11 Alternative Uses For a Coffee Grinder

As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.

As I’ve been learning that less is more and working hard to purge and pare down the things that we own, I’ve been reminded of the beauty of having multi-purpose appliances. Today’s post is a feature of the handy, inexpensive little gadget that we know as a coffee grinder.

But, oh. It’s so much more than that.

I bought mine for $4 at a thrift store, about 4 years ago. It is used multiple times most weeks, and the majority of those uses aren’t for grinding coffee.

One thing that I particularly love is the convenience of using a coffee grinder for fast jobs and easy clean up. It is the perfect size to tackle small tasks with efficiency and ease, and with a swish of a cloth, it’s wiped out and ready for the next time I need it.

Here are 11 ways to put your little coffee grinder to very good use: 

1. Coffee

I know, it’s painfully obvious, but it still had to be said. For the freshest, best-tasting pot of coffee, store your coffee beans in sealed bags or containers in the freezer, and grind the beans in small amounts as needed. To save time, I usually grind enough for several days at once, then store it in a container back in the freezer.

2. Spices

Spices are the most flavorful and aromatic when freshly ground. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a coffee grinder stands in well as a spice grinder. I have used it to make Indian spice mixes, grind cloves or cardamom pods, and peppercorns, among other things.

3. Bread crumbs

Several weeks ago, I gave 11 ideas for using up your stale bread, and bread crumbs are one of my personal favorite uses. I hardly ever pull my big food processor out of the cupboard unless I have a lot of bread to go through.

If you just tear your bread into small pieces, a coffee grinder can handle it easily and it makes crumbs that are as large or as fine as you want them, depending on how long you keep it on. Just don’t overload your little machine and keep the bread amount to about half of its holding capacity.

4. Small amounts of flour

For those who also grind their own grains, have you ever needed just a cup or two of flour and felt that it wasn’t worth it to pull out your grain grinder? That was how I first discovered that, in a pinch, I could grind small amounts of flour without the hassle of the larger appliance.

It’s also perfect for lesser-used grains. I have a pot pie recipe that uses millet flour in the crust, but I hardly ever use millet flour so I never grind it ahead of time to keep on hand. Whenever I make this recipe, my coffee grinder lets me grind exactly the amount that I need, no fuss, no muss.

5. Dry herbs

Whatever herbs I grow in the garden that aren’t used fresh are usually dehydrated and then ground into dry herbs to use in my cooking throughout the winter.

As you can see with my parsley above, the coffee grinder is a winner for this simple job. You can grind it more finely if you desire, and this works for pretty much any dried leafy herb.

6. Herbs for teas

It’s easy to make your own tea blends using dried herbs that you have purchased in bulk, as well dried flowers, spices, fruits, etc. Depending on the size of the ingredients, it can be helpful to grind some things just a little smaller so that all of the yumminess is equally distributed in each pot or mug of tea.

Last week, Mindy shared some simple homemade gift ideas, including homemade tea blends. Definitely worth checking out!

7. Powdered sugar

Although my blender is my preferred appliance for finely grinding unrefined sugars to make my own powdered sugar, the coffee grinder will work in a pinch, when all you need is a little bit.

8. Chopped nuts and seeds

For a quick sprinkle on top of yogurt, a salad or any other place where you enjoy chopped nuts or seeds, the coffee grinder works well. It can grind flax seeds (or any seed, really) into a nice, fine meal.

If it’s chopped nuts you’re looking for, it works very well with softer nuts like walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts. With soft nuts, don’t grind for too long or you’ll start to get nut butter, which may not be what you’re looking for. For something a little harder like almonds, it will grind them, just not quite as uniformly as you may like. If you want to turn your almonds into more of a flour, then I would recommend using a food processor or high-powdered blender instead.

Image by izik

9. Garnishes

Want little bits of chocolate, coconut, orange or lemon peel, or other small edible bits to use as garnish? The coffee grinder can handle most of them.

Of course, if you’re more of a perfectionist and want lovely little shreds instead of small chunks, you may want to hand grate them instead. For the less-gourmet among us, the grinder does the job well enough.

10. Potpourri

Use your grinder for dried flower or spicy, warm potpourri, if you need somewhat smaller pieces to get an evenly distributed mix,

11. Paper Confetti

Turn recycled white or colored paper into a quick and festive confetti with a few whirls in the coffee grinder!

How do you use your coffee grinder? What other multi-use appliances do you find most handy in your kitchen?

Top image by theogeo

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Thanks a billion for this post. I was wondering what I could make for breakfast witthout flour and milk and this may have saved our day! Come visit us at our family blog. Thanks again!

  2. I see people mentioned spices, etc. tasting like coffee, but what about the other way around? If I use my coffee grinder to grind, say, cumin seeds, will my next batch of coffee taste like cumin even after I’ve wiped the grinder out? How can you get all the spices out, or do people just use a separate grinder for spices?

  3. I use mine most often for making coconut flour. Since most of my recipes calling for coconut flour require small amounts, like 4 TBSP or 1/3 cup, I can whip out the coffee grinder and have coconut flour in no time. I buy organic, unsweetened coconut flakes for about $3/lb in bulk, so it’s cheaper than buying pre-ground coconut flour.

  4. Jennifer S. says:

    We have never used our coffee grinder for coffee. I use it for some of the ideas listed here. Just about every day we use it to grind our oat groats for oatmeal. I love the simplicity of using it for small projects.

  5. Love, love, love this post! I must admit that I would have only come up with 2 or 3 of those ideas. Thanks SO much for sharing your great ideas.

    I used to be grumpy about having a small kitchen. There isn’t much room for lots of single-purpose items. However, am continuing to learn to be thankful and grateful for what I have. Thanks to you, I can add the coffee grinder to the list of hardworking, multi-taskers.

    Thanks, again, for letting us follow you on your journey to purge clutter. It really is freeing! I’m better at it some days than others.

  6. I grind my coffee each morning, but mine grinder is a hand crank. Just like Ma Ingalls! I know from The Long Winter that it would work for wheat, but I haven’t tried it for anything except coffee.

  7. I have two grinders…one just for coffee and the other I’ve used for herbs and nuts. I’ve not thought of grinding for flour. Do you think it will work for kamut and/or oat groats?

  8. a quick tip I read somewhere said to clean out your grinder with a small handful of rice. It works really well and gets most of the oil from the beans out too.

  9. Wow! I have never used mine for anything but beans, lol! This is a huge help–will be chopping walnuts in my coffee grinder today!

  10. The confetti idea is brilliant! I’ve never thought of that! I do use mine to grind oats for oat flour. I also grind up dried or frozen citrus peels for citrus zest. It’s a very handy kitchen tool!

  11. I love this! I emailed it to by husband already so he can keep his eyes open for a cheap used one. We have been looking for tools to help us with so many things on this list, the grinder will take care of it all!

    Thanks!

  12. Oh this is so exciting–especially that you bought yours for only $4! I may be on the lookout for one!

  13. Kathleen K says:

    Great ideas, but for those who are extra sensitive to caffeine or smell of coffee, I have to recommend a grinder that ISN’T used for coffee beans. Even wiping out the grinder thoroughly and washing any parts that can be washed sometimes isn’t enough. I primarily use ours for grinding coffee beans, but also will grind flax seeds in it, since I LOVE the flavor of coffee this doesn’t bother me.

  14. Sorry, but I have to say it – never put coffee beans in the fridge or freezer. Best to store them in an air-tight, cool, dry, dark place. Buy what you need for two weeks, and always grind right before brewing.

    Best bet? Buy green coffee beans, and roast at home in batches. (roasters are expensive, you can use a wok and wooden spoon!) Green beans can stay fresh about 2 years. :)

  15. Love these ideas! I use mine as a spice grinder, too, especially when I make dhal soup. I grind the spices, then toast them gently in the pot before I add in the remaining ingredients. It makes our home smell wonderful!

  16. I love this! I have a coffee grinder in my pantry that rarely gets used because I can’t have a lot of caffeine. I will have to pull it out and use it for some of these. Thanks for the ideas! :)

  17. I’ve always wanted to try this, but haven’t. I really really don’t like the taste or smell of coffee, so I always wondered if a grinder ends up having a slight flavour of coffee to things (which wouldn’t happen if it were new, but if I got one used it would have been used for coffee most likely). What do you think? I have a very strong sense of smell all the time.

    My most useful appliance is my blender, its an Oster one (classic beehive, glass jar) and its been amazing, much cheaper than the high priced like Vitamix…not as good I know but for a cheaper blender I have never been disappointed unlike other cheaper blenders.

    • You might just want to really smell it before buying, if you find one used. I’m sure some would smell really strongly of coffee, and although the smell would go away mostly over time. But, if you’re super-sensitive, you might still be bothered by it. But you can also buy new ones pretty inexpensively- maybe $15-30?

      I totally second you about a blender being your most useful appliance. I think it’s probably my most-used appliance, too.

  18. Well, that settles it. I think I NEED a coffee grinder. ;-)

  19. Great ideas! I own a grinder but actually never use it for coffee… imagine that! I might pull it out and give some of these ideas a whirl. :)

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