Grinding Indian spices (Garam masala) in a Krupps coffee grinder that I use for this purpose, the machine started smoking and now I am scared to use it. I live in a tiny NYC apartment. What type of small, durable grinder do you recommend?
First...is the 'smoke' actually a burned electrical smoke. with the eletrical smell.
When using a spice grinder sometimes you'll get fine particles of spices coming out in a 'smoke like cloud'. Especially if your using salt to make fine popcorn salt, or sugar to make powdered sugar which will make white 'smoke' from the dust, or just any spice ground to dust. Or even Garam masala.
That dust cloud can be easily mistaken for 'smoke'. So rethink and try again to be sure your grinder is 'toast' and needs to go into a landfill. My spice grinder which is Krupps also grinds stuff to a fine dust which can be perceived as 'smoke' if it's ground into 'dust'. Which is a good thing for popcorn salt with dried lime zest. (sneeze).
To add up for spice grinder advice. We only have one used for both coffee and spices. Because I learned a trick for cleaning a spice grinder.
After using it for spices, even Indian spices, Clean it by grinding a tablespoon of raw rice, a tsp of baking soda. It'll bounce around and eventually make a paste in the grinder. Rinse and repeat cleaning under the blades (a pipe cleaner is good for that, or paper towel rolled up to remove the paste from blades)..until all the all spice smell is gone. Usually just two application of rice/soda works for me and drying and rinsing between applications and it's good as new. Ready for coffee or spices.
Results: we only have one electric spice grinder that does double duty with no carry over flavors for coffee.
Myself, I use manual grinders. I have two, both with ceramic burrs. One is a hand cranked Japanese coffee grinder which I think you can still buy from the Food52 Shop. Recently I picked up a Kuhn Rikon grinder at Sur La Table. The latter has a lever action which I like because my right thumb is kind of wonky.
For grinding spices, I agree that a mortar and pestle is the easiest tool for home use, Not to mention its versatility in Its abilities with other products too. Saves space, nothing to plug in an easily cleaned.