The most essential elements for a great cup of coffee are the best coffee beans that you can afford and a high-quality grinder. Of course, there are those moments when you are forced to “make do.” Maybe your coffee grinder suddenly decides to call it quits, or you receive a bag of whole beans as a gift, and you do not even own a coffee grinder. Instead of panicking, you can channel your inner MacGyver and try these tricks.
How to Grind Coffee Beans Without a Grinder:
Just to be clear, I do not recommend any of these methods for daily use as an alternative to a real coffee grinder. These methods are designed to get you your morning cup of coffee when there are no better options available. Each of the following methods will provide a rather inconsistent grind, which will affect the flavor of your coffee.
Read more: Best Grinders for French Press Coffee
Old-Fashioned Mortar and Pestle
Mortars and pestles are probably among the oldest methods available for grinding seeds, nuts, or any other hard food. Mortar and pestle sets have been discovered that are believed to date back to 35,000 B.C. Using a mortar and pestle to grind coffee beans will take some time and a little practice, but at least they will do a decent enough job to produce a cup of coffee.
Simply put a few beans in the mortar and start crushing them with the pestle until you get the level of grind that you prefer. In the beginning, be prepared for a few beans to go flying across your kitchen; however, you will get the hang of things with a little practice.
Hand Grinder or Mincer
Although they are not as common today, there is a good chance that your grandmother had a hand mincer or grinder in her kitchen to grind meat for sausages or other dishes. The grinder was usually screwed to the edge of a kitchen counter and operated by turning a hand crank. You can add your beans to the hopper of the grinder and start cranking away. Some of the beans may need to be run through the grinder a second time to achieve the appropriate grind level.
Of course, if you do not have a coffee grinder available, there is a good chance that you will not have a mortar and pestle or hand grinder at your disposal either. In a pinch, you can always reach for a hammer.
Simply put your coffee beans into a sturdy freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, and seal it shut. Place your freezer bag between two towels to protect your counter and keep the bag from ripping and start whacking away. Try to use even swings and the same amount of force with each blow. It is also a good idea to give the bag a shake every couple of swings to redistribute the beans so that the grind will be as even as possible.
If you do not have a hammer available, you can always try the same thing with a rolling pin. Just keep rolling back and forth until the beans are crushed fine enough to brew. You can also use a large glass, bottle, or even a heavy can of food if you do not own a rolling pin.
A Perfect Blend
Most of us have a blender stashed back in a kitchen cabinet from when we made that failed New Year’s resolution to start drinking healthy smoothies for breakfast. Instead of letting it continue to collect dust, you can use it to grind your coffee beans. You should take care not to over blend, and you should avoid using the fine powder at the bottom of the blender since it will not produce a decent cup of coffee.
List Ditch Alternatives:
If you have a little more time available, you can always reach out to others for help. For example, a friend or neighbor may have an extra coffee grinder that they will give you or at least one that you can borrow in exchange for some friendly conversation over a cup of coffee. You can also see if your favorite local coffee shop will grind them for you. Many shops will do it for free or for a minimal fee, especially if you are a regular and have a habit of leaving a nice tip for your barista.
The Take Away:
Once you get past your immediate coffee grinding emergency, make it a point to purchase a coffee grinder as soon as possible. This is an essential piece of equipment for any coffee aficionado. I recommend a high-quality burr grinder, but if your budget does not allow you to indulge, an inexpensive electric grinder available at any major retailer will get the job done.