On today’s episode of “Coffee MacGyver,” we are going to take a look at a way to grind your coffee beans without a coffee grinder.
Some of you more observant types have probably noticed that there a couple of kitchen items remarkably similar to many standard coffee grinders.
Whether because of a narrow budget, or because of an overwhelming inquisitive urge, you may have asked, “Can you grind coffee beans in a food processor?” Or even, “Can you grind coffee beans in a blender?”
There is a simple answer and a complicated answer, so let’s take a look at both.
The Simple Answer
The simple answer is yes, of course you can!
Bare bones, a food processor or blender is really just a motor-driven, spinning blade. Though these blades come in different shapes and sizes, it doesn’t matter much with coffee beans.
Before you go prancing into the kitchen with thoughts of delicious coffee and grind away with your fancy food processor, you should pause to ask yourself, “Do I want to?” And this is where the question gets complicated.
The Complicated Answer
From a basic perspective, a burr coffee grinder and a food processor do the same thing: they shred big stuff into little stuff. Yet, how they go about it makes a world of difference in coffee land.
A burr grinder, in its simplest terms, is two abrasive surfaces slightly spaced apart and rotating in different directions. Coffee beans are pulled by gravity down between these two surfaces, which break up the beans until they are small enough to pass through.
Grinding this way allows substantial control and consistency of particle size. With a blender or food processor, you have very little control and get little consistency. Click here for a more in-depth comparison of the two.
Grinding With a Food Processor or Blender
Despite my warning, you may not be able to grind with a burr coffee grinder. Don’t worry, this is a safe place where we do not judge each other (you’re wrong), and we teach instead of criticize (ugh, if I have to).
So now let’s take a look at how to grind coffee with a food processor or blade grinder.
The Medium-Fine Grind
The medium-fine grind is something that a blender, just like a blade coffee grinder, will do quite well. If you just let your blender or food processor go to work on your coffee beans for a few minutes, you’ll get a nearly espresso-worthy grind.
A medium fine grind is perfect for most pour over brew methods, but is a little too fine for a standard drip brewer. You can use this grind in a drip brewer, but it will give your coffee a stronger, more pungent flavor. To compensate, try slightly shortening your brew time or lowering the brew temperature.
The Coarse Grind
Unfortunately, anything other than a medium-fine grind is difficult to accomplish with a blender. Stop your blender anytime before the medium-fine grind, and you will notice that your grounds are a mix of extremely small and large particles.
With a blender, it’s first-come, first-serve. Because ground particles have nowhere else to go besides the main grind chamber in a blender, they are continuously being ground down and will get in the way of the larger pieces.
A way to get around this drawback is to “pulse” your blender or food processor. Grind in short, successive increments, and shake your blender in between grinds. Turning on your machine in short bursts will coarsely grind up the beans closest to the blade, and then shaking will allow the larger pieces to fall closer.
Yet, even with the “pulsing” method you won’t get the same grind consistency of a burr grinder; however, with practice, you may get close.
Watch Out for Heat
Aside from the medium-fine grind, another benefit of using a food processor to grind coffee beans is the ability to grind in larger batches. However, you should always be mindful of heat buildup.
The oils in coffee beans, which give coffee its distinct flavor and aroma, are very vulnerable to heat. To save all those delicate oils for your cup, the only time you should expose your beans to higher temperatures is during the brew process.
A blender or food processor will very quickly build up heat, which can affect your beans. Particularly with large batches, but also with single cup batches, you want to avoid grinding longer than three minutes continuously. Just give your blender a 30 second cool down every two to three minutes.
The Bottom Line
If you’re ever asked, “Can you grind coffee beans in a food processor?” or, “Can you grind coffee beans in a blender?” you can say with confidence, “Duh!” A blender or food processor is essentially just the big brother of a blade coffee grinder.
There are a few reasons why it's not as good as a burr coffee grinder:
- limited control over grind consistency,
- cannot produce a grind fine enough for espresso,
- difficult to achieve coarse grinds,
but it is not completely hopeless because it can:
- Produce a pour over worthy grind - sort of....
- and, with a little practice, churn out a drip brew or AeroPress grind.
What did you think of this article? Have you ever tried using a food processor or blender to grind coffee before? Click here if you’d like to see other, unconventional methods for grinding coffee.
In the comments below tell me your thoughts and experiences, and don’t forget to share with your friends!