How to Grind Coffee Beans at Home With or Without a Grinder

There’s nothing quite like the taste of coffee brewed from freshly-ground coffee beans. If you’ve never ground coffee beans before, though, the task may seem a bit daunting at first. But never fear! This article is going to teach you how to grind coffee beans at home.

But what if you don’t have a coffee grinder? No worries there, either. Believe it or not, there are a number of effective ways to grind coffee beans using basic kitchen and household items you likely already have on hand. Which means there’s no reason for you not to enjoy some whole-bean coffee goodness!

Read on, and soon you’ll be a master at grinding your own coffee beans.

The Right Coffee for Grinding

If you are going to grind your coffee at home, you need to start with roasted, whole-bean coffee. Thankfully you don’t have to go to a specialty shop to find it. Most grocers carry an adequate selection of whole-bean coffee in a variety of roasts, so you should easily be able to find a favorite blend. As long as the package you pick up describes the contents as Whole Bean Coffee, you’ll be good to go.

How Much Coffee to Grind

The point of grinding your own coffee beans is to experience the freshest brewed coffee possible. That means you’ll only want to grind as much coffee as you’ll need for your immediate needs. A good rule of thumb is to allow 2 – 3 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6-ounces of brewed beverage.

So now that you have your whole-bean coffee and know how many tablespoons you’ll need for brewing, lets get grinding!

How to Grind Coffee Beans at Home WITH a Grinder

The easiest method for grinding coffee beans is with the appliance made specifically for the task: a coffee grinder.

Coffee grinders are fairly easy to find in any retail store that offers small appliances and through online retailers. A limited selection may even be found at grocery and drugstores. If you know you want the experience of freshly-ground coffee on a daily basis, you will want to invest in a coffee grinder to make the process quicker and easier.

There are two kinds of coffee grinders to choose from: electric and manual.

For most people, an electric grinder is going to make perfect sense. You plug it in, press a button, and get your coffee beans ground quickly and consistently day after day. One drawback to an electric grinder is that, obviously, it won’t work if the power goes out. But since your coffee maker probably won’t work then, either, this likely isn’t much of a concern.

What might be of greater concern is that electric coffee grinders can be rather noisy. Their small motors work at high speed to grind the coffee beans, and that can create a high-pitched whirring sound. If you live with other people or in an apartment or condominium with shared walls, those around you may not appreciate your early morning electric coffee grinding. Your goal is to make good coffee, not make enemies of your sleepy loved ones or neighbors!

A quieter alternative is a manual or hand-crank coffee grinder. Although they are not quite as easy to find in brick-and-mortar stores as their electric counterpart, manual grinders can usually be found in larger retail chains as well as in specialty coffee shops. Online retailers also carry a wide selection. You could even score a vintage grinder at a flea market or antique store and end up with a cool conversation piece as well as a great coffee grinder!

A manual grinder is going to require some work on your part as you will have to turn the crank with a bit of pressure to move the coffee beans through the grinding mechanism. It will still make some noise as the beans are crunched through the grinder, but it certainly won’t give off a high-pitched whirring sound like an electric model. So if you need to keep noise to a minimum and can handle the physical task of turning the crank mechanism, a manual grinder might be perfect for you.

So how do you best use each of these grinders?

Electric Blade Grinder

No doubt about it, an electric coffee grinder is going to grind your coffee beans in the least amount of time. If you have an electric grinder, enjoying fresh-ground coffee every day will be a breeze!

Since every electric grinder model is a little different, you’ll first want to read through the manufacturer’s instructions so you know exactly how yours works. The actual grinding process will be pretty much the same for all electric coffee grinder, however, and it goes like this:

Plug in your electric grinder. Remove the lid and add a tablespoon or two of your roasted coffee beans to the grinder cup. The key here is not to overfill your grinder cup. You’ll get the best results working in small batches.

Replace the lid, being sure to lock it in place.

Note: Locking the lid in place is a safety feature, and most grinders won’t work unless the lid is properly closed!

Once the lid is in place, push the button to start the grinding process. With most electric coffee grinders, you will want to pulse the button rather than hold it down continuously. If you run the grinder continuously, you risk ending up with coffee powder instead of coffee grounds.

As you grind, you’ll find that the coffee grounds will tend to stick to the sides of the grinder cup. In order to keep the beans in reach of the grinding blades, you’ll need to tap or gently shake your grinder every few pulses. This will re-level the contents in the grinder cup and ensure a more consistent finished texture.

Once you have “pulsed and tapped” until your coffee beans are ground to the desired consistency, you’ll want to measure them into your coffee maker’s filter basket, your French press, or your pour-over cup. Remember, you’ll want to allow 2 – 3 tablespoons for every six ounces of brewed coffee. If you need more ground coffee, repeat the grinding process with another tablespoon or two of the roasted coffee beans until you’ve ground the desired amount.

Once you have the proper amount of grounds, brew your coffee as usual and enjoy!

 

Manual Burr Grinder

manual coffee grinder

Would you be surprised to learn that many coffee aficionados prefer to use a manual grinder even when they could use an electric grinder? That’s because manual grinders — technically “burr grinders” — work by breaking down coffee beans between two revolving, abrasive surfaces (burrs), which creates two distinct advantages:

  1. Less friction is created during the grinding process which means, in turn, that less heat is produced. Since heat can alter the taste and aroma of ground coffee, less heat means more of the coffee’s alluring smell and robust flavor is retained.
  2. Coffee beans move evenly through the burrs to produce a consistency in the grind that blade grinders can’t match (recall the need to “tap” and level the grounds in the grinder cup described above). What’s more, most manual grinders can be adjusted to create a coarser or finer particle based on what’s best for the chosen brewing method. If the burrs are close together, the grounds will be finer; if the burrs are further apart, a coarser grind results.

The process for grinding coffee beans manually is similar to that used for an electric grinder. So if you have a new, modern grinder that came with a manual, you’ll want to read through that manual to learn how to operate and adjust your grinder. If you don’t have a manual or are using a vintage grinder, you can follow along with the basic instructions provided here and make adjustments as needed to suit your specific grinder model.

Most manual grinders come with a receptacle to hold the coffee once it is ground. If your grinder does not have this feature, you will need to place your own container beneath the grinding mechanism to catch the grounds. Usually a mug, small bowl, or wide-mouth mason jar will work.

If desired, adjust the burrs on your coffee grinder to create the desired grind. Move the burrs further apart if you desire a coarser grind. Adjust the burrs closer together to produce a finer finished texture.

Safety First: Grinding burrs can be very sharp, so be sure to keep your fingers away from the grinding mechanism!

Once you’ve adjusted your grinder, place a few tablespoons of roasted coffee beans in the grinder cup. Begin turning the crank handle. It may take a little effort at first. Once the grinding is underway, keep the crank with a slow and steady movement. Continue until all the coffee beans have moved through the burrs.

Once you have ground your first batch of coffee beans, measure the grounds produced. Allowing 2 – 3 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6-ounces of brewed will help you calculate how much ground coffee you need for your current use. Repeat the grinding process in small batches as needed until you’ve achieved the desired amount of ground coffee. Then, brew your coffee as desired and enjoy!

How to Grind Coffee Beans at Home WITHOUT a Grinder

Have you somehow ended up with a bag of whole bean coffee even though you don’t have a grinder?

Maybe you received the coffee beans as a gift. Perhaps you found a tempting bargain or a specialty roast you just couldn’t resist. It could be you grabbed the wrong bag at the store and brought home whole beans instead of your usual ground coffee. Or maybe you just want to give freshly-ground coffee a try before investing in a grinder.

Whatever the reason, you absolutely can indulge in freshly-ground, whole-bean coffee without a grinder!

The fact is, there are a number of basic kitchen and household items that can be used to make your coffee beans ready for brewing. In most of these processes, the coffee beans are really crushed rather than ground. And the results are not always pretty. But you will be able to brew your coffee, and that’s the most important thing, right?!

So let’s learn how to grind coffee beans at home using basic kitchen and household items you already have on hand.

Blender

If you have a blender with a glass container, you have the means to get a passable grind from your coffee beans. You can use a blender with a plastic container, but be aware that the container might get scratched in the process. The plastic is also likely to retain the smell of the coffee, which could make the blender unpleasant to use for other foods.

If your blender doesn’t have a glass container, we suggest you check out the other options listed below for grinding your coffee beans before proceeding.

blenderAssemble your blender and add one to two tablespoons of your roasted coffee beans. Select the “Chop” or “Grind” setting. Use the pulse button to create intermittent bursts of chopping. Keep a close eye on the process so you don’t powderize the beans. Your best bet will be to stop when you have relatively coarse grounds.

If the blades of your blender get sluggish, remove some of the coffee beans and work with a smaller batch. You want to be careful not to over-burden your blender and burn out the motor.

Continue working with small quantities of beans, removing each batch from the blender completely before starting the next. Once you have the desired amount of ground coffee, brew as usual.

A Note about Food Processors: Although a food processor may seem like a great appliance for grinding coffee beans, it’s actually not well-suited to the task. The blades in most food processors are not designed to chop something as hard as roasted coffee beans. Trying to grind coffee beans will, at best, quickly dull the food processor’s blades or, at worst, completely ruin them. Food processor bowls are typically made of plastic, too, which could become severely scratched by the coffee beans. Unless your manual tells you the model you have is safe to use for the task, we do not recommend using a food process to grind coffee beans.

Rolling Pin

If you have a rolling pin handy, you can create a rough grind — or crush — from your whole bean coffee.

rolling pinPlace the desired amount of coffee beans in a resealable plastic bag (quart-size freezer bags are ideal, but any style will do). Seal the bag, pressing excess air out as you do so. Fold a small towel in half, place it on a sturdy work surface, and slip the bag with the beans inside the fold. This will protect your work surface, keep the bag from sliding while you work, and contain the coffee grounds if the plastic bag should tear.

Press the rolling pin firmly down on the coffee beans and begin rolling. If applying pressure as you roll does not begin breaking down the beans, you may need to use the rolling pin like a hammer to start the process. Once the coffee beans start breaking, continue rolling until they become a coarse grind. When you have the desired amount of crushed coffee, brew as usual.

Mortar and Pestle

Do you have a mortar and pestle? While not the most common of kitchen tools, a mortar and pestle can definitely help you prep your coffee beans for brewing. All you have to do is add some coffee beans to the mortar (bowl) and begin crushing with the pestle.

Mortars tend to be small, so don’t try to work with too many coffee beans at once. The beans need room to move in the bowl as you crush them so they don’t spill out.

You’ll find that a tamping motion will work best with the pestle. Aim for a coarser grind, otherwise you risk turning your coffee beans into coffee powder.

Once you’ve crushed the needed amount of coffee, brew as usual and enjoy.

Meat Tenderizer or Hammer

One of these items you’ll find in your kitchen, the other in your tool box. Both a meat tenderizer (a wooden or metal mallet with pyramid-shaped protrusions on the head) or a hammer can help turn whole coffee beans into a usable grind. It won’t be pretty, but it will get the job done!Meat Tenderizer and Hammer

For best results, place your coffee beans in a resealable plastic bag (quart-size freezer bags are ideal, but any style will do). Seal the bag, pressing excess air out as you do so. Fold a small towel in half, place it on a sturdy work surface, and slip the bag with the beans inside the fold. This will protect your work surface, keep the bag from sliding while you work, and contain the coffee grounds if the plastic bag should tear.

Special Note: Be sure your chosen work surface can take the blows of the meat tenderizer or hammer without incurring damage!

Begin striking the beans with either the meat tenderizer or hammer and repeat until you’ve created a coarse crumble. Once you’ve measured out the quantity of “ground” coffee you need, add the coffee to your brewer and enjoy.

Storing Coffee Beans and Ground Coffee

To preserve the freshness of your whole bean coffee for future use, be sure to store them in a sealed container. The bags whole bean coffee is sold in can usually be rolled closed and secured with tabs attached to the bag. For best results, push as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it closed.

You can also transfer your coffee beans to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Coffee beans in a decorative jar can make a nice display on your counter, in fact. Just be aware that whatever jar you use will end up smelling like coffee, so you may not want to use it for anything else thereafter.

If you ground a bit too much coffee to use at one time, or if you prefer to grind enough coffee to last a few days, never fear. You can also store the ground coffee in a resealable plastic bag or a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Again, whatever container you use is going to retain that coffee smell, so select a storage option where this won’t be a problem in future use.

coffee beans in storage jar

 

That’s the Grind!

Now that you know how to grind coffee beans at home, you can enjoy the freshness just-ground coffee on a daily basis. Though, if you’re still not convinced grinding your own coffee beans is worth the effort, we invite you to check out the following article: Is it Better to Grind Your Own Coffee Beans? Four Things to Consider. It might just make up your mind!

We’d love to hear about your whole-bean coffee experience, so leave us a comment in the space below. Or, if you have a question, ask away! We look forward to hearing from you!

12 Comments

  1. Rod Brown

    We share the same opinion on the effects of temperatures and freshly ground beans.  I had no appreciation for coffee when I first acquired the taste in the Navy, but now, enjoy it regularly.  Mr. Coffee made his fortune on the fact that coffee did not percolate until it reached the temperature of 212 degrees F and consequently burned the grounds but the best temp for brewing was 160.  The same holds true with the slower hand burr method.  and as I will probably buy one soon, Do you have a suggestion as to where I should buy it?

    • Cheri

      I think all coffee lovers have that “turning point” in their lives when they first began to enjoy coffee. It is an acquired taste, in my opinion, as many good things are! I am currently researching hand burr grinders as I’m a bit fascinated by them, so check back in the future for my recommendations. I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong so don’t want to advise before I’ve thoroughly checked them out. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Rod!

  2. Alejandra

    Hi!

    Nothing can be nicer than a place where someone just made coffee.

    I’m becoming a coffee lover and this article will help me to make a better coffee cup at home, I will try a couple of your ideas to grind coffee beans at home without a grinder.

    Getting to know how to do it without a grinder will be handy as I use to spend time during Summer in a cabin where there’s no power, but I wanted to know how could I do it.

    Your tip on how to keep fresh coffee beans will help me to bring with me some coffee to the cabin and keep it fresh during those hot weather months.

    • Cheri

      I’m glad you are discovering the joys of coffee, Alejandra. If you, like me, come to prefer grinding your own coffee beans but spend time where there is no electricity (like your cabin…for me it’s while camping), a nice hand grinder might be easier than relying on the other methods listed, but they should all help in the mean time. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Barbara

    I love the smell  of fresh ground coffee in the grocery stores.  To have that smell in your kitchen every day could be close to heaven for coffee lovers. Your article was very thorough.  The difference between manual grinders and electric grinders was clearly defined. I never considered grinding coffee with OUT a coffee grinder but it turns out you can, and the author clearly describes with what and how to do it. If fresh coffee in your cup every day is a must, this article is a must read.

    • Cheri

      That coffee smell is a wonderful thing, isn’t it, Barbara? I enjoy it so much, too, and that’s another reason I love to grind my own coffee beans at home. Personally I have never considered grinding coffee beans without a proper grinder, either, but I did find myself in a bind recently…I’d just moved, my grinder was who-knows-where, and a friend gave me a lovely housewarming gift of some amazing-smelling coffee beans. That’s what got me curious about options for grinding coffee beans even without a grinder. Thankfully, though, I found the right box where my grinder was tucked and went on to enjoy those coffee beans to the fullest. Thank you for your visit!

  4. Nathalie

    Thanks a lot for this interesting article, Cheri. 🙂 I had no idea I could grind coffee without a coffee grinder! Wow! I bought an electric coffee grinder a few years ago and I am very happy with it (although it is also quite noisy as you say yourself), but it’s great to know what I could do if it ever stops working or if there is an electricity outage when I need to grind some coffee… . this is also pretty cool to know for when I am travelling and I don’t have my coffee grinder with me… And this could also be fun for my son to do! I have bookmarked your blog to come back to it later and check out your other posts.  🙂 Nathalie  

    • Cheri

      Thanks for your kind comments, Nathalie. I’m glad you found the article helpful. I have an electric grinder myself, and while it does a fine job, I usually have to remind myself to grind my coffee beans the night before so I don’t wake up my husband in the morning! I, too, though, am glad there are a few other “rough and ready” options available should the power go out. I keep telling myself I should get a nice hand grinder, but I just haven’t done that yet. I’ll surely report on it when I do, though! 🙂  I’m glad you visited and do hope you’ll do so again. Coffee-cup cheers to you!

  5. Edwin IBU

    Coffee to me is a great drink. I’ve never seen the coffee beans before but its great to know how to grind without a grinder. Seeing that the grinding machines are noisy it would be nice to grind manually.

    The manual burrr grinder will make a good device to keep at home to use when one wants a noiseless grind. A normal blender is also not a bad option because it is in most homes already. I feel the mortar and pestle method will take too much time and effort.

    • Cheri

      I so agree, Edwin, and I would only “mortar and pestle” my coffee beans as a last resort. I think I’d find a hammer or rolling pin first! That said, you are right, that a nice burr grinder is a far better option to have on hand. The fact that they are quieter than the electric grinders can be a great benefit in some situations. Whatever way one grinds coffee beans, though, doing so does provide a very good-tasting, fresh cup. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Tarun

    OMG Cheri! you are a money saver! I LOVE my freshly brewed coffee and its so expensive where i live!

    now i dont have to buy my cup in the morning or rush about in the morning so I have time to go to the barista and not be late for work! I just have to invest in a good blender!

    until i read your post I never knew once could do it at home! i thought it was restricted to starbucks and the same!

    good point about the blades getting dull quickly and using a rolling pin! I’m thinking if i use a flat hammer and crush them a bit should work the same as a rolling pin? What do you think?

    • Cheri

      Tarun I think anything that will break up the coffee beans will give you ground coffee you can work with. Keep in mind, though, that you can find both a hand grinder or electric grinder for very little cost…especially when you consider the money (and time!) you will save by making your fresh, delicious coffee at home! For the same price as a few coffee-shop coffees, you can have your own grinder made for the purpose of creating a great cup of coffee for you. I do think you will enjoy the process whichever method you choose. Thank you for visiting!

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