A coffee grinder is a kitchen tool used to break down whole roasted coffee beans in order to expose their interior for a specific amount of flavor and aroma to be extracted. Each coffee grinder has specifications that may be more appealing to your brewing style, however, the other use cases of a coffee grinder remain the same and include:
- Grinding spices dried at home
- Chopping cocoa beans for garnish or as a topping
- Crushing ice for dessert
- Finely grinding up ingredients for DIY protein powder
While pre-ground coffee and whole coffee beans retail for around the same price for a 12-oz bag, $6 to $18, grinding your own coffee is more beneficial. Grinding coffee at home means that you are only spending 11 cents to 14 cents per cup of coffee but are getting more flavorful and aromatic coffee every time. It is recommended that coffee is used within 20 minutes to 30 minutes of grinding because the coffee will lose most of its natural flavor during this time.
However, pre-ground coffee is often already stale by the time it is purchased in-store because coffee is at its peak freshness 1 week to 2 weeks after it is roasted but pre-ground coffee sits in grocery stores for weeks and even months. Additionally, whole coffee beans can stay fresh about 3 times longer than pre-ground coffee, which means that you will be able to brew delicious coffee for longer.
While the cost of a coffee grinder will ultimately depend on its type and model, a basic-entry one will cost $15 to $20. More upscale coffee grinders with various settings and features can cost $70 but easily go up to $400. Either way, a coffee grinder will have the following use cases:
1. Coffee Grounds
The most common use for a coffee grinder is to grind whole coffee beans. If you are using an electrical coffee grinder, plug it into an outlet and switch on the grinder. Measure out your beans and place them into the coffee grinder. Set the grind size according to your brewing method:
- Course: French press or cold brew
- Medium-course: Pourover
- Medium: Machine drip or siphon
- Fine: Moka pot
- Extra fine: Turkish coffee pot
After grinding your whole beans, place the coffee grounds into your coffee maker. Soak the coffee grounds with a small amount of water. Let 30 seconds to 1 minute pass before pouring the rest of your water into the coffee maker in 3 to 4 small amounts. Add milk and sugar if preferred and serve.
2. Cocoa Beans
A coffee grinder can be used to grind cocoa beans. To prepare your cacao beans, ensure that they are completely dry and dirt-free. Pick out the beans you would like to toast and heat up a pan on Low to Medium heat. Toast your cocoa beans for 15 minutes to 20 minutes or until brown to clean their exterior and make them more flavorful. After cooling down the beans, dehusk the toasted beans by peeling off the husks. To chop them down into nibs, place them into the coffee grinder and select a coarse grind size. Let the cocoa nibs cool after grinding and use as toppings or consume as a snack.
Another way to use the coffee grinder is to grind peppercorns. Place peppercorns into the coffee grinder 2 tablespoons to 3 tablespoons at a time. Choose a Fine grind size. Grind peppercorns in 30-second intervals with 15-second resting periods in between. Transfer ground pepper into airtight containers and consume within 4 months before the ground pepper starts to lose its flavor.
4. Protein Powder
An alternate way to use the coffee grinder is to make your own protein powder with it. Combine high-protein ingredients like steel-cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, instant low-fat dry milk, and dried lentils into a bowl. In small batches, scoop your protein mix into the coffee grinder. Use a Fine grind size and process the ingredients in your coffee grinder until it becomes a uniform powder. Transfer protein powder into an airtight container and consume within 6 months.
Also, a coffee grinder can be used to make granulated sugar at home. Weigh out your sugar and place it into the coffee grinder. Use a Find grind size and pulse at high speed. This will take at least 2 minutes. Transfer the powdered sugar into a sieve that is placed over a bowl. For every 10 ounces of powdered sugar you are sifting, add 0.3 ounces of cornstarch. Sift the ingredients together 2 times to 3 times. Transfer granulated sugar into an airtight container.
A coffee grinder can also be used to finely crush freeze-dried fruit for toppings and garnish. Before freeze-drying fruit, prepare the ingredients by washing each fruit thoroughly and cutting the fruit into small slices or pieces. If you have a freeze-dryer, place the fruit in the trays. Transfer the trays into the machine and firmly shut the door. Freeze the fruit at a temperature of -40°F (-40°C) to -50°F (-46°C.) This process will take 24 hours.
The next day, transfer the freeze-dried fruit into the coffee grinder. Choose a Fine grind size and process the freeze-dried fruit. Afterward, transfer freeze-dried fruit powder into an airtight container or Mylar bag.
Another way to use a coffee grinder is to finely grind herbs with it. To air-dry herbs at home, cut off healthy branches, and remove any leaves that are diseased or dry. Gently shake the herbs to dislodge any dirt, soil, or insects. You can also wash your cuttings to clean them. Pat the herbs down with paper towels and make sure that they are completely dry so they do not rot or get moldy. Tie the herbs together and hang them upsidedown in an area of your kitchen that is known for its air circulation or lay them out on trays to dry out this way. This will take around 2 weeks.
After your herbs have dried, discard any leaves that have mold. Pick out leaves you wish to grind and place the rest of your dried herbs into an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Place herbs into the grinder and use a Medium to Fine grind size depending on whether you want herb flakes or powder. Process the herbs and transfer them into a spice jar or airtight container.
Also, a coffee grinder can be used to make flour. Place your wheat or rye berries into the coffee grinder. Use a Fine to Extra Fine grind size and process the berries for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Using a sieve, sift the flour into a bowl and repeat the grinding process for any whole berries or clumps of flour. Transfer your freshly milled flour into an airtight container and use it within 30 days to 30 days.
A coffee grinder can be used to grind oatmeal. Ground oatmeal can be used as gluten-free flour, topping, or thickener for smoothies. Place ½ cup of oats into your coffee grinder. Choose a Fine or Extra Fine grind size and process oatmeal for 30 seconds. Use ground oats immediately or transfer them into an airtight container. If storing ground oatmeal, place an airtight container in a cool and dry place. Ground oats stored properly can last 1 year to 2 years.
10. Nuts and Seeds
An alternative way to use a coffee grinder is to chop up or finely grind nuts and seeds. Choose your nuts or seeds and chop them up into halves or slightly smaller pieces. Place nuts or seeds into the coffee grinder and select a Fine to Extra Fine grind size. Process nuts or seeds for 45 seconds to 1 minute or until a fine powder. Transfer nuts or seeds into an airtight container and place them into the refrigerator or freezer. Ground nuts and seeds can last 6 months in the refrigerator and about 1 year if frozen.
The coffee grinder also acts as an alternative kitchen tool to grind spices like cinnamon. Place cinnamon sticks into your coffee grinder and choose an Extra Fine grind setting. Let the coffee grinder process the cinnamon sticks for around 30 seconds. Sift the ground cinnamon into a bowl and process the remaining cinnamon until it also becomes a fine powder. Transfer ground cinnamon into an airtight container and use it within 6 months to 12 months.
Alternatively, a coffee grinder can be used to chop tea leaves or make tea powders. Plug your coffee grinder into an outlet and choose a Medium-coarse grind size for chopped tea leaves or the Extra Fine grind size for powdered tea. Place tea leaves into your coffee grinder and process using 30-second intervals with 10 seconds to 15 seconds resting periods in between so that the tea leaves do not overheat. Transfer ground tea into an airtight container or into a tea strainer for steeping.
Another way to use the coffee grinder is as a salt grinder. Choose a Fine to Extra Fine grind size and place coarse salt into the coffee grinder. Process for 10 seconds until desired consistency. Transfer salt into a glass jar or airtight container.
Also, vanilla can be ground with a coffee grinder. To prepare the vanilla, cut a slit along the length of the vanilla bean. Chop up the vanilla bean into smaller pieces. In a skillet on Medium-low heat, place the chopped vanilla bean into the skillet. Toast until fragrant, stirring around the vanilla bean. This will take 1 minute to 2 minutes.
When the vanilla bean has cooled, place pieces into the coffee grinder. Choosing an Extra Fine grind size, process vanilla bean for 30 seconds. Transfer ground vanilla into an airtight container and in an area of the kitchen that is 60°F (16°C) to 85°F (29°C.) Use ground vanilla within 1 year.
The coffee grinder is alternatively a breadcrumb maker. To prepare your bread, slice up the loaf and tear up slices into smaller chunks. Preheat the oven to 300°F (204°C).
Plug in your coffee grinder and choose a Medium-coarse to Medium grind size. Place bread chunks into a coffee grinder and process for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour bread crumbs onto a baking sheet and spread them out until they are a single layer. Place the baking tray into the oven and bake bread crumbs for 10 minutes. Stir bread crumbs around halfway. Let the breadcrumbs cool before transferring them into dry glass jars or an airtight container. Use breadcrumbs within 1 year.
The coffee grinder doubles as a cheese grater. After plugin in the appliance and setting a Medium to Fine grind size, place a 1 ½ pound of parmesan cheese into the coffee grinder. Process for 15 seconds to 30 seconds. Use as a topping immediately or transfer into a plastic bag and store in the freezer.
17. Dry Rubs
Another way to use the coffee grinder is for dry rubs. After plugging in the coffee grinder, grind peppercorns, sea salt, and coffee beans in the appliance using a Fine to Extra Fine grind size. Process these ingredients before mixing them into a bowl with brown sugar, red chili pepper flakes, garlic salt, and paprika. After mixing the coffee spice rub, use as seasoning for a steak that is 2 ounces to 3 ounces.
Also, a coffee grinder can be used to crush ice. Choose a Medium-course to Medium grind sez and place 3 ice cubes to four ice cubes into the coffee grinder. Let the coffee grinder process the ice cubes until desired consistency. Use crushed ice immediately.
Common Mistakes for Coffee Grinder Usage
When learning how to use a coffee grinder for the use cases above, avoid the following common mistakes to maintain your appliance:
- Selecting the wrong grind size. Each brewing technique has a specific grind size so that you get the most out of your coffee beans. Select the proper grind size for the most aromatic and flavorful cup of coffee.
- Using the wrong type of coffee grinder. Each type of coffee grinder has its pros and cons which will ultimately depend on the features you are looking for in the appliance as well as the type of coffee you are planning to brew.
- Grinding beans as soon as you can. Grinding coffee beans and then letting them sit while you prepare everything else you need can compromise the coffee grounds. Every second that ground coffee beans are out in the open means that oxidation is causing them to lose their flavor. Prepare everything you need beforehand and then grind your coffee beans.
- Forgetting to clean the coffee grinder. For those who like to use different brewing techniques for different types of coffee beans, it is important to clean out the coffee grinder. Otherwise, you will have a mix of different types of coffee with differently sized grounds as well.
- Not grinding in intervals. Taking the time to take a break in between grinding coffee beans will protect the beans from heat. The friction caused by grinding the coffee beans can cause them to burn which negatively affects the taste of your coffee.
- Neglecting the coffee grinder blades. If your coffee grinder is simply vibrating instead of rotating the blades, one or all of them could be bent. It is important to check on the different parts of your appliance before use.
- Using beans that are refrigerated or frozen. Cold coffee beans are one of the top reasons why coffee grinders clog and stop working. When this type of coffee bean is sitting out at room temperature, it will have a thin layer of condensation. When being ground in the coffee grinder, this will lead to coffee grounds with a gummy texture and result in clogging.
To maintain your appliance for the best coffee beans and the use cases above, avoid these errors.
History of Usage of Coffee Grinders
What is a coffee grinder and where did it come from? The need for some sort of coffee grinder arose in 850 A.D., the approximate time when coffee was being consumed. To prepare the coffee plant for consumption, Ethiopians used a mortar and pestle which was a kitchen tool that was not used as much in the 15th century. This was due to the invention of spice grinders which were also used as a grain mill and coffee grinder.
The first coffee grinder or mill specifically for coffee beans was only invented in the late 17th century. An Englishman, Nicholas Book, invented the coffee mill where coffee was placed on top of the device which had a lever, and then ground into the bottom drawer-like compartment. In 1798, Thomas Bruff was issued a patent for a coffee grinder. Bruff, known as the dental assistant of Thoman Jefferson, created the coffee grinder with metal nuts that had fine teeth in order to grind coffee beans into a fine powder. Other inventors and companies continued to create their own versions of the coffee grinder in the 18th century.
Coffee grinders became a household item until the late 1800s. This was when Hobart, an American company, put out the first coffee grinder that ran on electricity. This device hit the market in 1898 and its more improved version was introduced in 1913. Afterward, a new and improved coffee grinder was also put out by Hobart in 1924 which is what most coffee grinders today are similar to.
Does the Use Cases of a Coffee Grinder Change Based on Type
Yes, the use cases of a coffee grinder change based on the type of coffee grinder it is. Blade coffee grinders, though the most affordable, sliced coffee beans into small pieces. How small the coffee beans get depends on how long you are grinding the coffee beans. This means that coffee grounds are often uneven and can taste different because of the heat caused by the friction of the blades. These grinders are also noisy and messy.
Then there are burr grinders that crush coffee beans against a surface with the use of a grinder wheel. The coarseness of coffee grinds depends on the burr’s position. This type of coffee grinder is more precise when it comes to grinding size and can be purchased with flat or conical grinder wheels. Wheel burr grinders are more affordable but are loud and messy. On the other hand, conical burr grinders cost more but can grind coffee beans at a slower speed so that the taste is not compromised and are not noisy.
Also, there are manual coffee grinders available that work by being cranked. Similar to a blade coffee grinder, how small the coffee beans become dependent on how long they are ground for. These coffee grinders are more portable because they do not require electricity, are affordable, and are quieter than their electric counterparts. Manual coffee grinders are also more aesthetic and come in unique designs.
What Coffee Grinder is Best for Coarse Coffee Grounds?
The best coffee grinder for coarse coffee grounds is a conical burr grinder. A conical burr coffee grinder is the most accurate type of coffee grinder on the market. It is able to precisely grind coffee beans to a coarse grind size at a slow pace which means that heat does not alter the taste of the coffee beans.
What Has More Use Cases a Blender or a Coffee Grinder
Comparing the two appliances, coffee grinder vs. blender, the blender has more use cases. While both are designed to break down ingredients and can be used to make flour at home, grind sugar, spices, and herbs, as well as crush ice, a blender can be used for liquid ingredients. Unlike a coffee grinder, a blender can be used to puree and emulsify solid and liquid ingredients.
Other Kitchen Tools with Various Use Cases Similar to Coffee Grinder
Other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a coffee grinder include:
- Mortar and pestle: Made up of a blunt, long object and a bowl, a mortar and pestle are used to grind and crush food into powders, pastes, or smaller chunks.
- Grater: This kitchen tool is made up of one or more surfaces covered with holes that have raised edges in order to grate ingredients into smaller pieces.
- Blender: Used to blend solid and liquid ingredients together, a blender runs on electricity to power blades connected to a motor.
- Spice grinder: A spice grinder is used to chop or reduce spices into powders using a blade that is spun at high speeds.
- Food Processor: This kitchen appliance has a bowl-like body that is connected to a motor. The motor powers different blades or disks that can be used to knead, blend, shred, grind, grate, and mix solids and liquids.
These appliances have similar functions to a coffee grinder but also have their specialized uses. Read about the 5 other uses of these 5 kitchen tools here.