So, you've got some really nice coffee beans that are permeating your kitchen with an aroma that has tempted you to make a fresh pot of coffee but you have no way to easily grind them? This is a common problem that coffee bean lovers often face, because it's easy to remember your coffee but much easier to forget your coffee grinder. Plus, not many people actually know how to grind coffee beans without an electric grinder.
Maybe you forgot to bring your coffee grinder with you while on vacation. Or, maybe you forgot to buy one along with a bag of coffee beans that you purchased or received as a gift. Even worse, maybe your coffee grinder just broke. Whatever the reason, surely there must be an actionable homemade solution that will get those coffee beans ground finely so they can release delicious, morning-making java into your mug.
At this point, after realizing that there’s no coffee grinder in sight, you might be wondering to yourself, “can you make coffee without grinding beans?” Although it’s possible to dump some coffee beans into a pot of boiling water and get a very weak coffee-like beverage after waiting for a while, the resulting cup of coffee will fall very short of what you would expect from a cup that was made using ground coffee beans. Luckily, there are a number of solutions that you can use to turn your coffee beans into fresh brew coffee without a coffee bean grinder.
Alternative Ways to Grind Coffee Beans Mechanically
Fortunately, coffee bean grinders aren’t the only machine that can effectively grind hard beans. Here are a few other appliances you can use:
While you might not know how to grind coffee with a blender, it’s definitely a doable process and it’s probably the most commonly used mechanical alternative to a grinder since blenders are so common. However, if you jump right into it and dump a large amount of beans into the container or use the wrong setting, you could wind up either damaging the blender, generating some stinky burned rubber smells from the blender’s seals, or your blender might just fail to blend the beans altogether. In order to make sure your blender works to grind your coffee in way that won’t ruin your beans or the blender, here are a few tips to follow:
- Start Small – Place a small amount of beans into the blender. Generally, no more than a handful at a time is a good rule of thumb. If you want a precise measurement to use as a starting point, try blending a quarter ounce of beans first to see how your blender handles it. Of course, if you have a small blender then you may want to start with half that amount.
- Use the Highest Setting – A coffee grinder is designed to grind solid beans, whereas a blender is designed to blend soft fruits and vegetables or fluids. Fortunately, most blenders will have an ice-crushing function which should be sufficient to blend small amounts of beans at a time.
- Pulse the Blender – Instead of holding the button down for an extended period of time, try pulsing the button designated for the highest setting with a press of no more than 1-2 seconds at a time. Holding the button down for a long time might seem like a better way to grind the beans more finely – and of course, it would achieve that result eventually – it can also heat up your coffee beans and cause them to release much of their aroma and flavor before being brewed. Also, if the blender isn’t strong enough to continue slicing through the beans, then it could damage the device’s motor or seals. So, to protect your blender, avoid stinky burnt blender smells, and keep your coffee from slightly cooking during the blending process, it’s best to keep the blending pulses as short as possible and wait a few seconds in between each one. If you’re using an immersion blender or heeding the advice given below to add water, you can hold the button down longer – in spurts of 10 to 30 seconds at a time.
- Add Water and Then Strain the Ground Beans – If you have a weak blender or want to grind more beans at once, you can try adding a small amount of water to the container to turn your blender into a more efficient whole bean coffee grinder. That might seem like a bad idea because then you’ll initially have a cup of muddy ground beans mixed with water but the solution to that is to dump the ground bean and water mixture into a strainer and then apply downward pressure with a large spoon to remove most of the excess water.
Note about using water to grind coffee beans: Of course, the beans will still be damp, but that’s okay if you’re about to use them to make a pot of coffee immediately after blending the beans. Adding water is also a good way to get a weaker or small blender to handle the job because oftentimes they’ll just fail to spin completely. Be sure not to add too much water because then you’ll wind up with a bunch of beans spinning around in the water and it will take a long time for the blades to make contact. If you’re wondering how much water to add – use just enough to cover a couple of inches above the blender blades.
A Food Processor
Food processors can also be used as efficient coffee bean grinders in most cases, and if you have one handy, you may want to try that before resorting to the blender. Food processors are often used to grind dry beans, nuts, legumes, cereals, and other hard foods, so coffee beans should be no problem for most of these appliances. Keep in mind that using a food processor will yield similar results to a blender, which means the grind will be coarse and evenly ground. However, you can safely grind for 10-20 seconds or more with most food processors, and you should be able to dump more beans into each load also.
Grinding Coffee Beans by Hand with Other Tools
Asking how to grind coffee by hand almost seems like asking “how to grind coffee without coffee beans?” because the idea of splitting these small, solid beans into tiny pieces seems like a difficult task for most people. The good news is, there are a number of household items you can use to break down those beans into a makeshift blend. The grind might not be something you would want to take pictures of or brag about, but it will get the job done to bring your cup of freshly made coffee. Here are some ideas to start with:
- Hammer, Mallet, or Tenderizer – Perhaps the most unimaginative brute force solution is to simply smash the beans with a hammer. To keep fragments from flying everywhere, put the beans in between some parchment paper or a sealed bag.
- Rolling Pin – You can use the same method described above for hammers and mallets, except use the rolling pin to perform the initial hammering action and then also to roll over the cracked beans.
- Axe or Other Large Blade – You can place an axe or large butcher knife against a few beans lined up along the edge of the blade and apply gradual pressure until the beans crack. Once you learn the motion, you can achieve a medium-density grind with this technique.
- Hand Mincer or Cheese Grinder – Hand mincers are normally used to grind meat, pasta, cheese, and other food items, but with enough pressure you can use a hand mincer to grind a small batch of beans.
- Pestle and Mortar – If you have a pestle and mortar laying around, you could take the tribal approach and crush the coffee beans into a rough but usable blend. If you’re willing to keep at it with the mortar, you can achieve a very fine grind with the good old-fashioned pestle and mortar.
- Sea Salt or Cracked Pepper Grinder – If you have a bottle of sea salt or cracked pepper laying around in your cabinets, it may have a grinder built into the top. You can try using this to grind a small batch of coffee beans at a time, but this might be considered a last resort as the effort involved would mean you probably would only grind enough to make a single cup of coffee.
Achieving the Proper Grind Consistency
Since most people don’t know how to grind coffee beans at home, it’s understandable that you might have trouble achieving a perfectly ground consistency. There’s really no special formula for grinding coffee finely – just keep grinding and the blend will become finer – but it is worth noting that different grind consistencies will yield different types of coffee. For example, to brew a cup that tastes like French press, you would use a very coarse grind, whereas a fine grind consistency would produce a Turkish blend or espresso-like brew. For a regular cup of coffee, it’s safe to go with a medium grind.