Thinking of using your spice grinder for your coffee beans? Or your coffee grinder for your spices? Well, think again!
On the surface, these two pieces of equipment have very similar functions, but they actually shouldn't be used interchangeably.
There are some real differences between the two types of grinder, and in this guide, I'll give you the full coffee grinder vs spice grinder breakdown so you can determine which piece of equipment you really need.
Spice Grinders Vs Coffee Grinders: What’s The Difference?
Spice grinders and coffee grinders are both used to grind solids into powders, but there are significant differences in their internal mechanisms and how they should be used.
Here are the key differences:
Burr Grinders vs Blade Grinders
Coffee grinders and spice grinders actually work in very surprisingly different ways and have different internal mechanisms.
A spice grinder cuts small objects (mostly spices) into very small parts using a blade grinder. The spinning blades whirr around inside the spice grinder to chop ingredients into smaller sizes.
A coffee grinder uses a burr grinder instead. Burr grinders operate using two revolving abrasive surfaces which rub against one another.
This means that the coffee grinder actually crushes up coffee beans rather than slicing them up.
Even though it's hard to tell, what comes out of blade grinders and burr grinders is quite different. A burr grinder gives more consistency than a blade grinder which is much better for coffee.
On the other hand, blade grinders are much less consistent, and while that's fine for herbs and spices, they will not produce good quality coffee grounds.
The canals within your spice grinder and coffee grinder are what your coffee beans or spices travel through, and a spice grinder has larger internal canals than a coffee grinder.
These larger canals mean that a spice grinder can accommodate larger and more varied ingredients, but it also means there is less consistency in the size of the grinds produced.
In contrast, a coffee grinder has smaller canals that are specifically designed to help with grinding coffee beans.
This means they can't fit different-sized ingredients as well, but it also means that they give a more consistent grind.
Coffee grinders give you more control over the grind size than spice grinders.
Coffee grinders, especially electric coffee grinders, will allow you to choose the size of the grind before you even start using it.
Spice grinders don’t usually have this option, and you’ll have to watch as you grind spices to make sure the powder doesn’t become too fine.
The size of coffee grinds is really important, and there's a big difference in flavor depending on whether you use coarse, medium, or fine grinds. For example, you'll need to use the fine grind for Moka pots but a coarse grind for cold brew.
It's not surprising that coffee grinders have enough ground coffee options to match different tastes but fewer options for spice grinders.
Coffee grinders are a lot more expensive than spice grinders.
This is generally because a burr coffee grinder mechanism is more complicated and expensive to make, but coffee grinders also tend to have more functionality and features.
While burr coffee grinders are more expensive than spice grinders, there are cheap models available for both - so you can start grinding coffee without spending a fortune.
So, why are spice grinders and coffee grinders different?
The answer is simple, a spice grinder and coffee grinder are designed for two different jobs, and they have the internal parts they need for those tasks.
A coffee grinder will grind coffee and give you a very even and consistent grind. A spice grinder will grind spices, and the blade grinders will give you small but uneven spices.
What Exactly Is A Spice Grinder? (Pros & Cons)
Spice grinders are household devices used to chop up herbs and whole spices. They’re typically used to grind spices, nuts, or seeds into powders so they can be used to season food when you’re cooking.
Not everyone uses a grinder to create a wide variety of ground spices, but it’s common to have a salt and pepper spice grinder in your home.
There are two main types of spice grinder:
Electric grinders are the simplest way to grind spices.
They work at the touch of a button and take just a few seconds. They’re much more expensive than manual spice grinders, but they are useful for anyone who books with spices frequently.
Manual grinders are a much cheaper option. They generally don’t require much effort, but you’ll need to twist them by hand to get the spice grinder blades to chop the spices.
This can take longer, but it gives you more control over how finely you choose to grind the spice.
There are a lot of different makes, models, and designs of spice grinder on the market, but some of the best spice grinder brands include:
Pros & Cons
A spice grinder can be a real asset in your home for a few reasons.
However, there are a few disadvantages to spice grinders:
When Should You Use a Spice Grinder?
A spice grinder or spice mill should be used to break down whole spices, beans, seeds, and nuts into powders.
It’s not advisable to use a spice grinder for coffee grounds as they would leave you with an uneven, coarse grind.
What Exactly Is A Coffee Grinder? (Pros & Cons)
Most coffee drinks are made using grounds, not whole coffee beans.
You can buy store-bought ground coffee, but a coffee grinder allows you to grind coffee beans yourself at home and really create a drink from scratch.
Some coffee grinders use blades, but the majority of coffee grinder models use a conical burr system.
Burr grinders are far superior as they grind the whole coffee bean down to the same consistency. Blade grinders are cheaper but won't give you great results, and all real coffee grinders prefer burrs.
There are two main types of coffee grinders:
An electric grinder is a simple and quick way of grinding coffee beans. You can usually choose the grind size before you start, and the automatic mechanism lets you grind more coffee beans very quickly.
The downside of electric coffee grinders is that they are a lot more expensive than manual models. However, many electric coffee machines will have a built-in coffee grinder included.
A manual grinder, as the name suggests, is operated by hand. A manual burr coffee grinder takes longer to create a powder, but you have good control over the grind size.
Manual burr coffee grinders are also a lot cheaper than electric models.
Coffee is the second most consumed drink in the world (after water), so it's no surprise that there are thousands of coffee grinder options out there.
If you're looking for a good quality burr grinder, then these are some of the best brands:
Pros & Cons
If you’re a coffee aficionado, then a coffee grinder is something you really should own. Here are some of the benefits:
Unfortunately, even the best coffee grinder has a few drawbacks:
When Should You Use a Coffee Grinder?
A coffee grinder should mainly be used for grinding coffee beans.
They can also be used for some spices, herbs, teas, nuts, and seeds but need to be cleaned thoroughly afterwards to avoid cross contamination.
Some coffee grinders, especially a conical burr grinder, won’t be able to handle larger spices and may not work with cinnamon sticks or other whole spices.
Are Coffee Grinders And Spice Grinders Interchangeable?
No, a coffee grinder and a spice grinder are not interchangeable, and it's not a good idea to use the same grinder for spices and coffee.
Most coffee grinders can grind spices and herbs, but spice grinders shouldn’t be used to grind coffee beans.
The two pieces of equipment may seem similar, but when it comes to coffee grinder vs spice grinder, there are some real differences in functionality.
A manual or electric spice grinder will almost always use blades to cut ingredients down and create a powder. This is great for herbs and spices but not for coffee.
Coffee beans need to be ground down more consistently to give a good brew, and a spice grinder just won't cut it.
A good coffee grinder will use conical burrs that give a really fine and consistent grind. This mechanism will also work for some spices, but not all grinders will be big enough to handle larger whole spices.
So, do you need a spice grinder or a coffee grinder?
If you're frequently cooking with spices, it's worth getting a designated spice grinder, but if you're a coffee fanatic, you should get a designated coffee grinder.
If you make a lot of coffee and only do a bit of cooking, then you may get away with just using a coffee grinder, but it's really best to get a coffee grinder and a spice grinder.
Common Spice & Coffee Grinder Questions
Can I use a coffee grinder to grind pepper?
Yes, you can use a burr coffee grinder to make freshly ground pepper, and it's actually a great way to get all the pepper to be evenly sized. You can also use your coffee maker as a salt mill.
Can you grind dried herbs in a coffee grinder?
Yes, as long as they are small enough to pass through the coffee grinder.
Can coffee grinders grind seeds?
Yes, if you put the seeds into the coffee grinder in small batches, then it should be able to grind them.
Can you use any grinder for coffee?
No, you should try to use a specific coffee grinder for coffee beans as it will give you consistent grounds and the best quality cup of coffee.
Whether you're making espresso, drip coffee, or cold brew - you need coffee grounds. If you only have a spice grinder, then it may be tempting to use it on your coffee beans, but you really shouldn't.
While coffee grinders can be used for some spices, spice grinders shouldn't be used for coffee because their operation will give you very inconsistent grinds.
If you then use the grounds created by the spice grinder, then you'll likely end up with a poor-quality brew.
Hopefully, this guide has given you the full coffee grinder vs spice grinder run down and you now know which one you need to use.