Spices undoubtedly make our food better when it comes to taste and aroma. Wars have even been fought to obtain some rare spices. Fortunately, today, we just have to pick spices up at the grocery store.
Store-bought spices are convincedly pre-ground, but the flavor diminishes pretty soon because they contain volatile oils that disappear over time. That’s why spices are still better when freshly ground at home. If you don’t have a spice grinder, don’t worry.
Have you thought about using a coffee grinder to mill both coffee beans and spices? The good news is that this is possible and doesn’t have to affect the taste of your morning brew afterward.
Coffee Grinder As A Kitchen Essential
With a coffee grinder, you get several tools in one. Of course, the drawback is that you’ll have to ensure that the coffee grinder is appropriately and thoroughly cleaned before you use it for grinding coffee or spices. But the good news is that since the coffee grinder is usually an automatic tool, you won’t need to put in the elbow grease.
Thus, there is much less work than you have when you are using a pestle. Also, spices aren’t the only things you grind into fine powder in them. They really are valuable tools in the kitchen.
Types Of Coffee Grinders
There are two different types of coffee grinders. Which one you go will depend on your budget, how often you drink coffee, and what brewing method you use.
1. Blade Coffee Grinder
The blade coffee grinder is the cheapest and can be easily found in your local store. If you’re buying a coffee grinder, look for a product shot where you can see the inside to know what type it is. A coffee grinder with two opposing blades (looks like a propeller) is a blade coffee grinder.
Depending on the coffee you are brewing, how fine the coffee beans are after the grinding process will make more or less a difference. An espresso machine extracts flavor quickly, so there’s nothing to worry about with fines. However, if you’re using a coffee percolator, you’ll make a more bitter cup of coffee if your coffee beans are not well-ground.
2. Burr Coffee Grinder
Burr coffee grinders have a grinding disc, often made of stainless steel. It produces more even ground coffee beans than the blade coffee grinder. When buying, choose a sharp-edged burr coffee grinder instead of the ones with chunky teeth.
Burr coffee grinders come in two forms – automatic and manual. The manual burr coffee grinder is also smaller, handier, cheaper, and won’t cost you that much in your electricity bill. The grinding process using a manual burr is more complicated though.
The automatic burr coffee grinder is much easier to use. Most automatic burrs have a pulse setting. If you plan to grind many coffee beans, get one with the auto-grind and timed grind features.
How To Grind Spices With A Coffee Grinder
Whether you’re working with coriander, cumin seeds, or peppercorns, the process usually starts in the same way. Place the unground or whole spices in the grinder or the hopper. The hopper is the plastic or glass component where you usually place the whole coffee beans.
Note that some details may differ depending on the coffee grinder. For those who have a manual coffee grinder, you need to twist the grinder until you have spices ground to the size you want.
Countertop electric coffee grinders sometimes have different modes, allowing you to get a grind of spice that suits whatever you are cooking. They provide versatility, but the grinding process is much easier with these machines, allowing you to simply click a button and get a small batch of spices.
Cleaning Your Coffee Grinder
Do you dislike the idea of your coffee and spices sharing the same flavors? If so, then you’re not the only one. We definitely don’t like the idea of spice grinding into our specialty coffee. Unfortunately, this can be a drawback of using the same coffee grinder for your coffee beans and spices; one can taint the other’s taste.
You can avoid each component “sharing” its flavors with the other with proper grinder cleaning and maintenance. The following are the steps you need to follow when cleaning your blade coffee grinder to ensure the scent and taste of the spices and coffee don’t mix:
- Put a half cup of dry, uncooked white rice in the coffee grinder’s hopper. The white rice will clean the grinder parts that you can’t otherwise reach when cut into smaller pieces.
- Use the grinder with the rice inside.
- Remove the ground rice.
- Wipe all the powder from the rice off with a paper towel or kitchen towel.
In contrast, a burr coffee grinder requires different steps to clean it, mostly because it is a lot more intricate as to how it crushes coffee beans. Instead of using a sharp blade, this type of machine presses the beans between two metal burrs. This often leads to more oils leaving residue deep inside the grinder, which in turn makes it more difficult to clean.
For a quick clean, use a tablet. Using a specialized tablet is the easiest method for cleaning your burr coffee grinder. All you have to do is place the recommended size tablet into the hopper and run the grinder like normal.
Dump out the piece and any loose grounds; then wipe everything down with a damp cloth to remove excess oils.
For a deep clean, disassemble the unit. This is probably the most difficult way to clean a coffee grinder. Start by removing any removable parts from the burr grinder and washing them with warm soapy water.
With the hopper removed, run the unit for a few seconds to help knock loose any remaining grounds, and then unplug it.
Remove the inner and outer burrs carefully. Use a small brush to remove any stuck grounds deep inside the machine, but do not use water on the burrs. Wait for any piece you hand-washed to dry completely before reassembling the machine.
Blade Grinders As The Better Option
Burr grinders use two revolving surfaces or burrs to grind coffee. Blade grinders use spinning propeller blades to grind coffee beans, much like a blender does with its contents. The best coffee grinder type for spices is a blade grinder, especially if you’ll use it for spices more often than coffee.
Blade grinders are more commonplace and affordable. These grinders are also easier to set up because they have fewer components. Importantly for this article, blade grinders also provide a fine grind for your spices.
That isn’t to say that you can’t use burr coffee grinders for spices, but they’re more expensive and are trickier to clean, which increases the risk of leaving a spice’s residue in the grinder. Unless you like the taste of cardamom or pepper in your coffee, you need extra care when you use and clean a burr grinder for your spices.
The most significant benefit that burr coffee grinders have over blade grinders is their consistency. The burr grinder’s output tends to have uniform shapes and sizes. This is wonderful when you want to dictate the exact consistency of your morning espresso, but it isn’t overly necessary when grinding spices for your latest dish.
However, it is a fine choice if you have no problem spending a little more when purchasing and if you enjoy your tech gadgets.
Grinding Salt And Spices In A Coffee Grinder
Sometimes, your good old salt grinder breaks, but what if your meal is ready in 15 minutes, and now you don’t know how to enhance the flavor of your dishes without a dash of this or another of your favorite spices? What if I tell you that you can grind salt using a coffee grinder?
Burr and blade coffee grinders can grind spices perfectly into a uniform batch. You only need to know how to clean it properly afterward, so it doesn’t affect the flavor of your cup of Joe.
Grinding salt in a coffee grinder will affect the flavor of your coffee if you don’t know how to clean it properly after use. You can grind old beans you don’t care about and remove the leftover spice before the new coffee beans go in. Alternatively, the method of using uncooked rice that we have listed above also comes in handy if you don’t have old coffee beans.
This simple tactic will help remove any unwanted smell and weird taste if you use the coffee grinder for salt or other spices with a strong aroma like pepper. However, it is still worth going for another round of cleaning by using a dry, clean towel to eliminate all the smell and leftover flavor on the burrs and blades before assembling it.
FAQ About Can You Use A Coffee Grinder For Spices
Can I Grind Wet Ingredients In My Coffee Grinder?
No, because coffee grinders can’t mince wet ingredients properly. You can only use dry ingredients like dried herbs and spices. Otherwise, the grinder can jam.
You’re better off using a food processor or some other type of job-specific kitchen tool for wet ingredients.
Can I Use My Coffee Grinder To Grind Herbs?
You can grind chopped and dried herbs in your coffee grinder. However, leaving them in the grinder for too long can turn them into powder. So when you’re grinding herbs, ensure that you check the grind setting and how long you leave the grinder on.
If you don’t, you could end up with herbs that are little more than dust.
Can I Also Use My Coffee Grinder To Grind Nuts?
Yes, like spices and coffee beans, you can also use a coffee grinder to break nuts down. Note that the issue with some nuts is they can leave a lot of oil in the coffee grinder’s blades or burrs. With that said, it’s always vital to clean the nut oil grinder before you use it to grind coffee.
When doing this, you can use the same methods that you use for spices. Otherwise, you might end up with an almond taste to your morning brew, when all you wanted was a plain black coffee.