Can you use a coffee grinder to grind spices? Experts advise

If you're wondering if you can use a coffee grinder to grind spices, you can, but you shouldn't

A coffee grinder filled with spices, proving you "can you use a coffee grinder to grind spices?"
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s in the name, coffee grinders grind coffee, but can you use a coffee grinder to grind spices too? Some experts say no, because the oils in herbs, spices, and coffee can cross-contaminate and make your coffee taste like curry and curry taste like coffee. 

When you buy one of the best coffee grinders on the market, you’re making an investment. As such, you’ll care about your coffee grinder’s quality, versatility, and efficacy. I’m always interested in coffee grinder questions, I’ve even researched whether you can buy an antique coffee grinder to use as a normal grinder.

I've tested some of the best pepper grinders, which double up as spice grinders, so have put these head-to-head against coffee grinders. I also reached out to coffee experts and manufacturers to find out whether you can use a coffee grinder to grind spices. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Can you use a coffee grinder to grind spices?

You can, but you probably shouldn't. Technically, you can use a coffee grinder to grind spices. The typical spice grinder is a blade grinder, like just lots of coffee grinders. The fundamental mechanic (a fast metal blade chopping ingredients to dust) is exactly the same. If you need spices every so often, a coffee grinder is fine. If you don't like to drink coffee but want something cheap to blitz spices, a coffee grinder is fine.

However, if you're a coffee obsessive, you shouldn't grind spices in your coffee grinder. Lots of the baristas I spoke to were utterly scandalized by the suggestion. Tim Hopfinger Lee, former barista and coffee machine expert, said that it's a 'big no.' He told me that when he tried to use a coffee grinder for his spices, he found that his grinders were best suited for coffee beans, and larger or smaller spices didn't quite work.

What's more, he found that 'Even when I cleaned the grinder really well, I could still taste a bit of the spices in my coffee.' If you're obsessed with chasing the perfect shot of espresso, you shouldn't grind spices in the same grinder you use for your coffee. 

a headshot of coffee expert Tim Hopfinger Lee
Tim Hopfinger Lee

Tim is a former barista who now runs a small shop focused on helping business owners and coffee lovers find the right coffee gear for their needs.

Is it worth buying a specialist spice grinder?

Lauren Winder Hoar, barista and coffee writer, gave me a really useful golden rule. 'If you're not a professional chef or avid home cook, you can probably get away with subbing in your coffee grinder for spices once in a while. If you grind fresh spices more often than you drink fresh-ground coffee, get a separate spice grinder.'

I recommend buying a spice grinder if you cook a lot of curry from scratch. Lauren explained that the oils in coffee can continue your spices and vice-versa. She points out that 'If you're grinding spices to go with your coffee like cinnamon or nutmeg, You probably won't mind any residual cross-flavors.'

However, she says that 'coffee grinders retain residual coffee flavor, even after cleaning', which might affect your food. If you don't want your daal to taste like cappuccino, and if you don't want your morning espresso to taste like a saag aloo, I'd buy a separate spice grinder. 

Lauren Winder Hoar
Lauren Winder Hoar

Lauren is the editor-in-chief and founder of Coffee Hex. Her favorite coffee is a tie between a light roast brewed via French Press, and a good old fashioned Americano. She's a full-time writer with a penchant for travel, art, and discovering new coffee around her home state of Oregon.

Which spices do you need to grind?

Brown bowl with spices, oranges

(Image credit: Jeska Hearne)

Almost every spice tastes better if it's been whizzed in a spice grinder, but chef Jessica Randhawa told me that they particularly excel with whole spices like peppercorns, coriander seeds, and dried chilies.'

Nutmeg also tastes at its best when freshly ground. That's crucial for holiday dishes, but it's also useful throughout the year when cooking South Asian food, and it's a vital ingredient in Caribbean cooking. 

Cinnamon is also best when it's ground. Whole cinnamon sticks look great in a mug or as decoration but can be overpowering in that form. If you grind it down, you have precise control over how much cinnamon you add to a dish. 

Chef Dennies Littley told me that 'Cumin is at its most flavorsome when finely crushed and toasted, delivering a distinctly nutty aftertaste.'

You can also grind spices all in one go. If you know you need a set mix of spices, you can whizz them all together and save the labor of grinding them one by one. 

Jessica Randhawa
Jessica Randhawa

Jessica is the head chef, recipe creator, photographer, and writer behind The Forked Spoon, where you will find delectable family-friendly recipes for the everyday cook.

What else can I used to grind spices?

In some situations, a mortar and pestle is a much better option for grinding your spices. It's nowhere near as fast as a dedicated spice or coffee grinder, but crushing certain spices and berries releases fragrant oils which won't be released if they're chopped up in a coffee grinder. Kayla Stravidis, coffee expert, told me that 'a traditional mortar and pestle is a great alternative. It allows you to grind spices without the risk of affecting the flavor of your coffee. However, while a mortar and pestle offers more control over the texture, it requires more effort.'

Head of Marketing at Barista HQ
Kayla Stavridis
Head of Marketing at Barista HQ
Kayla Stavridis

Kayla Stavridis is the Head of Marketing at Barista HQ. She's been in the coffee industry for most of her career, where she developed a deep and intricate knowledge of various coffee blends and brewing methods, including dalgona coffee.


Can you grind spice in a food processor?

You can, but it doesn't do as good a job as a coffee grinder. The blade in a food processor is flatter, wider, and slower than that in a spice grinder, so the resulting grind is less fine. 

Can you grind spice in a blender?

You can just about grind spices in a blender, but it will be a poor grind. Blender blades are designed for liquids, so anything ground in a blender will be very roughly chopped. 

In an ideal kitchen set-up, you'll have a spice grinder or pestle and mortar to grind your spices freshly. Whilst experts don't advise it, if you're pushed you can use a food processor or a blender.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.

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