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Stainless Steel vs Aluminum Weed Grinders

The cannabis industry is evolving, and so too are the tools we use to contain, prepare, and consume cannabis itself. Cannabis grinders have developed from basic wooden versions with simple soft metal spikes to complex contraptions made from some of the hardest materials in the world.  There used to be only a few different brands advertising the same design, now brands specialize in cutting types, material, cost, size, etc.

Why Buy a Stainless Steel Grinder?

Stainless steel grinders have been growing in popularity, and you might wonder why someone would even purchase a stainless steel grinder. There are a couple reasons.

One reason has distinguished itself as most important, and that’s the hardness of the material the grinder is made from. You can’t put a price on your health, and at the end of the day you’re going to be inhaling combusted, or vaporized, plant matter. But what you don’t want is little bits of metal from your grinder flowing in to your lungs. Some of us smoke weed regularly, and even though the amount of aluminum in each hit may be small, that can add up. We’re ingesting enough pollution through the natural world nowadays; we don’t need another source of contamination.

Is Material Hardness Important to You?

But the cannabis community is quite divided on the importance of using a stainless steel grinder. There’s almost a unanimous agreement, and rightfully so, on the importance of buying an anodized aluminum grinder, but not steel.

The act of anodizing your aluminum grinder will increase the hardness on the outside, decreasing the likelihood on material rubbing off. But material does wear off, that can’t be disputed. Even professional steel steak knives need to be sharpened eventually, and your grinder is no different. It will wear. Stainless steel will wear slower than even anodized aluminum, but even a stainless steel grinder’s teeth will wear/dull. This may be unrecognizable during the course of grinding some weed, but the effect is present. Steel grinders are not immune from the effects of friction and time.

Is It Unhealthy to Use an Aluminum Herb Grinder?

The second aspect of the argument is: even if some does wear off, is it unhealthy? We consume small bits of aluminum through the regular course of our lives. It’s in the food we eat, the air we breathe, but do our bodies need it to function naturally? The answer to that is: No.

But how much is dangerous, and can you reach that amount through the regular use of your grinder? Often enough when this topic comes up, people reference scientific papers where the individual either digested the aluminum, which doesn’t do any good because we would be inhaling the particulates, or they reference the subject inhaling 1000x the likely amount you would inhale from a grinder. That, or they don’t recognize in the study that the aluminum is going to be heated, and then inhaled, which is an important distinction.

I can’t give you answer to this question either, unfortunately. No one has done a study that I’m aware of on the long term effects of inhaling micro-bit sized pieces of aluminum heated to the conditions present in a bong rip/vaporizers. If you’re aware of such a study, please email me at zamgrinders@zamgrinders.com.

Here is a good discussion diving further into the topic of inhaling aluminum from smoking tools. 

There's No Reason Not to Use a Stainless Steel Grinder

There’s one reason stainless steel grinders are growing in popularity—because there’s no reason not to. If there’s any doubt on the long term effects on your health, why not go with the safest option?  You’ll likely be using the grinder for years to come anyway, so for an increasing number of people it’s either stainless steel, or nothing.

Stainless Steel Grinders are More Expensive, Duh.

But there are still a couple other reasons someone might go with aluminum or stainless steel. Cost is the big obvious one, and only a couple brands even sell stainless steel weed grinders so you don't have many brands to choose from. ZAM happens to be one of them, and I encourage you to take a look at our products, but also here is a list of all the brands selling stainless steel grinders. Going through that list you would see that stainless steel grinders are rather expensive compared to aluminum grinders.

Check out this article: Are Expensive Grinders Worth It

Take a Look at Other Brands for Sale

The basic-bitch aluminum grinders that you can find on Amazon are from low quality materials, which mean little thought has often gone into the design. That can’t be said, however, for the many different aluminum brands that currently dominate the market. Here’s a list of all the major weed grinder brands. All of these are aluminum 6061 or higher, and there’s a reason for that. The hardness of the material does matter. It would be unfair to both cast aside lower quality aluminum grinders and say they aren’t as good because of the grade of metal, and then turn around and say stainless steel grinders serve no purpose. The hardness of the material matters, but how much does it matter to you?

Aluminum Has a Greater Variety of Design and Colors

Cost aside, there are a lot more aluminum grinders for sale. From cute and girly weed grinders, to novelty vibrating ones, aluminum is the most common metal grinders are made from. Most people simply don’t care about the hypothetical issues with inhaling aluminum, but if you’re this far down the article, it’s likely you don’t fall into that category.

The last minor characteristic that could influence your choice of aluminum vs steel, is the weight of the grinder. Stainless steel grinders are heavy, and that’s an understatement. Our two piece stainless steel weighs a pound. Our 2.5” stainless steel grinder weighs almost a 1.4 pounds. These really aren’t the type of grinders you want to carry around in your basketball shorts. Even our smallest 1.8” steel grinder could be used as a weapon should the need arise.

Conclusion:

When considering whether you’re going to purchase a stainless steel grinder or an aluminum grinder, there are really three things you should consider:

  1. Can you afford it is the first one. Simply put, a $12 grinder will work. It might break on you tomorrow, but it’ll work while it’s in one piece. How much do really care? 
  2. Next: Do you believe inhaling heated micro aluminum bits can cause adverse health effects, and do you care? This is a big one, because no one is going to tell you off for either choice. Going the safe route with a steel grinder is the obvious choice, but most people have aluminum grinders.
  3. And last but not least: What quality are you looking for? Stainless steel grinders come with a bit of assured quality. These are more expensive with s brands with real people behind them. If you have a problem you’ll be able to reach someone fairly easily and likely more thought will be put into the grinder's design. Aluminum grinders, and I mainly speak of the cheap aluminum grinders here, are not designed to be different with perfecting the function of the grinder. Most often it’s the same design with the same mistakes, yet there’s some cool artwork on the top of the grinder.

So cost, health hypothetical, and expectations of quality. Determine where you stand with these three things and choosing between a stainless steel vs aluminum grinder will be a breeze.

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