If you’re looking to get into brewing your own fresh coffee, grinding your own coffee beans properly is often the first major barrier you have to overcome. This may require some investment in the right equipment – a good grinder can go a long way. However, if you don’t want to spend any money on one right now, you shouldn’t despair. It’s possible to grind coffee beans by hand if you know what you’re doing, and without the need for any special equipment. Most of the methods we’ll describe below can be done with common household items, with a couple of small exceptions. So, without further ado, let’s find out how to grind coffee beans without a grinder.
Can you grind coffee beans in a blender? It might seem like a bit of an overkill for grinding coffee beans, but if you have no other option, it can do the job in a pinch. There are some things to consider here, most importantly the durability of your blender’s blades. You should read the manual to find out if the blades are strong enough for something more solid like coffee beans. Other than that, you can expect to get pretty good results and a relatively fine grind if you have a good blender at your disposal.
Make sure to clean it thoroughly after. Finely ground coffee can get in tiny crevices easily, and you probably don’t want a surprise coffee taste in your next smoothie. There might be some special requirements for cleaning the device after grinding coffee in it specifically, so check the instructions to make sure you’re not missing anything important.
Mortar and Pestle
The good old mortar and pestle can also be a great way to grind coffee powder without a dedicated grinder. As with anything that you would do in a mortar and pestle, it’s going to take a bit of effort to get a good final result, and you should prepare your arms accordingly. Don’t get discouraged if it takes too long. Coffee beans can be hard to break down properly in the beginning, but once you’ve got them going, it will get easier and easier with each motion.
The main downside to this method is that you are limiting the overall quantity you can grind. It takes a while to grind enough coffee for even just one cup, so this is not the ideal method for heavy coffee drinkers or those who live in a shared household where multiple other people enjoy the beverage too. In those cases, it might be better to pre-grind larger volumes of coffee once every week or so.
How to grind coffee beans coarse without a grinder? The best answer is to use a regular kitchen knife. If you’ve ever used one to chop up nuts for a pastry, for example, you should already be familiar with the general idea. Just place some coffee beans on a flat cutting surface like a cutting board, and use your knife with small motions to go through them and chop them down into small pieces. With this method, you’ll typically get a pretty coarse grind, so if that’s what you prefer in your brews, you might find this a better approach than using a blender or mortar.
However, this is another time-consuming approach, and it’s also prone to injury if you’re not careful. If you’re not very confident with your fine chopping skills, you may want to practice slowly at first until you get the hang of it to avoid any injuries. Also, don’t use your best knives for this. Chopping coffee beans (or anything hard really) with a knife is one of the fastest ways to chip away at the blade, and this can quickly ruin an expensive, well-sharpened knife.
A rolling pin is surprisingly useful for grinding coffee beans into a powder, even though not many people think of using one in these situations. It can take some practice and patience to get it right, so you should do a few trial runs first. But once you start to get it, it’s a very easy method that can work well for larger quantities as well. To start, you just spread your coffee beans on a flat surface. You can use a tray, a cutting board, or just your countertop. However, make sure you can easily scrape up the powder in that case.
Cover the beans with transparent foil. Start rolling with your pin back and forth, applying strong pressure on each roll. You should see the beans crumbling into a relatively fine grind even on the first couple of rolls. Keep going until you’ve achieved the coarseness you’re looking for. A great advantage of this method is that it gives you a lot of control over the final result. Basically, the more time you spend rolling the beans with the pin, the finer they’ll be crushed in the end. This can make the method perfect for a wide variety of brews, and it’s a regular go-to backup plan for many coffee enthusiasts.
For something a little more unusual, you can also use a similar setup like for the rolling pin above but use a hammer instead. This is done in a similar way to tenderizing meat, so if you have experience with that, you already know the basic motions. You should use a flat hammer for this instead of the typical tenderizing ones though, as a flat head will give you a finer grind if you hit the beans enough times.
This method has some clear disadvantages – it creates a lot of noise and requires a durable surface that you can comfortably hit with a hammer. But if you have nothing else, it can work in a pinch, and is a relatively quick way of getting your necessary grind.
Use the Store Grinder
If you’re buying your coffee at a store with a grinder, you can also take advantage of that. The main downside to this is the mixed flavor. Most stores only have one grinder, and they don’t clean them very often through the day, so you’ll get leftover flavors from all other coffees that have been ground for other customers. If you insist on your specific flavor profile, this is not going to be an ideal option. On the other hand, if the store doesn’t have a very diverse selection of coffees, you can still give it a try.
Honorable Mention: Mincer
Even though a mincer is far from ideal for grinding a coffee, it does work if you don’t have any other options, and it deserves a mention. Just put your coffee in the tray where you would normally load the meat and start rotating the crank to grind it. Obviously, make sure the mincer is cleaned very well between uses. You don’t want any flavor of meat mixing in with your coffee and vice versa.
The biggest problem with this method is the cleanup. Cleaning a mincer after using it for its intended purpose is already annoying enough but getting finely ground coffee out of it can be even more problematic, especially with more complex designs with longer tubes and winding elements. Ideally, you’re not going to use this method very often (or at all), so keep the cleanup in mind before you decide to resort to it.
Things to Consider
All methods above can produce different levels of coarseness, so it’s important to play around with them and see how well each one works for your own needs. In the end, you may decide you don’t need a grinder at all after discovering something that works just fine for your requirements.
When using a blender, try to keep it to a minimum to avoid damaging the blades. Most good blenders should have very durable blades to begin with, but they’re not indestructible in the end. Blending tougher objects like coffee beans can significantly reduce the lifespan of your blender.
Last but not least, try to keep noise down for your neighbors. Methods like the blender or the hammer can be very noisy, and if you’re an avid coffee drinker, this can eventually become a problem. In this case, try to grind up larger volumes of coffee in a single session so you don’t have to do it for each cup through the day. Of course, coffee loses its freshness very quickly after it’s been ground, so this might not be ideal for you.
There are plenty of ways to grind your coffee without a grinder, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before spending any money on a dedicated machine. In many cases, you can get perfectly good results with simple household items, and you don’t have to purchase yet another machine that will just take up space and gather dust when it’s not being actively used. And in the case of a coffee grinder, that might turn out to be quite often, depending on your own habits.