Everyone knows the lovely song of a countertop coffee grinder. Even if you shop for pre-ground at the store, no coffee shop soundtrack is complete without that high-pitched whiz-crunch-bur.
THE PROPELLER GRINDER
As common as they are, those cylindrical, electric grinders with the little spinning blades (technically called “propeller grinders”) are notoriously underutilized. You can use the same thing to grind nuts, seeds, chilies, and whole or coarse spices and herbs.
While some grinders are manufactured specifically for these uses, the everyday version sold for coffee works just fine. It couldn’t hurt to invest in a heavier duty one like Cuisinart’s, which comes with a sturdier motor and removable bowl with airtight lid for storage—but you can certainly get by without it.
WHY YOU NEED IT
There are a few reasons why grinding at home is worth the extra step. First and foremost: flavor. Fresh grinding your own whole spices produces a way more intense level of flavor than using the pre-ground variety. The oils released during the grinding process deteriorate quickly, so you can use a smaller amount of fresh-ground spices and preserve more of their essence in your final product.
It also stretches out your shelf-life—while ground spices typically lose most of their pizzazz after six months, whole spices last up to a year.
WHY IT BEATS THE SPICE MILL
So what’s the difference between using a countertop grinder and a spice mill? While mills work great for single or small servings, grinders can work through much larger quantities and much bulkier, denser products without laying a major workout on your wrist. Even compared to electric mills, grinders are faster and more powerful.
Instead of going for bottled or envelope spice mixes like Montreal Steak, Ranch or Madras Curry, why not try looking up the individual components and grinding your own? Not only do I promise that you’ll appreciate it more (both for having done it yourself and for the incredible difference in taste), it’ll also work out to be much cheaper in the long run.
One word of caution before you get grind-happy: If you decide to use a regular ‘ole coffee grinder, make sure it’s easy to tell apart (and keep away) from the one you actually use for your cuppa’ Joe—or else brace yourself for a very interesting morning brew.