Can You Use a Spice Grinder for Coffee? (Fast Facts)

We have a hand grinder at home for coffee beans, but could we use a spice grinder instead to get the same results?

You can grind coffee beans with a spice grinder, pepper grinder or herb grinder if you absolutely have no choice, but the ground coffee you get will be coarse and taste of either pepper or whatever spice or herb you last put in your grinder. Doing this is therefore not recommended.

Let’s explore this subject in greater detail, and discover why using a spice or herb grinder for your coffee beans might not be the best idea if you want your coffee to taste of, well…coffee…

Can You Use a Spice Grinder for Coffee?

Can I Use a Spice Grinder to Grind Coffee?

Well, you can use a spice grinder to grind your coffee beans, but you won’t get the best results. Plus, your coffee may taste a bit spicy, which isn’t the best flavor.

Technically, a spice grinder doesn’t grind but chops using stainless steel blades. It will certainly reduce your coffee beans to a ground texture, but it won’t have that lovely consistency you get from a proper coffee grinder.

The best coffee grinders use burrs to create a lovely, even ground. You can also adjust the grind to suit the type of coffee you’re making. For example, you need a really finely ground coffee for a good espresso, and a spice grinder won’t get anywhere close to this refined texture.

If it’s an emergency, you can use your spice grinder to “chop up” your coffee beans. But as soon as you can, try to buy one of the real deals.

Is a Coffee Grinder the Same as a Spice Grinder?

Same name, different gadget. As well as the fact that you want to keep your coffee free from spicy scents, you really do need to have a separate spice and coffee grinder in your kitchen.

The spice grinder is actually misnamed. Most models use a chopping action, which is great for finely chopped spices, but the blades won’t give you that essential, even consistency.

Now, the coffee grinder really does grind. Most types use a burr mechanism, which consists of two abrasive plates (or cones) that crush the beans between them. These can be adjusted to produce different levels of coffee grounds.

Just as you shouldn’t really grind coffee beans in a spice grinder, you can’t grind spices in a coffee grinder. Fragments of spice will become trapped in the delicate burrs, and you’ve also compromised the aroma of future brews. A coffee grinder is designed to do one job, and one job only.

Can I Use a Pepper Grinder to Grind Coffee?

If you’re desperate (and all coffee lovers know that feeling!), a pepper grinder can be a reasonable substitute for a coffee grinder. Coffee grinder blown, power failure, staying with weird relatives who don’t drink coffee…? It’s the pepper grinder to the rescue.

This is also a handy hack if you’re camping, because a pepper grinder is compact and doesn’t need any power. OK, the grind won’t be perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Wash the pepper grinder and dry it thoroughly. Grind the beans in small batches so you don’t overwhelm the mechanism. It may take a few goes to have enough ground coffee for a brew, but keep at it.

What Can I Use if I Don't Have a Coffee Grinder?
What Can I Use if I Don’t Have a Coffee Grinder?

What Can I Use if I Don’t Have a Coffee Grinder?

We’ve heard all sorts of suggestions for this, from pepper grinders (OK if you’re stuck) to hammers (risky). A home blender may be OK, but as you do with a spice grinder, you’ll end up with chopped and inconsistent coffee grinds.

The simple answer is to buy ready-ground coffee. If you don’t have a grinder, buy a bag of ground coffee from your local coffee shop or store. You’ll have a choice of grinds, from fine to coarse, so you can choose the perfect consistency for your coffee maker.

Can You Grind Coffee With a Herb Grinder?

Again, an herb grinder will certainly shop up your coffee beans, but that’s actually the problem: it will chop them rather than grind them.

Herb and spice grinders use blades, so while they’re called grinders they’re actually “fine choppers”. At first glance, your newly ground coffee might look OK, but it won’t have that fine and even consistency needed to make a great cup of joe. 

You might be able to tolerate this coarse grind for an emergency cup of coffee, but it’s no long-term solution. We’re sorry: you’re going to need more cupboard space, because you do need separate herb and coffee grinders.

Can I Use a Hand Grinder for Coffee?

Hand grinders are actually an excellent way to grind your coffee beans. Sure, it needs a little more effort on your part then an electric model, but that makes the end result even more satisfying.

Hand grinders are surprisingly sophisticated. You can adjust the burrs with most models, giving you a choice of fine, medium, or coarse grounds. They won’t give up in a power outage, and you can easily pack one for a picnic or a camping trip.

If you’ve never seen a coffee hand grinder in action, here’s a short film from Starbucks showing you how to grind coffee beans using a hand grinder. It’s not the best kitchen gadget if you’re making a lot of coffee (your hand would be in agony), but it’s perfect for one or two cups at a time.

Can a Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder Be Used for Coffee?

Desperate to grind your new bag of coffee beans, you reach for your Cuisinart Spice & Nut grinder. Will it do the job that you so badly need it to do? Not really, no.

As with the other spice and herb grinders we’ve looked at, this model will chop the coffee beans into some sort of ground texture.

However, it won’t be a proper grind, and can only be used for the coarsest coffee grounds. If you use a French press, you may get away with it, but making an espresso? Forget it.

It’s simply because the spice and nut grinder chops using blades, while a proper coffee grinder grinds, using those two burrs to firmly crush the roasted beans.

What about the other way round? Coffee beans and nuts seem pretty similar, right? Can you chop nuts in a coffee grinder? Sorry, it’s another no, and there’s a risk that the nuts will damage the burrs. 

If you’re a fan of your Cuisinart spice & nut grinder, the famous kitchen brand does also make a proper coffee grinder, which will be the perfect tool for the job. 🙂