Coffee grinders know how to get a whole bean into a perfectly roasted cup of coffee in about five seconds flat. They are the masters of taking something that is whole and transforming it into an item that resembles something more like dust, but what about nuts and spices?
A coffee grinder can grind nuts and spices, turning whole spices like nutmeg or cumin seeds into a fine powder. While blade grinders can grind nuts and spices in smaller batches, burr grinders can turn larger quantities into fine grinds. You can also grind herbs, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese.
So many times, we think of our appliances as having only one purpose. It is, perhaps, why our cupboards are bursting with all the new latest and greatest gadgets. However, your coffee grinder is quite versatile. Let’s take a closer look at how you can grind nuts and spices in your coffee grinder and just what your coffee grinder is capable of.
How to Grind Spices in Your Coffee Grinder
You’ve found the perfect grinder – one that is capable of making a coarse grind and one that can grind up even the finest of Turkish coffees. This grinder can do it all when it comes to the most desirable grinds, but can it do even more than this? Your mind might say no, but your heart says yes.
As it turns out, you can grind whole spices in a coffee grinder. Yep, I said it, whole spices! Isn’t that a fun thought? Let’s say you want fresh nutmeg for your Christmas eggnog but you only have the whole nutmeg. Guess what? Your coffee grinder can fix you right up. Fresh nutmeg can be well on its way in a matter of seconds!
Fortunately, grinding spices in your coffee grinder follows the same steps that you would use to grind coffee beans. First, select your spice. Then, use a small batch to avoid overfilling the grinding capacity. Finally, grind the spice to however coarse or fine your grinder is capable of.
If you know how to put in coffee beans and grind them, then you know how to put in whole spices. All you need to do is place whichever spice you desire into the area that holds the beans, close the top, and grind away. Coffee beans are relatively dense so your coffee grinder should be able to tackle just about any spice imaginable. The sky’s the limit!
The biggest thing to consider is the amount of whole spices that you put in and the grind size you prefer for the spice itself. When talking about how much you put into your coffee grinder, just be sure not to overfill the space allotted for beans. If you overfill that area, the spices will become compacted down at the bottom of the chamber and the grind will be uneven. It can even cause them to compact so greatly that your burrs stop altogether.
Concerning the grind, many coffee grinders are able to produce different levels of grinds. This can go from a coarse grind to one that is the finest of fines. When grinding spices, consider how coarse or how fine you want them. If a particular spice is too coarse it can mean bad integration for your dishes which means poor flavor for you and your guests. No one wants a giant flake of fennel in their mouth as they bite down, am I right?
If you have a simpler grinder that only has one grind setting, do not worry. You can still control the level of grind for your whole spices. All you need to do is grind in short periods. Try grinding in batches of ten seconds and check the spice every ten seconds to see how it has progressed. Once you have your spices ground to the point that you desire, simply pull them out and pop them in a container. They will be as fresh as ever the next time you reach for them!
How to Grind Nuts in Your Coffee Grinder
Fortunately for you, grinding nuts in your coffee grinder is almost as easy as grinding spices- or coffee beans themselves. The key differences here include a slight bit of preparation to make the grind a bit easier on your coffee grinder blades.
To grind nuts in your coffee grinder, you will follow the same steps as grinding spices in your coffee grinder.
- Select the type of nuts you plan to grind. This will play a large part in how you need to prep your product. If you are grinding pecans, for example, these will likely not crush as easily as grinding a softer walnut. So, be sure to pay attention to the density and hardness of the nut you plan to grind in your coffee grinder.
- Chop nuts into halves or quarters before placing them in the coffee grinder. This step is not technically required for grinding nuts in your coffee grinder, but chopping your nuts into halves or quarters will take off quite a load on your coffee grinder. The blades will not have to work as hard or for as long if you add a little bit of prep work in there.
- Place the nuts in the coffee grinder in small batches. You will want to leave room for the nuts to move about in the coffee grinder compartment while the blades and burrs are spinning. Plus, using smaller batches will allow for a more effective grind.
- Grind the nuts to the coarseness of your choosing. Depending on how effective your coffee grinder is, you can choose to grind the nuts into a coarse batched of finely chopped nuts, or you can turn your nuts into a more finely ground powder. This is up to you and the capabilities of our coffee grinder.
Still, even knowing that a coffee grinder can grind more than just coffee, you might be left curious as to how a coffee grinder is capable of doing this. After all, knowing how to use your machine will help in effective and efficient food prep.
How Does the Quality of a Coffee Grinder Affect the Grind
Whole coffee beans are wonderful, but they are useless unless they have been ground up, diced away, and pulverized to a point of no return. Your grinder essentially is able to take something very whole and turn it into either a course or very fine powder with the flip of a switch. It is actually quite a simple process as all you do is throw your beans into the grinder, push down or turn on to grind, and viola! You’ve got coffee grounds that are ready to brew.
When it comes to coffee, your grinder is really just as important as the bean itself. The grinding process is made possible through the rapid spinning of blades or burrs. They spin rapidly and are able to take a whole substance to a powder- the quality of grind dependent on the grinder.
The blades or burrs spin so quickly that they are able to grind your coffee beans into that perfect grind that you find on shelves, in shops, and in the most exquisite coffee of houses. Without the grinder, you would never be able to sip on your most favorite cup of joe. Without a high-quality grinder, you would never smell your morning brew making its magic. You simply have to have it.
Blade and Burr Grinders: What’s the Difference?
We all know the classic coffee grinder with a blade. It’s like a universal world staple that resides in every little nook and cranny you can imagine. Ok, that might be too much, but you know it when you see it! For me, there is some strange feeling of nostalgia when I see one. It takes me back to college morning spent brewing coffee while we all force ourselves to power through one last once-over of the most impossible final exam known to man.
But, not all grinders are made equally. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between blade coffee grinders and burr grinders.
Blade grinders have a blade that looks more like a propeller and it turns at a rate that could leave your head spinning. With this type of grinder, settings are non-existent as the grind is determined by how long you let it run. This means that you can get a super-fine grind, but with only one blade, it can also mean that you have an inconsistent grind. This means a few big chunks here and there or your coffee will cling to the side when the grinding is done.
“Static?” you ask. Oh, yea, static, and it is such a nightmare when it comes to the coffee grounds you would never want to waste. Static is caused by the constant spinning of the blade and it can make your coffee grounds stick to any and every surface around. That means your hands, your cabinet, your clothes, the whole nine. This can be a big drawback along with the inconsistent grind that blade grinders can create.
Burr Grinders (Conical and Flat Plate)
Even with their drawbacks, blade grinders are capable of getting the job done just fine, but there is a new grinder that has come to town: Burr Grinders. Doesn’t the name just chill you to your bones? Too far? Ok, moving on. Either way, burr grinders are actually quite astounding. These grinders crush the coffee beans into a very consistent size, which is the key to getting the smoothest cup of coffee. Who would have thought the consistency was so important?
There are two types of burr grinders out there: conical burr grinders and flat plate burr grinders. Conical burr grinders have two cone burrs with ridges that help to grind up your coffee to perfection. The flat plate grinders have two rings that are serrated on the sides that face one another and get to grinding in a vertical type of way. Both do a fantastic job at getting your grounds uniformly ground and giving you the smoothest coffee.
Which Type of Coffee Grinder is Best for Grinding Spices?
I know that a burr grinder sounds like the one you have to have. It grinds consistently, it has a new-age type of grinding system, and if you look them up they actually have a pretty sleek design. But here’s the thing, burr grinders are designed to make fantastic coffee, not fantastic ground spices. This does not mean they cannot be used for spices, but these systems are more expensive than blade grinders so this could mean a big difference for your pocketbook.
If you are looking to grind spices in your coffee grinder, stick with a blade grinder over a burr grinder. They are less expensive, have fewer components for setting up, and provide you with an adequate grind. Burr grinders are unnecessary for grinding spices, although they grind coffee exquisitely.
That is not to say that a burr grinder can’t do the trick – it absolutely can – so if you have one of these, do not think you need to purchase a blade grinder. But, blade grinders are adequate and are far more commonly found (and known about), so investing in a burr grinder for grinding spices is not necessary.
Before moving on, there is one more thing to consider besides costs when it comes to burr grinders. These are typically more difficult to clean compared to blade grinders and this can be a big deal for those of you that will be using your burr grinder for coffee beans and whole spices. No one wants a faint taste of cardamom in their coffee when they first wake up in the morning. Residue can be left behind and this can potentially affect the taste of your coffee.
A burr grinder is still going to get your whole spices to ground perfection and they are capable of making them perfectly uniform. If you already own one, go ahead and use this for your whole spices. If you only have a blade grinder though, the small inconsistencies are not going to make a difference when it comes to the functionality of your spices. This may play a part in how smooth your coffee is, but spices are not as snooty.
What all Can a Coffee Grinder Grind?
Now that you know your coffee grinder is capable of grinding up whole nuts and spices, it must mean that it can do even more than that, right? Right. Really, the possibilities are endless here if you really get your creative juices flowing, but I am going to give you a quick list of a few common household items that can be thrown in and ground up without a problem in your coffee grinder.
I cannot tell you how many times I have pinched off too much basil and left it to sit and die on my countertop. Or even how often I have come to the end of a season and have so many herbs leftover that there is no way I could ever use them all fresh. What do I do then? I dry them. If you have dried herbs, you know that many of them need to be broken down in order to be used. As it turns out, no one likes whole basil leaves in their tomato soup.
Chopping herbs can be a pain and many times it takes a bit to get them all to a consistent size. Even then, you sometimes end up turning them into dust. If you want to avoid the hassle, throw those whole herbs into your coffee grinder and get to chopping. Pay close attention not to leave them in too long as it can cause them to turn to powder, but a few seconds here and there should get the grind just right.
Breadcrumbs are also another one of those things that, when it comes to breaking up, either end in pieces that are too big or a nice white powder at the bottom of the bag. If you want to avoid making pixy dust, throw larger pieces of your crumbs into the coffee grinder and get them a bit more fine with the push of a button. You then avoid the risk of over-crushing and there are no busted bread crumb bags all over the kitchen.
I feel like all I am doing here is revealing how lazy I am, but honestly, this efficiency is a desirable quality so I hope you all can think more of me for it. Grating fresh parmesan cheese makes me want to pull my hair out. It is time-consuming, it hurts my arm, and my fingers always get caught on the grater. Toss a few bits into your coffee grinder and it will be chopped up in no time. It will not be a grated style, per se, but it will certainly be fine enough to add to any pasta dish or salad!