Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to grind up whole coffee beans but had no grinder? I have. I made the mistake of going on vacation with a bag of whole bean coffee, my French Press, and no grinder.
So I had to improvise. Because I know we have all been there at some point, I decided to give you a list of all the ways I know how to grind coffee beans without a grinder.
Grinding by hand could be the better choice.
Sometimes, choosing to crush or grind your beans by hand could be the better choice because you don’t run the risk of accidentally heating the beans like you would with the friction caused while using electric grinders. They might be fast but that could be the problem.
When you choose to grind your beans by hand, only do a few beans at a time to make sure that you have consistent particles. Inconsistency can cause the flavor to be off.
1. Meat Hammer or Tenderizer
This is the method I used when I was away from home with no grinder. I took a plastic ziplock bag, put the beans in it, and sealed it. Then I put the bag on a flat surface (a cutting board if you have one) and used the flat side of the tenderizer to chop the beans.
You can use the pointy side but make sure the tips don’t pierce your bag. This will cause the beans to spill out. Chop the beans until you have reached the consistency you need.
This method won’t give you a fine or very fine grind but its great for a French Press. Its probably only going to give you a coarse to medium grind.
The (regular) hammer is exactly like the meat tenderizer. Some people don’t have a meat tenderizer but the majority have a hammer so you can use a ziplock bag just as you would for the meat tenderizer and crush the beans the same way.
Try not to beat the bag too hard with the hammer, you shouldn’t take your anger of not having a grinder out on the bag (just kidding).
If you have access to a blender, you can use it for crushing your coffee beans because it is basically a larger version of a blade grinder. It isn’t going to be as good as a burr grinder but it will work in a pinch. Use the pulse while grinding to reduce the heat and do it in short bursts.
Heat produced when grinding can mess up the coffee’s flavor so try to minimize this if possible.
Also, make sure your blender can handle solids before you use it.
4. Food Processor
This method is similar to the blender.
When using a food processor, start with a scoop of beans. I use the pulse button so I can control how long it spins. This helps reduce the amount of heat that the processor produces. If you tilt the processor to one side while grinding, the larger chunks of beans have a chance to come in contact with the blades.
This method isn’t the first one I would choose but if you are in a hurry or this is all you have to work with, it is certainly better than nothing.
If you decide to use a knife for bean grinding, make sure it is a larger bladed knife like a butcher’s knife or chef’s knife. You want to use the flat side so you can crush the beans and not cut them.
When you use the knife, put the beans on a cutting board and press the flat side of the knife on the beans as you crush them. Move it around until you have an even, uniform consistency to your bean. Be careful not to cut yourself and be aware that you won’t get a fine or extra fine grind using this method.
6. Grill Press
A grill press is another great option that can be used much like the knife to crush the beans. It is only going to give you coarse to medium grounds but this will work just fine in a French Press or any other coffee maker that takes this size bean.
Follow the same method as the knife, with a plastic bag and press the beans with the grill press.
7. Rolling Pin
A rolling pin is a pretty common household item that can both crush and grind the coffee beans with its back and forth motion. You will need to use some of those muscles to press and roll at the same time.
You will be able to get a medium to fine grind size depending on how well you can press and roll.
Use a ziplock and cutting board like you would with a few other of the methods I mentioned. Place the beans in the bag and while the bag is laying flat, roll and press to crush the beans until you have the right consitency.
Tip: You can use parchment paper if you don’t have a ziplock bag.
8. Hand Mincer
A traditional hand mincer is used to chop meat but you can use it for your coffee beans as well.
Just like you would when you chop meat, you place the beans in the top and place a bowl at the bottom where the beans will come out to catch them after they are chopped. You can put them through the mincer more than once to chop them up a few times.
You will probably not get any smaller than a medium grind with this method.
9. Mortar and Pestle
Of all the hand grinding techniques, this one is the best in my opinion. It will allow you to have the most control. You can produce a grind size all the way from coarse to very fine.
A mortar and pestle has been used for centuries to grind herbs, spices and medicines.
When using it for coffee, fill the mortar will a small amount of the beans to allow you the most control. You can grind as many batches as necessary to get the amount of grounds you need. If you over-fill the mortar, you will only make a mess and have a more inconsistent grind.
After you put your beans in the mortar, hold the pestle with your dominant hand and press down to crush the beans. You can then spin the mortar and continue to crush until the right consistency is produced.
There are many different ways to crush a coffee bean, some better than others. I hope I was able to give you some insight into a few creative ways to save you in a pinch. If you have a way that I didn’t mention, please share it in the comments below. I love when people get creative!