Grinding coffee...without a grinder? We don’t recommend it, but it can be done. While the notion may seem a bit silly, there are actually quite a few reasons that ne would need an alternate method to grinding coffee using a grinder,
One could simply be that your power is out, or perhaps you are on a camping or backpacking trip and realized you weren’t going to have an electrical outlet anywhere to plug in. Or maybe your grinder is broken? The possibilities are nearly endless.
Unfortunately, your coffee grinding options are not endless. In fact, there really aren’t all that many. Here are a few crude ways to get your coffee beans to the point where they can be ground.
I’m sure you’ve seen these before, and may have even used one. Mortar and pestles are an age-old way to grind and mash things, but they are generally delegated to grinding up whole spices and other smaller food ingredients that need to be broken down a bit more.
Mortar and pestles have been used for centuries to grind up corn, so why not coffee beans, right? Coffee beans are a little more hard, but still doable. Still, same concept.
Begin by placing as many beans as you can in the bowl, while still having room to mash and grind the beans without making a mess. This is probably the hardest part, as the beans will be breaking and flying off in different directions when you first start.
Eventually, and I do mean eventually, you will have enough coffee “grinds” to use, but your best bet will be to use a french press, as it’s going to take awhile to get the beans ground down enough for a drip or pour-over brewer. Expect your hands to get tired.
Now this is a fun one. I’ve actually done this before during an extended power outage due to winter weather.
The goal when not using an actual grinder is to break down the beans as much as you can, so why not use a hammer? It’s at least mildly more entertaining than a mortar and pestle, and you get to repeatedly hit something. With just a few dozen well-placed hits, you may very well have enough to brew.
The other thing you’ll need for this method is a large ziplock bag, preferably a thicker storage-type bag. Fill the bag with beans, lay flat on a hard surface, and begin hammering while shaking the bag up every minute or so.
Keep an eye out for any beans that seem to elude the hammer, and be sure that you’ve got all of the air out of the bag, or else it may burst. Hit as flat as you can as well, or else you may cut the bag from impact.
Again, like the mortar and pestle, you’re best served using these beans for a french press, and it’s still not ideal.
For those that don’t feel like mashing, or repeatedly hitting something, I offer you the rolling pin method. This is actually a way more efficient way, and I probably should’ve just done this instead during the power outage.
The concept is similar to the hammer method, and you’ll also need a plastic bag. Fill the bag with the desired amount of beans, lay flat, and begin to crush the beans by rolling the pin back and forth, pressing down as hard as you can.
After a few minutes, and depending on the size and weight of your rolling pin, you may very well have some decently-ground coffee. Decent -- as in usable.
This is probably the most obvious way to grind coffee beans without a blender, and also the most consistent. Both blenders and food processors can decently grind coffee beans in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a bit noisier, and far less convenient, but still acceptable at the end of the day.
When you really think about it, most coffee grinders are just a much smaller version of a blender anyway. However, the size situation plays a huge role in the quality of the grind.
You may be able to technically grind your coffee beans using a blender’s blades, but the beans are going to be shooting up and flying all over the place in the blender, creating a much less consistent grind by the time you are done. It’s also harder to get the grinds out of the pitcher afterwards. So really, if you still have power access and need a last resort, a blender will do the trick, just not nearly as well.
Ok, so this is cheating a bit. Actually, it is 100% cheating. Having pre-ground coffee on hand is the best way to avoid a situation where you have to resort to primitive means to grind enough coffee to brew.
Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the coffee’s flavor. It can be the best coffee bean in the world, but if its pre-ground, you’re doing a huge disservice to it. Grinding coffee immediately before brewing makes a huge difference in the overall aroma and flavor, and it the only way to truly do justice to a quality brew or bean.
Yes, it will still taste decent, it’s just not nearly as good as it could be. Still, some may find this option better than having to manually grind coffee, and that’s understandable.
As you can see, you can go grinder free and grind your coffee beans without a grinder, but it’s going to either take awhile, result in inconsistent grinding, or both. Using an actual coffee grinder is always the best approach to get the best flavor and consistency out of your beans.
Sure, there may be a handful of times when using a coffee grinder is out of the question, but for the other 99% of the time, a quality grinder should be used. Grinding is the key to unlocking the true flavor and appropriate strength of your coffee beans, so if you even remotely care about having the best coffee drinking experience, always invest in a good grinder.