How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder

What if your grinder breaks down? Or, worse yet, you don’t even have a grinder? If that’s the case, don’t worry. It’s still possible to grind your coffee even without one.

You don’t have to be a professional barista to know that in order to make a cup of coffee, you first have to grind coffee beans. It’s grinding that allows the water you use in the brewing process to extract coffee. If you were to use whole coffee beans, the result would be unsatisfying, to say the least. The reason for this is that the water can only effectively dissolve coffee beans that have been ground.

Now, when it comes to grinding coffee beans, the most effective way to do it is by using a coffee grinder. Those come in a variety of types, starting with the power source (manual or electric) and ending with the cutting mechanism (blades, flat burrs, or conical burrs). Each grinder works differently, providing various levels of coffee grounds. We’re not going to dive too deep into their specifics, but let’s just quickly say that conical and flat burr grinders are preferred among coffee enthusiasts, as they provide more even cuts than blade grinders.

But what if your grinder breaks down? Or, worse yet, you don’t even have a grinder? If that’s the case, don’t worry. It’s still possible to grind your coffee even without one. In fact, there are numerous coffee grinding methods you can use. And while they are not perfect, they will get the job done, preventing you from having to drink instant or a week-old pre-ground coffee.

Learn how to grind your beans in style with these six simple grinding methods:

Grinding Coffee Mechanically

Blenders and food processors can work as a great alternative to coffee grinders. Of course, they won’t provide you with the level of precision coming with a burr grinder. Still, if you want to grind your beans quickly, using a blender or food processor will do the trick.

Blender

Your blender can be a fantastic alternative to a coffee grinder. Working like a standard blade grinder, a blender will grind beans by chopping them into a, more or less even, coffee grind size. Some blenders even come with a grinder setting. And if yours doesn’t, any high-speed setting should do the trick.

Now, although very convenient, grinding coffee beans in a blender comes with a few cons. First of all, using a blender continuously makes blades heat up, which can result in ‘cooking’ the beans, leading to a more bitter taste. Secondly, you won’t have practically any control over how the blender grinds your coffee beans, so unless you’re good with coarse grind size, using your blender might not be the best choice.

To grind your coffee beans with the blender, follow these steps:

1

Toss the coffee into the blender - ⅓ cup of coffee beans should be enough.

2

Set your blender to the grinder setting. If you don’t have that option, set it to medium-high.

3

Grind your coffee beans using a pulse function to set time limits of 2-5 seconds. You can also do it manually.

4

Repeat this until you reach your desired ground consistency.

Food Processor

Grinding coffee with your food processor will provide you with practically the same results as when using a blender. It’s a short and straightforward way to grind whole beans, but it won’t provide you with much control during the grinding process. The only difference between using a food processor and a blender is that the first requires more beans. That’s because a food processor’s circumference is typically wider than in the case of a blender.

Usually, using your food processor to grind beans involves the following steps:

1

Toss coffee beans into the food processor (half a cup of beans should be enough) and close the lid.

2

Use the pulse setting to grind your beans in time intervals of 3-5 seconds.

3

Repeat the whole process until you're happy with the grind size.

How to Grind Coffee Beans by Hand

If by any chance, you don’t have a blender nor food processor at your disposal, you can grind coffee beans manually. The following methods might take some time, but they will provide you with a great result if you put some effort into them.

Mortar and Pestle

Grinding your beans using mortar and pestle is by far the most traditional method here. Interestingly, the tradition of grinding coffee with mortar and pestle comes from Ethiopia, where it’s used to perform the coffee ceremony called ‘bunna maflat, which means ‘to brew coffee’ in Amharic.

In general, this method involves a combination of hammering and rolling motion. This helps produce a more consistent grind mixture, as you have more control over the process. Using mortar and pestle, you can make coarse coffee grounds, perfect when brewing coffee using a french-press coffee maker. You can also make the grounds finer. It all depends on how firmly and for how long you grind the coffee beans.

The mortar and pestle grinding process looks as follows:

1

Put coffee beans to the mortar - ⅓ of the way with a bigger mortar and ¼ with a smaller one. This will allow you to achieve a more consistent grind faster.

2

Hold the pestle with your dominant hand with the mortar in your other hand.

3

At first, use the pestle like a hammer to crush the beans, then switch to a rolling motion to create a finer ground.

4

You can continue to grind the beans until you reach your desired coffee ground texture.

Rolling Pin

If you enjoy French press coffee, the rolling pin grinding method will likely become your favorite one. That’s because when using a rolling pin to grind coffee beans, the grind becomes coarser, which, as we already mentioned, is the ideal grind size for the French press brewing method.

However, if you want to try out this grinding method, you need to prepare yourself for quite a lot of work. Using a rolling pin as your coffee grinder alternative is labor-intensive. It also requires the right execution and precision, enabling you to obtain that medium to fine grind. Aside from your rolling pin, you should also equip yourself with a plastic bag to prevent the beans from flying all around your kitchen.

Here’s how to grind coffee with a rolling pin:

1

Place a small amount of coffee in the bag and close it (we’d recommend using a ziplock bag for the best result).

2

Place the bag flat on the counter or cutting board.

3

First, smash the beans by using your rolling pin like a hammer. Once you do that, start rolling over them.

4

Keep rolling your pin until you reach the desired grind consistency. Be patient, though. This process usually takes a while and requires some effort.

Hammer

Using a hammer to grind coffee beans might seem a bit extreme at first, but it is, in fact, a handy way to get a coarse grind. When grinding with this technique, be careful not to damage your countertop. You don’t have to smack the beans too hard to get them to your desired grind size. Like in the rolling pin method, place your coffee beans in a ziplock bag. You can also use a meat tenderizer or mallet to crack the beans.

To grind your coffee beans with a hammer, follow these steps:

1

Place the bag with your coffee beans flat on the counter or cutting board.

2

Use your hammer to crush the beans. Remember that you don’t have to use all your strength to do it.

3

Keep crushing the coffee until you reach a consistent grind texture. Our tip here is to crush from both sides of the bag.

Knife

If every other method fails or isn’t available, you can always grind coffee beans with your knife. Now, we’re not talking here about chopping whole beans. It’s possible but rather dangerous. Instead, you can use the knife to squash and crack the beans. For this purpose, it’s best to use a knife with a wider surface. Although not the best of the grinding techniques mentioned, using your knife should provide you with a medium-fine grind rather quickly.

When using your knife to grind the coffee, you should:

1

Place your coffee beans on the cutting board. You can cover them with a paper towel to avoid making too much of a mess in the kitchen.

2

Place the flat side of your knife on the beans.

3

Use your hand to press down the knife and crack the coffee (like you would do with a clove of garlic).

Different Types of Coffee Grinds

It’s not just the tool involved that differentiates all the coffee bean grinding techniques mentioned above. Each method will provide you with a different coffee grind size. And while it might not seem like that big of a deal, it has a massive impact on the coffee taste.

Of course, the grind consistency is also vital to make a great cup of coffee. The grind size, though, will determine the brewing process, as various grinds work better or worse depending on different brewing methods.

The reason behind this is that each brewing method uses various mechanisms to extract the maximum flavor from the coffee. To optimize the extraction, you need to consider a specific type of ground coffee. Otherwise, coffee won’t taste good.

We can distinguish four main coffee grinds:

  • Coarse grind - best for French press and cold brew coffee brewing methods
  • Super fine grind - perfect when brewing Turkish coffee - ideal for filter coffee
  • Fine grind - working best for espresso
  • Superfine grind - perfect when brewing Turkish coffee

Regarding each type of the coffee ground to grinding methods, it looks as follows:

  • Grinding with a blender will give you a coarse or medium grind. The same goes for using a food processor.
  • Super fine grind - perfect when brewing Turkish coffee - ideal for filter coffee
  • When grinding with a rolling pin, you’ll get either coarse, medium, or fine grind.
  • Crashing beans with a hammer will bring you a coarse or medium grind. A similar effect can be achieved when using a knife.

And if you wonder whether the grind size matters, try using a coarse grind to make an espresso in a french press technique. The result will be awful. Trust us on this one.

Tips on How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder

Tips on How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder

Knowing different grinding methods is one thing. The other is ensuring that you use them properly. And while each technique comes with its own unique specifications, there are several do’s and don’ts that apply to all of them.

That being said, here’s what you should keep in mind every time you grind your coffee - with or without a grinder:

  • Keep all the tools you use clean as coffee soaks up different aromas and flavors almost instantly. And you can be sure that the last thing you want is for your coffee to taste like anything but coffee.
  • Even if you don’t have any of the tools mentioned above (which would be weird, to be honest), you can still grind the coffee. In fact, anything can be used to grind beans, be it an old recipe book, a rock, or a shoe.
  • If you drink coffee every day, get a grinder. Using everything that isn’t a grinder might be fun, but all these methods can’t compare to the level of precision a professional coffee grinder provides.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, there are numerous ways to grind coffee beans without a grinder. And while not one of them will provide you with as precise and consistent grind as when using a coffee grinder, they will do the trick if you’re in desperate need of a cup of coffee.

However, remember that each method will deliver a different grind size. Keep this in mind when deciding on one grinding technique, as the size of your ground coffee has a huge impact on the brewing method. For instance, if you usually drink Turkish coffee, you should only use an extra-fine grind to make it. This means that you should grind coffee beans using mortar and pestle.

In general, all these methods will work brilliantly. Still, the right idea would be to get yourself a coffee grinder, especially if you drink more than one cup of coffee every day. Check out our guide to coffee grinders, and choose the one that works for you best. And for the time being, make sure to try out the methods given above. They will certainly not disappoint!

FAQs About Grinding Coffee Beans

Why do I need to grind coffee?

As covered in the article, grinding your coffee opens up the bean’s structure. This gives water more material to work with, helping it extract as much coffee as possible. Ground coffee also comes with several benefits, such as a brighter taste and increased aroma. In other words, if you want to enjoy a cup of delicious coffee, grinding the beans is a must.

Can I brew coffee using whole coffee beans?

As covered in the article, grinding your coffee opens up the bean’s structure. This gives water more material to work with, helping it extract as much coffee as possible. Ground coffee also comes with several benefits, such as a brighter taste and increased aroma. In other words, if you want to enjoy a cup of delicious coffee, grinding the beans is a must.

Which grind is the best?

There’s no such thing as the best type of coffee grind. It all depends on how you prefer to brew your coffee. For instance, the coarse grind is ideal for French press brewing, whereas fine grind will provide the most tasteful espresso.

For how long can I store ground coffee?

As a rule of thumb, you should always grind your coffee beans just before you brew the coffee. Of course, you might not always have time for this. If that’s the case, you can grind more beans and put some of them in a sealed container. When sealed, ground coffee will last for two days until it loses practically all of its aromatic compounds. It will also begin to oxidize, which will only ruin the taste more.

What is the best way to grind coffee beans?

Using a grinder, of course. And if you don’t have one, then whatever method suits you best. If you’re looking for precision, the best way is to use mortar and pestle. Whereas if you don’t have much time and want to grind beans fast, we’d recommend using a blender.

About the Author Greg Haver

Hey there, my name is Greg and I'm the creator and editor of Coffee or Bust. I've been in the coffee business for over a decade, and my goal is to help you make the best cup of coffee with recommended tips, tools, and tricks!

  • Jill Flynn says:

    I drink coffee on a regular basis and I’ve got to say, your blog is a huge help in deciding what kind of coffee I should be drinking for the benefit of my health. Just wanted to say thanks

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