t really conform to reality (if a theoretical flake of SS or AL that’s too small to visually detect in ground weed gets inhaled by accident, our respiratory system is pretty well equipped to deal with that particle).
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would sidestep the debate and simply buy her a brush like the one mandolin conspiracy linked. Everyone wins in this scenario. Ten dollars is a small price for everyone's happiness.
posted by mundo at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

In OP's defense, something could be no big deal to eat and a big deal to inhale.

But OP, take a look at the temperatures involved.
A quick Google reveals that vaping temperatures are supposedly around 392°F to 480°F." Whereas the melting points for both aluminum and stainless steel are over a thousand, much less their boiling point.
posted by slidell at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

for people then eating the food prepared with said knife

You are supposed to wipe the filings off after sharpening.
posted by Segundus at 1:59 PM on July 13, 2019

Thanks for the advice, everyone... it actually feels really good to be getting nearly unanimous agreement that my fears are likely misplaced, and that she probably hasn't been messing up her health :)

I won't bring it up with her anymore!
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 3:10 PM on July 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I use a dedicated coffee grinder to make cannabutter and routinely use a butter knife to scrape the blades bc they get covered in the best part, the sticky piney concetrated hashlike stuff. Your friend probably doesn’t want to waste some of the best part of the weed.

I vape occasionally, even when I use the fancy expensive cool air volcano vaporizer I cough like crazy, even hours later. I’m waiting for the day experts tell us vaping isn’t any better for us than just smoking a joint. I feel vaping is dry, my cough isn’t a cough that produces any mucus it’s a dry hacking cough. It’s different than a smoking cough though not better imo. But just to say I’ve used several kinds of vapers from cheap to expensive and I always cough a ton. Maybe a little less than from smoking but its still hard on my asthmatic lungs. And the oil pens are the absolute worst, my lungs actually hurt if I use them so I stay far away from them. This is why I do edibles 99% of the time.

So I suspect your friend is one who is sensitive to stuff in her lungs generally and that its not the possible microshavings of steel. Does she cough a lot if she smokes mj? I mean, wouldn’t the vaper have to get pretty darn hot to melt them assuming they’re there in the first place? I bet a tiny piece of tinfoil wouldn’t melt either but don’t try that at home. One of the selling points of vaping is that its a lower temp than smoking so I feel IF there are bits of steel getting into her vaper they’re not melting.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If your friend is coughing "bong rip cough[s] x10" after vaping, it does sound like you should gently suggest that they find another way to get weed into their body--I think your concern is only misplaced in the specifics.
posted by pullayup at 5:32 PM on July 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Generally speaking, adults have agency, and barring any immediate significant risk of harm to themselves (esp. during moments of impaired judgment, like a drunk adult who wants to drive) or others, you can raise your concern once but then let it go; they will take your counsel, or not, but that's up to them.
posted by davejay at 6:03 PM on July 14, 2019

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