© Denzil Green
A Spice Grinder is a tool used to grind up hard, dried whole spices. You can grind them coarsely, or to a fine powder.
Many people may think, why bother: why not just buy spice already ground, and be done with it. Leaving aside the standard answer that freshly ground spice is — well, fresher, some people have a more practical argument. They give the example of some recipes that call for cumin seed, some that call for ground cumin. This leaves you having to buy two separate items, and having the staleness clock start ticking on both of them.Consequently, their thinking is that if they just buy the seed, and grind it when the powder is needed, then there’s only one item they have to stock, which they’re bound to use up faster, and therefore they’ll be more likely to have fresher spice.
A pepper mill is a spice grinder, but one that is dedicated to one spice. A nutmeg grater is dedicated to nutmeg.
Some food processors have spice grinder attachments, but it can seem like a lot of work to haul out for just 1/4 teaspoon of something.
A mortar and pestle can be used as a spice grinder, though it works better with roundish spices, such as allspice or cumin seeds, than flat items such as caraway seed or cinnamon pieces.
Some people say, though, that they can spend 5 minutes fiddling with spices in a mortar and pestle, and still won’t have as good results as they get in 2 seconds with an electric coffee bean grinder. You pretty much need, though, a coffee grinder dedicated to the purpose. The smell of the spices in the grinder won’t go away, so if you grind your own coffee, definitely plan to have one dedicated to spices. That being said, there are a few coffee grinders that can actually grind spices finely enough, and that’s those that have actual blades — burr grinders won’t grind spice to a fine enough powder.
If the lid or inside of your coffee grinder is see-through plastic, rougher spices such as cinnamon pieces and cloves can scratch it so that you can no longer see through the plastic. Clove oil and allspice oil can reputedly cloud some plastics. Many people don’t mind, though: a cloudy lid doesn’t affect performance one bit, and they don’t have the grinder on display, anyway.
To clean out a coffee grinder after you’ve ground spices in it, use a small brush, or whiz a few pinches of rice in it.
There are also spice grinding bottles that you can buy, You store your whole spice in it, and when you want to use it whole, you remove the lid and scoop it out. Otherwise, when you need to use the spice ground, you turn the jar upside down, and turn the lid, which grinds the spice out. Some have a “catch mechanism” on the top that the ground spice falls into. In effect, you get a mini-grinder dedicated to each spice, but as the grinder is combined with the spice storage bottle, it doesn’t take up any more room than spice bottles would in the first place. Most of these are glass bottles, so remember to store them out of the light to extend the storage life of your spices.
When all is said and done, one of the best options for a Spice Grinder appears to still be the hand-cranked ones, where you put the spices in the top, turn a crank, and the ground spice falls out the bottom in a little drawer. Most let you adjust the fineness or coarseness. These work as fast as electric ones. To clean, put a few pinches of rice through, These can also be used for coffee beans, but it is best to have one dedicated to spices.