You might have noticed that many manual spice grinders and coffee grinders function in a very similar way. You might have even thought to yourself, “Are they the same thing? Could I use a spice grinder to grind coffee?” Read on to learn more about how spice grinders and coffee grinders function and how they’re different, and you may be surprised at what you find!
Well, spice grinders are for spices, and coffee grinders are for coffee, right? It seems simple enough. But it’s just a little more complicated than that. Spice grinders and coffee grinders are designed somewhat differently, and if you try to grind coffee beans in a spice grinder, you likely won’t achieve the results you were seeking.
How are coffee grinders and spice grinders different?
You might look at a coffee grinder and a spice grinder and think that they function almost the same, so there shouldn’t be any need to buy two separate grinders when you can use just one and get the same result! And while we congratulate you on your thriftiness, unfortunately, that won’t work in this case.
Coffee grinders and spice grinders are designed to perform differently. Spice grinders almost always use spinning blades to grind up the spices by chopping them into smaller pieces. But coffee grinders use burrs, which help achieve a different result due to their grinding process. Ground coffee from electric burr grinders is much more consistent and will deliver a better flavor in your cup. Plus, as every coffee aficionado knows, having the right grind size for your coffee brewing method is crucial.
Spice Grinders vs. Coffee Grinders: A Side-by-Side Comparison
Spice grinders are intended to chop up a variety of spices of different textures and sizes into small pieces that you can put over food. While they can technically cut through coffee beans, it’s not what they’re designed to do, so the results will be an inconsistent grind.
In addition, most spice grinders don’t have a way to change up the grind size, so you won’t be able to get the right size grind for your coffee. This is very important; the size of the coffee grounds drastically affects the flavor when using different brewing methods. You’ll never want a fine grind when making cold brew, and a too-coarse coffee ground can ruin an espresso.
What We Like:
- They’re versatile, have many different uses, and can grind up several kinds of spices of different shapes, sizes, and textures.
- Depending on your preferences and budget, you can get either an electrical or manual grinder.
- There’s a wide range of models suitable for entry-level cooks up to professionals.
- If you have a higher-end model, you may even be able to chop up harder ingredients like nuts, making this an even more versatile machine for cooking.
What We Don’t:
- No blade grinder will achieve the uniform texture you need for a good cup of coffee. This is due to the design of the blades in the spice grinder.
- Spice grinders use blades, so even if they grind your coffee beans into smaller pieces, it will take longer to get a finer grind.
The Bottom Line
While efficient and useful in the kitchen, Spice grinders are not the best option when choosing an instrument to grind your coffee. They’re designed for a very specific purpose, and while you can technically grind up coffee beans in your spice grinder, it’s not going to produce the effect you want.
There’s also the problem of transferring the flavor and aroma of ground spices into your coffee if you grind your beans in your spice grinder. That’s why it’s best to have a dedicated coffee grinder.
If you’re looking for the right device to grind up your coffee beans, you want to go straight to the source and buy a coffee grinder with burrs that will give uniform and consistent ground coffee.
While coffee machines may be more expensive than many spice grinders, this is not an area where you want to save money by buying one or the other. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you want the best grind possible for the brewing method you choose, and that will only come with a designated coffee grinder.
What We Like:
- Thanks to the burr design, coffee grinders are significantly better than spice grinders at grinding coffee. Since they’re designed specifically for coffee beans, they’ll produce the best, most consistent grind.
- Most coffee grinders come with adjustable grind settings or interchangeable burrs to grind coffee at different grind sizes. This is crucial if you’re planning on brewing several kinds of coffee or using different brewing methods.
- There is a considerable variety of burr coffee grinders, from manual handheld models to electric ones. Many coffee and espresso makers even come with burr grinders included. The number of coffee grinders is limitless, so find the one that you like best!
What We Don’t:
- Burr grinders shouldn’t be used for grinding anything other than coffee beans; they’re not versatile like spice grinders.
- Coffee grinders are generally much more expensive than spice grinders; however, they come in a wide range of prices, so you can find one that works for your budget.
- Electric versions can be loud or clunky, which might annoy some users.
The Bottom Line
Burr coffee grinders are the only grinders suitable to uniformly grind your coffee beans for the best flavor and extraction. If you’re a coffee fanatic who wants to have freshly ground coffee every morning, there’s really no way around it: you need to get a burr grinder. Whether it’s a manual or electric coffee grinder, you’ll need to choose the one that will fit your lifestyle the best.
In addition, many coffee grinders will have different settings for a multitude of grind sizes, helping you get the most out of your coffee and achieve the right grind for your brewing method.
So, should you use spice grinders to grind coffee?
Well, the short answer is no. Spice grinders, even electric grinders, don’t grind the coffee bean uniformly. Since it uses stainless steel blades rather than burrs, a blade grinder will mostly just chop up the beans rather than grind them, not achieving the fine grind you need for espresso.
It’s also not a great idea to try and grind your spices in a coffee grinder. The burrs aren’t designed for chopping up spices the way the blades in a spice grinder are, and your coffee grinder should never be used to chop up nuts since they can get stuck in the burrs and keep your grinder from rotating.
Flavors and aromas from the spices can seep into your coffee if you use your grinder for both. You can mitigate this by getting a grinder with removable burrs that can be washed frequently in the dishwasher, but we say that it’s better to just buy separate grinders for both to save yourself the headache.
A Note on Blade Coffee Grinders
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, can’t you buy blade coffee grinders? How are they any different from spice grinders?” And you’re right. You can buy blade coffee grinders. But we don’t recommend that you do, mainly because the quality of grind that you get with a blade is much lower than you would get with a burr.
Blade coffee grinders are usually less expensive, but if you can fit it into your budget, we urge you to go with a burr coffee grinder if at all possible. Blade coffee grinders just aren’t going to give you the same result, and you’ll end up with worse-tasting coffee and may eventually decide to replace it anyway when it’s time to upgrade!
We do not recommend using a spice grinder to grind your coffee beans. Even if the spice grinder is a little less expensive than a burr grinder and seems like a good money-saving idea, you will not achieve the results you want with a spice grinder. In the end, you’ll likely end up purchasing a coffee grinder anyway.
Instead, we recommend shopping around and looking for deals and discounts on a quality coffee grinder with many positive reviews. Those will likely give you a decent grind and last for a long time to come. It’s better to wait and invest in a quality machine than try to cut corners!
When choosing a coffee grinder, make sure you consider what kinds of coffee you’re going to be brewing daily. If you’re brewing a variety of different coffees or using different brewing methods, then you may want to choose a model that has a variety of different grind settings, including a fine grind for espresso and a coarse grind for pour-over and French press methods.