Many espresso grinder fashions look suspiciously much like spice grinders, and it is smart. Each have primarily the identical operate: They take huge issues and make them smaller. However you’ve got additionally most likely heard your common barista chirping in your ear to not use a spice grinder on your espresso. However why? Is there a distinction between a espresso grinder and a spice grinder, and do you want a separate gadget for every operate?

A Bit on Performance

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

It’s not a “one does this, and one does that” state of affairs.

“The distinction between a spice grinder and a espresso blade grinder is considerably complicated, but comparatively easy,” says Julien Langevin, founding father of Tomato Coffee Class and the 2022 United States Cup Tasters Champion (a contest the place you must style units of espresso cups and pick the totally different one—a way more daunting process than you may assume). “It is because electrical spice grinders and occasional blade grinders are nearly precisely the identical.” 

So principally, in the event you drew a Venn diagram of spice and occasional grinders, within the center could be a blade grinder. However within the different two sections, there could be plenty of different instruments. A pepper mill is a spice grinder, and that fancy espresso gadget you see spitting out floor espresso you see at your native cafe is a espresso grinder. However that factor in the midst of the Venn diagram—the blade grinder—is just about the identical device, whether or not you name it a spice grinder or a espresso grinder. 

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KRUPS Fast Touch Electric Coffee and Spice Grinder


“Espresso blade grinders use a single central blade to cut espresso beans right into a high-quality powder, able to brew,” Langevin says. “Most electrical spice grinders truly use this identical method, and blade grinders just like the Krups Coffee and Spice Grinder are typically marketed to be used with each spices and occasional.” 

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

Okay, so downside solved, proper? You may assume, “Let me simply purchase the one blade grinder, and I am good to go.” Not so quick—whereas there are spice grinders and occasional grinders which have the identical performance, that does not imply it’s best to use this device on your espresso and spice wants. 

What Does a Good Espresso Grinder Do? 

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

Grinding espresso nicely is a vital step within the brewing course of as a result of espresso has such few substances: It is simply grounds and water, and the best way you pull taste from espresso relies upon loads on the way it’s floor. “Grinding espresso is vital to pulling the most effective taste from espresso extra effectively as a result of it exposes extra of a espresso bean’s floor space to water,” says Alvin Kim, advertising and marketing supervisor for Baratza, a producer of espresso and espresso grinders. “Can I exploit a spice grinder to attain that purpose? Positive. However will it style good? Perhaps, however not constantly.” 

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

That is as a result of blade grinders (what Kim refers to above) chop espresso inconsistently and inconsistently—there isn’t any system for the way lengthy it’s best to maintain down the button on an electrical blade grinder to get grounds for a particular brew methodology, and blade grinders supply no uniformity. 

“For those who had been to brew entire espresso beans it would not style superb as a result of the floor space of the bean is definitely smaller than the sum of the floor space of all of the little particles of floor espresso mixed,” Langevin says. “The extra floor space, the extra espresso taste is being pulled out of the bean.”

You might need entire beans floating round with finely floor espresso mud, which makes espresso extraction difficult: Think about it like sauteeing an onion, besides you took one half and chopped it up finely, and the opposite half you simply threw in entire. “There’s just about no option to management the grind dimension of a blade grinder,” Kim says. “For those who’re very cautious with the way you grind, you completely can get pleasure from a good cup of espresso from a blade grinder, however good luck repeating it.” 

Burr Grinders: Do I Want One? 

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder


As an alternative, many espresso of us suggest burr grinders, which work to softly crush beans to attain uniformity in grind dimension. “Burr grinders produce a way more uniform set of espresso grounds as a result of they drive beans between two chopping surfaces,” says Kim. “No espresso grounds may be bigger than the house between the burrs, which suggests you possibly can modify the grind dimension for various brew strategies just by shifting burrs nearer collectively or additional aside.” 

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

Nonetheless, it is necessary to notice that burr grinders are typically dearer than blade grinders, and in case your purpose is just to make higher espresso, a blade grinder is usually a good step in the precise route. “In case your purpose is to get away from pre-ground espresso to strive extra entire bean choices at house, then buying a blade grinder looks like a high-quality possibility if that is what works on your funds,” Langevin says. Espresso stales over time, and that course of goes by even quicker when you grind the espresso, so switching from pre-ground espresso to espresso floor at house—whatever the grinder—shall be a significant improve.

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Coffee Grinder


That being mentioned, in the event you’re seeking to enhance your total espresso sport, the most effective place to start out is together with your grinder, and I would encourage of us to look right into a burr grinder earlier than enthusiastic about a flowery espresso machine or an costly brewer. Espresso is a sport of constants: To house in on discovering out what you want, it is useful to set parameters and alter just one variable at a time, and burr grinders offer you that added stage of management over grind dimension {that a} blade grinder cannot. “A grinder is to the espresso brewer as a lens is to a digital camera,” Kim explains. “It is the vital, exact piece of the method that brings all the pieces into readability. With an excellent grinder, you may not solely brew a extra scrumptious cup, however you may also reliably repeat it.” 

Why It is (In all probability) Value Having A number of Grinders

Critical Eats / Russell Kilgore

It depends upon how devoted you might be to cleansing. Each espresso and spices go away residues when floor, so in the event you grind some espresso in your spice grinder, be ready on your newly floor espresso to style like spices. 

However you possibly can clear these residues away. “For blade grinders, it’s prompt to grind a portion of uncooked white rice after which wipe with a humid paper towel to scrub our spice or espresso residue. Some folks even grind a slice of stale bread to absorb the flavors and oils,” says Langevin. 

By way of utilizing a burr grinder for spices, you may run into the identical issues, and burr grinders are even trickier to scrub—you often must take them aside or use a devoted burr cleaner. I solely have a burr grinder at house, and I might flip to a mortar and pestle first earlier than enthusiastic about working my spices via a burr grinder. 

There are such a lot of choices for each espresso and spice grinders, and you may select the way you wish to equip your kitchen and occasional setup based mostly in your wants and the way usually you are grinding spices and occasional. A burr grinder for espresso, a pepper mill solely for peppercorns, and a mortar and pestle for each different spice works for me, however you possibly can modify based mostly in your cooking and brewing habits. So long as you perceive the constraints and capabilities of every merchandise, you’ll discover the precise device that improves each your espresso and spice sport. 


Can a blender grind espresso beans? 

Technically, sure, however you may get much more inconsistency from a blender than a blade grinder since you may have grinds flying throughout. The blades of a blender are additionally actually tough to scrub, and you will face the identical issues with cross-contamination (do not make a smoothie in your blender after grinding espresso, except you desire a gritty, coffee-flavored strawberry banana smoothie!).

How high-quality do you have to grind espresso?

It relies upon! French press brewing often requires a coarser grind, whereas espresso desires to be high-quality (and the finer your grind, the harder it’s to get consistency in your grind—that is why, typically, grinders designed for espresso are dearer). 

Can you employ a espresso grinder for spices? 

You may! There aren’t any guidelines! However do you have to? Relies upon. I do know I might neglect that I floor a bunch of spices in my grinder after which make espresso the subsequent day, solely to be wildly confused about why I am tasting cumin in my morning cup. Cross-contamination is actual, and also you do must be fairly exact once you clear since contemporary spices—and freshly floor espresso—are extremely potent. 

Why We are the Specialists

  • Ashley Rodriguez is a espresso skilled and author who’s labored within the espresso trade since 2010.
  • She frequently contributes espresso content material to this website and has written a number of product opinions for us, together with chilly brew makers.
  • For this story, Ashley spoke to Julien Langevin (founding father of Tomato Coffee Class and the 2022 United States Cup Tasters Champion) and Alvin Kim (advertising and marketing supervisor for Baratza).

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