SPICE MILL/GRINDER: any favorites? Recommendations? One easy to clean. Does it have to be a burr grinder?

Cuoca Marchisio


innoabrd March 25, 2011
I'm kind of embarrassed to find myself on the same side as CI...

I do have a suribachi and find it really useful for making emulsions of, for example, raw garlic and (pre-ground) spice and oil. I use it a few times a year and am glad to have it, but can't imagine trying to grind dry, whole spice in it!
betteirene March 25, 2011
I just received the latest Cook's Illustrated e-mail newsletter with a link to to a product testing they just did with 13 grinders. They recommend electric coffee grinders (Krups, Braun, Mr. Coffee--what I have, Capresso, all in the $15-$25 range) over every other brand of spice mill or spice grinder. Here's what CI concluded:

"Many manufacturers tout grinding mechanisms made of ceramic, which is said to be superhard and corrosion-resistant. Despite these alleged advantages, we found that these models clogged easily with spice residue, essentially stopping the output of ground spices. The same was true for steel mechanisms. That, added to the exhausting, frustrating, endless twisting required to wrest ground spices from these units, made testing six of them consecutively seem like an act of masochism. On the whole, we'd skip torsion-operated grinders altogether.

"Next up were three versions of the age-old mortar and pestle, including a Japanese suribachi with a textured grinding surface to help break down the contents. As a group, these were no more effective than the torsion-operated grinders. While the action required to work a mortar and pestle was less stressful than the repetitive motion required to work the torsion-operated grinders, it was still too much effort considering the disappointing piles of bruised, mangled seeds that we produced.

"Last up were the electric coffee grinders, which were, in short, like breaths of fresh air. The only physical exertion required to use them was pressing a button. No stress, strain, or sore forearms, and they produced consistently good results on all of the test spices. And it only got better: The coffee grinders were easy to brush or wipe clean (just mind the blade!), easy to control for texture of grind, and no more expensive than the manual grinders and mortars and pestles."
macollins March 23, 2011
I'd recommend that you don't get any grinder where you can't remove the 'bucket'. Every time I use the Cuisinart Bar Grinder that I was gifted, I curse the fact I need to turn the entire thing upside down to get the spices out. It's not one of their best designs.
innoabrd March 23, 2011
I have a cheap electric coffee grinder I use for spices (and a separate one for coffee). I simply wipe it out with a paper towel after use and don't worry too much about the brown fog that has developed on the plexi top. I've used the same, cheap grinder now for more than ten years.

However, for a day-to-day pepper mill, you can't beat a William Bounds. When we lived in India (96-99) I got used to using really good pepper from kerala with big grains. probably what's called Tellicherry in the US. I found the big grains destroyed a number of grinders, including two william bounds. However, the Bounds have a lifetime warranty and I finally called them after I demolished the second. I explained the issue and magically, the next one they sent me worked fine and has been in daily use for around 8 or 10 years now.
aargersi March 23, 2011
I use a Hamilton Beach coffee grinder I bought at Target - it has a removable bucket which makes it easy to get the spices out and also to clean, and works just fine for my needs! I think it was $15.00 or so - cheap!
pierino March 22, 2011
Interesting question in that I just bought one today. Actually it's a hand cranked Hario coffee mill with ceramic burrs. Available through food52 shop---although in my case I just went to Tortoise General Store in Venice, CA and bought it there. Sorry, I needed to hold it in my hands and see it taken apart and put back together before spending the $45. One rule on this model, always grind clockwise or you'll damage the burrs.
Sam1148 March 22, 2011
The standard ones work well for me.The burr grinders are bit more vicious making 'dust' out of somethings. If you want to go fancy, ceramic blades don't rust with high salt grinding.

I'm assuming you're speaking of a 'coffee' type electric grinder. Which can do things a 'mill' type grinder can not. (IE: Making flavored popcorn salt into dusty powder, grinding curry powders from whole spices).

But here's some care suggestions if you use them for spices:
If you use one with a metal blade it will rust quickly if not cleaned quickly for salt.
Sometimes the plastic container will hang on to odors and flavor. Especially smoked peppers, cumin, turmeric..etc.
To clean that out. Grind up a couple of table spoons of rice with a tsp of baking soda.
It will make a past. Let that sit a few mins and wash as normal. The rice will pick up little bits you can't really clean. out well.

For a "Mill" if you're using that with salt table side. Look for ceramic blades.
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