It’s a sad day when you have to grind coffee without a coffee grinder. You’re in desperate need of coffee for some reason, but you don’t have a coffee grinder.
But you still have an army of utensils in your kitchen, so there’s something we can figure out. Many of these will require a lot of elbow grease in some cases.
I’ve organized these methods based on which grid size is easiest to obtain using each of them. You can choose whichever you prefer or is most comfortable for you.
I’ll also explain why using the flat edge of a knife or a blender to make coffee isn’t the best idea.
For very fine and fine ground coffee
If you want to grind your coffee to a fine or very fine grind, you’ll need a lot of elbow grease. This is what you’ll need for espresso, as well as Turkish coffee.
And, because most people drink espresso or drip-filter coffee, you’re likely to need this type of grind.
We need consistency in the grind, especially with espresso, which is why these two alternatives (yep, you’ll have two for each size) demand so much input from you. A poor grind job results in a poor espresso shot, so use caution.
A mortar and pestle will produce a fine, powdery grind for your coffee.
Although not everyone owns a mortar and pestle, I believe many people have this ancient but incredibly useful device at home. It’s useful in various ways, and it’s remained essentially unchanged since its inception.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
The advantage of using a mortar and pestle is that you have complete control over everything. Everything matters the speed, the pressure, the size of your coffee.
The disadvantage is that you can only grind in small batches and must do all the work yourself. I suppose you could start by crushing the beans with a hammer and then grinding them to a powder with the mortar and pestle.
So, to begin, you’ll need a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have any and this method appeals to you, try this one by ChefSofi.
It’s a 6-inch mortar with a 2 cup capacity with a pestle from the same set. It’s made of heavy granite, so you’ll have a good grip on it as you crush and powder those coffee beans.
This mortar and pestle set includes a self-adhesive counter protector pad to keep your counter safe. It also functions as an anti-slip mat.
Once you’ve assembled your equipment, place as many coffee beans as you’d like to crush for your cup of coffee. If you’re going to make espresso, a standard espresso shot will require 7-9 grams.
It is recommended that you smash your beans with the back of a meat tenderizer or anything similar to at least crack them open before cooking them in the oven.
It’s up to you whether to start pounding them right in the mortar. Once your beans have begun to crack, separating each piece and grinding it to a fine powder is simple; it just takes time.
First, apply consistent pressure while slightly twisting the pestle to grind each part of the coffee splinter.
You’ll be doing this for a few minutes, so feel free to set the mortar down, pick it up, walk around with it, curse at it, huff and puff, whatever you need to do.
There is no specific technique to this; grind as hard as possible. Try to make all of the pieces as even as possible.
You can stop at any point between coarse, medium, and fine ground coffee, but this is the best method for getting fine and very fine ground coffee.
In a Ziploc bag, roll/crush coffee with a rolling pin.
If a mortar and pestle appear to be too much for you, or if you prefer a more French chef style of coffee making, grab an empty Ziploc bag and a rolling pin.
Fill the bag with beans and squeeze out as much air as possible. Make certain that the bag is securely closed. Because the coffee may poke a hole in the bag, use the thickest Ziploc bag you can find.
Place a kitchen rag or towel on your counter or table for the first few minutes. This is done partly to muffle the sound and protect your kitchen from flying coffee shards.
If everything is in order, place the coffee bag on the towel and lay it as flat as possible. Attempt to have only one layer of beans, with no overlapping beans.
Then, grab your rolling pin. It helps if you have an old-fashioned wooden one that is thick and heavy. You’ll start by hitting the coffee beans vertically with the rolling pin.
Alternatively, you can crush them by rocking the pin from one end to another.
Once your beans have cracked, you can start rolling them with constant pressure. As you see fit, use more rocking motions.
This method will also yield a fine and very fine grind size; keep in mind that you may need to shake the coffee bag now and then to rearrange the bits and pieces so you don’t grind them very small ones into a powder while aiming for the large ones.
If you can’t crush them in the first place (they’re difficult to find), you can always start with a mallet or small hammer.
Medium and medium-large ground coffee
If you prefer a medium, possibly medium fine, or medium-large grind size, these options may be better for you.
A medium grind is ideal for drip filters, Moka pots, Chemex, and other 3-minute brewing methods.
When the coffee is the size of crystalized sugar or sea salt flakes, you’ve reached a medium grind.
To grind the coffee, use a food processor.
The first option, and most likely the one you’ll choose, is to use a food processor. Not a blender, and I’ll explain why in a moment; please bear with me.
A food processor is usually faster and more powerful than a blender, and most people have one in their kitchen.
So get the coffee beans ready, and be aware that you’ll be expected to contribute to this effort in some way. Isn’t it funny how the blades aren’t exactly flush with the bottom of the bowl, leaving approximately a half-inch gap between them?
If you want a uniform grind, you’ll need to tilt the processor slightly and use short bursts of power. If you run the food processor continuously, you’d end up with a very fine grind before you could stop it.
It also implies that you can, and should, use a larger quantity of beans than usual. This is because the beans must be on top of the blades somehow.
That is, each time the beans are ground to a fine powder, you will need to shake the processor slightly so that the larger bits rise to the top and the smaller ones fall to the bottom.
This will ensure that a layer of crushed beans is always touching the blades. True, it won’t be the most uniformly ground coffee. However, it will suffice in a pinch.
You should also be aware that the heat generated by the spinning blades will cause the natural oils in the coffee beans to adhere to everything. As a result, your ground coffee, as well as the processor, maybe a little greasy.
This is heavily influenced by the degree of roast used and the bean type. Darker roasts, on average, have more coffee oils visible on the surface.
If you don’t already have a food processor, this Cuisinart model is an excellent choice. It’s a 3 cup model, and I think it’s just the right size for grinding coffee without taking up too much counter space.
It is available in various colors, so you can choose the one that best suits your kitchen.
Also, keep in mind that this food processor has a 250-watt motor and that it should not be used to grind beans because it chops. Which is fair, but aren’t we in a bit of a hurry here?
Use a meat tenderizer or hammer first, followed by the rolling pin.
If you don’t want to use a food processor, you can use the rolling pin method I mentioned earlier, but with a twist.
Again, you’ll need a hammer, mallet, meat tenderizer, or anything else that can crush and crack the coffee beans. Then, roll them with a rolling pin once your beans have been opened.
To keep the coffee from flying everywhere, alternate between a sideways rocking motion and a rolling motion, and, yes, use a closed Ziploc bag.
Keep in mind that this method will require a keen eye for the differences between the coffee bits. Some parts will be larger after being cracked with a hammer or a similar item, while others will be smaller.
You’ll need to keep shaking the coffee bag to separate the smaller and larger pieces, and you’ll need to keep rolling and rocking until you reach the desired size.
Depending on the grind size you want, you can stop this at any point, such as medium coarse, medium, or medium-fine.
To use with coarse ground coffee.
When making cold brew coffee or French press, coarse ground coffee will come in handy because both of these brewing methods necessitate a longer brewing time than traditional brewing.
When the size of Himalayan salt or cracked peppercorns, you know your coffee is coarsely ground. Getting to this size is simple, as it may only take a few minutes.
However, achieving an even coarse grind takes time and patience.
Coffee can be crushed with a hammer or meat tenderizer.
If you have coffee beans in a ziploc bag, one of the first things you can try is to pound the bag until it is the proper size.
Put your beans in a plastic bag and pressing out as much air as possible will help them last longer.
To avoid deafening everyone in the house, place a towel on the table or counter under the bag.
As soon as everything is in position, check to see that your beans are not stacked on top of one another but rather in a single layer.
Then, using short yet strong strokes, begin hammering the beans into submission.
Because you won’t know how hard to hit them at first, it’s best to start out softly. The result of hitting the coffee too hard maybe a cup of medium or fine particles without even recognizing it.
So, begin with a fine grind and work your way up to a coarse grind by hammering a bit here and there during the process.
You should be aware that some of the pieces will be smaller than others. It’s impossible to stay away from it. Trying to crack the larger ones will result in medium-sized ground coffee, so stop before you reach that point.
If all sizes are ‘coarse,’ but some are slightly larger than others, it’s best to leave them alone and work with what you’ve got.
Crush coffee beans with a hand mincer.
A hand mincer may not be in everyone’s kitchen, but if you have one, use it in this case. It’s one of the few methods for getting coarse ground coffee that works.
Here’s an example of a hand mincer if you’re unfamiliar with the term.
It’s a hand-crank meat mincer with an extruder at one end and a feeder on top. It fits on your table or kitchen counter and grinds or minces food.
When placing the mincer on your table, make sure it fits snugly and does not move. That thing is heavy, and you don’t want to put it on your toes.
In order to use the machine, place the coffee beans into the upper aperture and turn it on until all of the beans are used. They will be coarse at first, and you can stop there. After that, there’s no reason to go any further.
However, if you prefer a medium grind, you can run the ground beans through the machine again to obtain a finer grind.
Do not use a knife or a blender.
Okay, so you now have some options for safely grinding coffee at home. But what about a knife or a blender? You may have heard some people say they’d be useful in a pinch.
To be completely honest, they would. Even if they are capable of chopping up coffee beans, the cost of doing so prevents them from being featured on this list.
Why you shouldn’t grind coffee beans with a knife
Coffee beans can be ground with a knife by cracking them with the wide, flat edge of the blade. But, of course, this means you’ll need to use the blade’s flat to press down on the beans.
In order to avoid cutting your hand (coffee beans are rough and occasionally oily), you must be very careful not to slip and send the knife flying all over the kitchen.
We’re not crushing garlic here, people. Coffee isn’t soft, and no one should try to crack hard beans with something with a sharp edge.
I don’t recommend using the flat of a knife to crack the beans unless you’re a ninja with incredible reflexes and a very steady hand. There are a plethora of other, safer, more dependable options.
Why you shouldn’t grind coffee beans in a blender
On the other hand, Blenders should be avoided because they are not designed to crush coffee beans. Even blenders that can crush ice aren’t meant to be used regularly.
Most commercial household blenders are designed for chopping and pureeing softer foods, such as vegetables and a few nuts.
When the blades wear out, it is possible that they will break down faster. Crushing coffee beans accelerates this process.
There’s also the fact that a blender will get a little hot while you’re using it, which means the same thing could happen with the food processor – coffee oils everywhere.
Finally, coffee, with its distinct smell and flavor, is difficult to remove from appliances. To get rid of the odor, you’ll need to wash the blender several times.
When MacGyvering anything, try to be cautious, including grinding coffee beans without a grinder.
The options I’ve discussed in this post are intended to be a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution.
If the thought of grinding your coffee is too much for you, opt for pre-ground coffee. You have a much lower chance of injuring yourself.