A spice grinder is a useful appliance found in almost every kitchen, where a home cook especially loves to keep it in reach.
Similarly, a coffee enthusiast always has a specific spot for their coffee grinder on their kitchen countertops.
Both appliances serve a common purpose; they grind stuff. So why do they have different names?
Can’t you purchase one appliance to serve both purposes?
Our spice grinder vs coffee grinder comparison describes both machines in detail and answers some common queries.
What Is a Spice Grinder?
A spice grinder is a piece of kitchen equipment used to grind dry and hard spices, such as cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and nutmeg.
You can either grind the spices coarsely or get a very finely ground spice powder with this grinder.
What Are the Different Types of Spice Grinders?
Apart from knowing what is a spice grinder, you also have to be familiar with the fact that there are two main types: manual and electric.
Manual spice grinders resemble black pepper mills and perform similarly.
These grinders have a removable jar-like collecting bottom, in glass or plastic.
A cup-shaped container sits on top, with multiple sharp cutting teeth near the bottom side.
To grind a spice, you load a small amount of the spice in the upper container.
As you rotate the handle clockwise, it moves the cutting teeth network inside.
This grinds a small number of spices at a time, dropping the grounds in the collecting jar below.
They are cheap and portable but require effort and time.
Electric grinders use electricity to operate. They allow you to grind spices quickly, without using any muscle effort.
However, they have the disadvantage of heating up during the grinding, which can cause the spices to lose oil and flavor.
You need to rest the grinder between grinding episodes and grind only a small spice quantity for good results.
Features of Spice Grinders
Not every spice grinder is the same and differs slightly from brand to brand. That said, they all have the following standard features:
- Dimensions and Style
Almost all spice grinders are small, handy appliances that are no bigger than about 10 inches in height and five inches in width.
They are lightweight, about one kilogram or less, and are very portable. Keep in mind that these dimensions may vary from grinder to grinder.
Most of them have an electrical machine base, either cylindrical or square-shaped, with a dial or buttons for operating.
A removable or attached bowl sits on top, where you place the spices for grinding.
It has a transparent covering lid, so you can see what is going on in the bowl.
- Working Mechanism
Thin blades, either two or three in number, sit inside the grinding bowl.
They rotate at high speeds to slice or dice the spices unevenly into smaller pieces. The longer you grind, the shorter the pieces get.
Most spice grinders have two speed settings, low and high, and a pulsing option.
The pulsing option allows you to control the duration of the grinding process.
The blades spin as you press the pulse button and stop when you release it.
In contrast, once pressed, the other two options with set speeds continue to grind the spices until you press the stop button.
You need to keep a keen eye and stop the machine when the grind has achieved the consistency you want.
What Is a Coffee Grinder?
A coffee grinder is an essential kitchen tool for grinding roasted coffee beans.
It allows you to get different grinds of coffee, ranging from coarse to fine consistency.
Making coffee with freshly ground beans delivers a superb tasting, aromatic coffee.
What Are the Different Types of Coffee Grinders?
There are two main types of coffee grinders: blade and burr grinders.
Blade grinders are similar to spice grinders, where two blades chop up your coffee beans into smaller particles.
These are usually smaller in size than spice grinders but carry the same design.
A blade coffee grinder is cheaper but does not produce a consistent grind.
It is also noisy, and the blades tend to heat up, which adversely affects the coffee’s flavor.
Burr grinders are the heavier and larger variety. They are slightly expensive too.
They have burrs instead of blades for grinding, work at a slower speed, and produce less noise and heat.
Since these grinders deliver a consistent grind every time, they are a more superior and popular variety than their blade counterparts.
Features of Coffee Grinders
Coffee grinders, too, vary from brand to brand. The following are some of their features:
- Dimensions and Style
Most burr coffee grinders have a height ranging from 13 to 16 inches. They usually have widths of six to nine inches and weigh about two to three kilograms.
The blade variety is relatively small and lightweight. In general, all burr coffee grinders have a transparent hopper, which sits on top of the machine.
The machine part usually has a built-in, removable grounds container, which collects the ground coffee.
Some burr grinders have a delivery chute below to place the provided container to collect the grind.
These grinders also usually have dials on the machine part to set grinding time in seconds and a larger dial for setting grind consistency.
Some burr coffee grinders have up to forty grind settings, but all of them have three prominent markings indicating coarse, medium, and fine grind.
However, blade coffee grinders only carry a single pulsing button on the front panel.
- Working Mechanism
Generally, two stainless steel burrs sit in the machinery beneath the hopper, which performs the grinding action.
Burrs are either disc-shaped or conical, with sharp projections on them.
Disc-shaped burrs lie together horizontally or vertically that brings their sharp points almost in contact with each other.
Contrarily, the conical variety has a small cone-shaped burr sitting inside the larger, circular burr.
As you load the coffee beans in the hopper and turn the machine on, it delivers a few (three or four) coffee beans in the space between the two burrs.
It’s where the beans are first broken down by the larger teeth-like projections in the center of the burr, in disc variety.
Then, the broken pieces are ground further by fine cutting projections on the edges of the burrs.
The fine cutting teeth perform a chewing action on the broken pieces, preventing loss of flavor, unlike slicing as in blade grinders.
The uniformly broken coffee particles are then delivered out of the burrs to collect in the below container.
Is a Coffee Grinder the Same as a Spice Grinder?
Coffee and spice grinders appear similar at first glance, but they differ on various levels.
Blade coffee grinders are almost 90% identical to spice grinders, except that they only carry a single pulsing button, unlike the three or four buttons present on spice grinders.
Can You Use a Coffee Grinder as a Spice Grinder?
The most important question when it comes to a spice grinder vs coffee grinder comparison is: “Can you alternately use each?”
It actually depends on what type of coffee grinder you have. If you own a blade grinder, it will grind all your spices, but we recommend you don’t do it.
That’s because spices release oil during grinding, and that leaves a smell in your grinder.
It doesn’t go away quickly, even after thorough washing. This, in turn, can contaminate the aroma and flavor of your coffee grounds.
Similarly, burr grinders are just made for grinding small smooth Java beans.
The burrs can’t handle larger spices like cinnamon sticks, nor can they grind spices with husks properly, like cardamoms.
It isn’t easy to clean them either since the ground spices can get stuck in their narrow recesses.
What Else Can You Grind in a Coffee Grinder?
Rice, flax seeds, chia seeds, spices, sugar, breadcrumbs, dry herbs, and nuts can be ground easily in your blade coffee grinder.
You can also produce powdered coconut, orange, and lemon peel in it.
Just keep in mind that since coffee grinders have smaller bowls, you have to grind your foodstuff in small batches.
You also need to clean the grinder thoroughly after use, preferably by pulsing a tablespoon of baking soda in it for a few seconds to eliminate the smell.
Spice Grinder vs Coffee Grinder: Final Thoughts
A burr coffee grinder is different from a spice grinder, and they cannot be used interchangeably.
That said, blade coffee grinders do resemble spice grinders, mainly in terms of functionality.
Still, we highly recommend equipping your kitchen with both coffee and spice grinders.
It will save you the hassle of cleaning and help you make better tasting meals and perfect cups of coffee.