366 Shares

5 Simple Ways to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Coffee Grinder [Some By Hand]

Grinding whole-bean coffee right before brewing ensures freshness, reduces exposure to flavor-destroying oxygen, and helps to protect the natural flavors of the coffee from becoming bland and stale.

But what if you don’t have a grinder? How can you grind fresh beans every morning for that all-essential cup to start your day?

With some simple kitchen tools and a little elbow grease, you can easily replicate the texture and consistency produced by a grinder without having to run out and buy one before breakfast.

Get the following items ready:

  • Large butcher block, cutting board, or counter space, as beans have a tendency to fly
  • Plastic Ziploc bags or large parchment paper sheets
  • Elbow Grease
  • Patience: grinding without a grinder is a labor-intensive process

#1 - Mortar and Pestle

The mortar and pestle has been used by pharmacists and cooks for centuries to grind herbs, spices, and medicines into a fine powder.

It combines a hammering and rolling motion to help create a consistent grind texture. Plus, the method gives you fine control for a range of grinds from French-press coarse to Turkish-coffee fine.

How To Do It:

  1. Fill your mortar with a small amount of coffee beans. Don’t fill it more than about ¼ full for best control. You can always grind a second batch.
  2. Hold the pestle with your dominant hand; use your other to hold the mortar in place.
  3. Using the pestle, forcibly press down and crush the coffee beans with a twisting motion.
  4. Once crushed, use the pestle to roll the coffee around the bowl, until you see the consistency and texture you want.
  5. If you need to grind more coffee, empty the coffee you’ve already ground into a bowl (or your coffee maker) and repeat the process till you have enough coffee.

America’s Test Kitchen has great insight into proper mortar and pestle technique:

#2 - A Blender

A blender is a great coffee grinder replacement in a pinch. The blender’s blade chops coffee beans in a manner much like a blade-type coffee grinder.

Some blenders, in fact, include a “grinder” setting that is meant for use on coffee beans.

However, when using a blender, make sure only to grind in small bursts rather than running the blender continuously. Because the blades move at high speeds and heat the coffee beans, this can start to overheat the beans’ natural oils, which can deliver a harsh and bitter-tasting cup of coffee. 

This on-and-off grinding technique produces best results for a relatively coarse grind of coffee. Make sure you properly clean the blender so that it doesn’t take on the taste and smell of stale coffee.

How to grind coffee beans with a blender:

  1. If your blender has a “grinder” setting, select it. If not, select one of the higher speeds.
  2. Pour a small amount of coffee beans into the grinder and place lid firmly on top.
  3. Grind coffee to desired consistency, using a “pulse” technique For best results, tilt the blender slightly from side to side while grinding; this causes the larger portions of the beans to move into the blade path, ensuring a more even grind.
  4. Empty the blender, add new beans, and repeat until you reach the desired amount of ground coffee.
Pro Tip: Make sure you keep the lid on the blender during grinding as the beans will have a tendency to fly out when the blender is running.

#3 - A Rolling Pin

The classic rolling pin is able to both crush and grind coffee beans at the same time. This will help to result in a more even texture and will also allow you to get a finer grind than some other methods.

The rolling pin does require a little elbow grease as well as an observant eye to ensure uniformity. If done right, the rolling pin can help you achieve a medium fine to fine grind, ideal for a drip or pourover brewing method

What You’ll Need

  • Rolling Pin (This can be any durable cylindrical object like a wine bottle, can of food, or wooden dowel)
  • Large cutting board or counter space
  • Plastic Ziploc bag or parchment paper

How To Do It:

  1. Place a measured amount of coffee beans into the plastic bag or between two sheets of parchment paper. Tip: To reduce scattering of the grounds, fold the edges of the parchment paper over to seal them.
  2. Lay the bag flat on the counter.
  3. Using the rolling pin like a hammer, press down to crush the beans.
  4. Once crushed, roll the pin over the coffee beans while pressing down hard enough to crush the bean fragments
  5. Roll the pin back and forth over the grounds until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Continue rolling and crushing if grounds are still too large.

#4 - A Hammer

A meat tenderizer, mallet, or hammer can easily crack and crush your coffee beans - and also your hand or kitchen counter, so use with caution.

As you break down the beans, you can get more refined in your technique and crush the beans down closer to a fine powder.

But because of the jerky, explosive motion of the hammer, don’t expect to be able to brew espresso with these grounds. At best, you’ll see a coarse to medium grind.

What You’ll Need

  • Mallet, Meat Tenderizer, or Hammer
  • Plastic Ziploc bag or parchment paper
  • Large cutting board

How to do it:

  1. Fill the plastic bag with coffee beans, or place your beans between two sheets of parchment paper with the edges folded over.
  2. Using your hammer, press down firmly on the beans to crush them, until the desired consistency is met. Don’t hit the beans!
  3. For a more consistent grind, start crushing on one side of the bag and move gradually to the other side.

#5 - A Knife

The best way to grind coffee with a knife is to use the flat of the blade, not the edge.

The design of a butcher knife or chef’s knife, with its slightly wider and stiffer blade, helps to provide extra leverage and surface area to improve the process of crushing and cracking the coffee beans.

Crushing beans with the flat of the blade gives you excellent control and lets you produce a medium to medium-fine grind. The more time you've spent in chef school, the easier this will be. So if you're like us and are nothing close to a chef, opt for a different method!

What You’ll Need

  • Large butcher knife
  • Wide cutting board (to help catch runaway coffee beans)

How To Do It:

  1. Place your coffee beans on the cutting board
  2. Place your knife flatly on top of the coffee beans. Tip: Lay a kitchen towel (or paper towels) over the knife, to help prevent flyaway coffee grounds.
  3. Place your flat palm on top of the blade and press down firmly to crack the beans. Don’t be tempted to strike the blade, as if you were crushing garlic: the coffee beans will bounce and fly away, which not only means more cleanup, but you risk losing some of the coffee beans.
  4. Once the beans are broken, continue pressing down on the blade,pulling the blade slightly towards you to make the grind finer.

A Word About Grind Consistency

According to Scott Rao, one of the most influential voices in the coffee industry, grind consistency and uniformity are critical to producing the best cup of coffee. 

A consistent grind not only helps evenly extract the desirable flavors from your coffee, it also helps ensure that each cup you brew is as delicious as the last one.

An inconsistent grind has a tendency to over-extract some grounds, under-extract others, and can leave the coffee with a “chalky” aftertaste.

If you do not have a grinder, the best way to reach a consistent grind in your coffee beans is to grind or crush only a few beans at a time. This gives you a much greater measure of control over how finely ground your coffee is, and gives you a visual cue for the texture and fineness you’re aiming for.

For a truly uniform grind, go slowly and take care to repeat the same movements, whether you’re using a rolling pin or a blender.

If you are not able to achieve a uniformly fine texture in your grounds, consider a brewing method like the French Press, which is known to perform better with a coarser grind and is more tolerant of inconsistencies.

And as with so many things, repetition is the key to improvement.

Which Wins the Award for Backup Grinder?

Although there are many different ways to grind your coffee without a grinder, to truly achieve the right consistency and texture, the best option is a mortar and pestle, especially for a finer grind such as used in espresso machines

Consistency is the name of the game (read why here), and the mortar and pestle was MADE for crushing nuts, seeds and spices, so using it on coffee beans works like a dream.

HIC Mortar and Pestle

When you are looking for a mortar and pestle, try to purchase one made of ceramic material as it will be less porous and will not retain the sour, stale flavors of oxidized coffee after each use.


So there you have it: how to grind coffee without a grinder.

With the availability and superior quality of fresh whole-bean coffee, grinding your beans can soon become an irreplaceable part of your morning ritual.

However, in a pinch, many tools available in your kitchen offer a great way to brew a freshly ground cup of coffee.

Just remember to strive for consistency in grind size, don’t overheat your beans if you use a blender, and make sure you have a large workspace if you’re using hand tools.

With a little practice, you’ll be brewing your ideal cup every time.

Do you have any other ways to grind coffee without a grinder? What is your experience with these methods? Let us know in the comments below.