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Friday Tip|Coffee Grinder Spices

Hola!  It’s almost the end of Friday, but a tip you shall have!!

I just started a new job (yay!), which will likely lead to more food postings (I’m now in the grocery business and work with quite a few folks who love to cook and eat, so I’m anticipating a lot of idea sharing), but has also led to me being more or less exhausted.  I’m expecting this to sort itself out in the next few weeks, but for now, posting may be thin and sporadic.

So we’ll keep this short and sweet (and late).  Powdered (ground) spices tend to go off quickly.  Not in weeks by any means, but most of us buy a container of cumin and find it sitting in the cupboard two years later.  It’s really not any good then.  It won’t make you ill, but it won’t taste like much, especially compared to a fresh container.

Enter the coffee grinder.  The one pictured above was given to me by a friend, but you can usually find one at the Goodwill (or your thrift store of choice) for a few bucks.  If you want to be fancy, buy one new (but please just get it at Target – save money on the grinder and splurge on good spices).*

Once you have the grinder, you can take whole spices and…grind them!  It’s not hard.  You just fill the grinder with spices and…grind.  You’ll get a nice powder, perhaps a little less fine than your store-bought variety, but that’s no concern (unless you’re making something that’s supposed to be really smooth).  The aroma when you take the lid off the grinder is AMAZING.  Truly.  Amazing.

And you can do all kinds of nifty things that you can’t really do with store bought ground spices.  Like toast the spices.  This adds a nice depth to them (that you probably don’t want on everything, but it’s quite nice).  You can also make spice blends, like garam masala, and once you get a basic recipe, you can alter to proportions to make it taste the way you like it.  Cool no?

Oh!  I almost forgot.  To do this, you’ll have to buy whole spices.  If you have a good ethnic market around, you should have great access to whole spices.  If you don’t, you might need to order them online.  There are a lot of outlets to get them.  If you have some space to keep the whole spices in airtight containers in your pantry, that’s ideal.

Also, if you are going to grind spices fresh for each recipe (which I actually don’t – we use so many ground spices that I usually just grind up a mess of whatever it is and then store that in a container), you’ll need to take into account that whole spices don’t measure the same as ground spices.  I usually more or less double the amount of whole that I’ll need ground in a recipe.  That generally works.  And honestly, aside from cayenne (which I never grind…I don’t even know what it is!) and maybe coriander, it’s hard to have too much of any given spice.

Hope that’s helpful!


*In case you’re wondering why you need to buy a coffee grinder to do this when you already have one that you use for coffee, open the coffee grinder up and take a whiff.  Smells like coffee, yes?  Coffee is hard to get out of a grinder (or anything for that matter).  Spices are too.  So unless you like your Indian food to taste like coffee and your coffee tasting like cumin, it’s best to have two grinders.  If you’re just dead set against having two grinders (and I hear you, I do), I’ve heard that you can take a piece of bread and grind it up in the grinder to absorb most/all the flavors of whatever it is you last ground in there.  Personally, while I’m thrifty, I’m also kind of lazy, and grinding up bread (instead of eating it?  Pishaw!) every time I want to use the grinder sounds tiring.  But it’s an option.


  1. Stacey Klaff says:

    Read it, and loved it! Very informative! I’m totally lacking on my blog posting skills and I definitely need to start posting more especially when I might have the opportunity to write for a magazine next year! I enjoyed it and am looking forward to your next post from my fellow baking ninja! 😉 Love you!

  2. David says:

    I’ve always been a fan of hand-grinding with a mortar and pestle. It’s a bit more effort on my part, and it’s harder to get as fine of a powder, but it makes me feel like I’m working hard for my meal, and I get the benefits of the awesome smell as I’m grinding, not just when I’m done.

  3. Kathlyn says:

    Grinding with motar and pestle is way more bad ass! You and my husband are on the same page with that one. I’m just too lazy. There is a lot I will fuss with, but not that one. Kudos – your dishes are probably more flavorful!

  4. Mateus says:

    I ordered this tool so that I could get more use out of my m18 baeertits. I was suprized at how quiet the unloaded motor was. Sometimes I like to work in my shop at night. With this tool I can manage the noise level as long as I do not grind too heavily. And the small baeertits seem to carry the load for a reasonable amount of time for the size (being smaller than a 28 volt battery which I have used before).

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