Spices have been used for centuries to bring more flavor to our food.
Spices have been so important than literal wars were fought over obtaining them.
In our modern day, we just have to go to the grocery store. The only war we fight might be for a parking spot.
At the store, we have ground spices available to use that are convenient to use. I say we need to forget that convenience and get back to obtaining our own whole spices that we grind at home.
Is Grinding Whole Spices Worth It?
The reason you want to grind spices at home is that spices lose their flavor over time. Spices contain violate oils that disappear over time once they have been ground.
Who knows how long that container of cinnamon has been sitting on that supermarket self or how long it took just to get there. A lot of the flavor is lost along the way.
What I try to do with whatever spice I can is buy it whole, either from the grocery store, a bulk store, or an online purveyor (usually the freshest option).
Once you have obtained the spices, you'll need to grind them. For that I use the same thing my wife uses for her coffee beans - a coffee grinder.
Using a Coffee Grinder for Whole Spices
A coffee grinder is great for grinding your own coffee beans, but even better for your whole spices. I learned about how to do this from watching Alton Brown's "Good Eats".
Here is what I like about grinding spices with a coffee grinder:
- Coffee grinders aren't too big. They are small appliances , that doesn't take up much more space than my Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup.
- Coffee grinders are a lot quicker to use than a traditional mortar and pestle.
- Coffee grinders are easy to use. And all I have to do is put the spices in, hold down the button, until it's grounded up to my liking. I have done cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cumin, and so many more.
Cuisinart Grind Central Coffee Grinder Review
The grinder that I have been using for the last several years is the Cuisinart Grind Central Coffee Grinder.
It's a good grinder. My wife uses it everyday to grind her coffee beans.
Now I have to say this, that somewhere on the packaging or instructions it says that this grinder is not meant for spices.
Have I grounded spices in it anyway? Yep. The Cuisinart Grind Central does grind spices. The trouble with it though is that because of the way it constructed and the light weight of some spices, not all the ground spices stay in the cup.
I end up with spices in the lid and around the edge of the grinder. So it's kind of messy. Does it still get the job done. Sure. Would I choose this grinder for spices only. Probably not.
Spice Grinder Alton Brown Used
The spice grinder I would recommend buying is the Krups Fast Touch Coffee Grinder. It got positive reviews on Amazon and I think it was the one Alton Brown has used on his show. I know from reading Alton's book "Gear For Your Kitchen" that is a fan of Krups products.
One important tip - make sure you get a grinder that has all metal on the inside, because plastic will absorb flavors.
What is a Burr Coffee Grinder?
When you are searching for grinders for your spices, you may come across what's called a Burr Coffee Grinder. What is the difference?
A regular coffee grinder grinds your beans or spices with a blade. A Burr coffee grinders uses two revolving surfaces called burrs to grind the coffee a few beans at a time, instead of trying to do them all at once. The reason coffee drinks want to use a Burr grinder is that it gives you a more uniform grind.
Would I buy a Burr grinder for spices? No. Burr grinders are more money. You don't need to spend the extra money. I have heard that they are harder to clean as well, something that is more important when you are not just grinding coffee in them or multiple types of spices that you don't want to mix.
How to Clean a Coffee Grinder for Spices
Watch this 1-minute video on how I use rice to help clean my coffee grinder for spices.
It may take a few times depending how dirty and caked on any coffee grinds were. Once you got it off, you can wipe it clean with a towel and you are ready to grind some spices.
I would love to hear how you grind whole spices. Leave a comment below.
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