Coffee and Cuisinarts
September 13, 2009 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Can I grind coffee beans in my food processor?

My husband asked for ground coffee, but ended up with beans by mistake. We don't have a coffee grinder. Can we use our Cuisinart, or do we need to buy a grinder?
posted by Kicky to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
You can take it to a Starbucks or most grocery stores and use theirs.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2009

I wouldn't use the food processor. It's too big, the blades aren't designed to be hacking up tough things like dried beans or whole spices, and the smell will be difficult to get out. Coffee grinders are not terribly expensive (~$20 for a cheap but effective one), and from what I've been told, being able to grind right before you brew is the easiest way to dramatically improve the flavor of your coffee. I wouldn't actually know about that last bit because I don't really drink coffee, but I've got an electric coffee grinder that I use for spices (if I was going to do coffee too, I'd get another grinder because of the smell).
posted by ErWenn at 7:24 PM on September 13, 2009

Yes yes, grinding before brewing is AMAZING. So grinding it at starbucks is a free option, but only Day 1 coffee will be amazing, after that it will taste like regular coffee.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:40 PM on September 13, 2009

Depending on how you're brewing the coffee, you can just smash them up using blunt instruments like a mortar and pestle, rolling pin, or a hammer, and get the same or better results as a typical home whirlyblade grinder (not a nice expensive burr grinder). This would work better for a press pot brew, OK for a typical drip coffee maker, but poorly for espresso, which requires a fine and even grind.
posted by exogenous at 8:00 PM on September 13, 2009

You can bring this right into the grocery store and grind it there or ask someone nicely at a coffee shop to do it for you.
posted by jessamyn at 8:12 PM on September 13, 2009

I agree with ErWenn, I would just make a run to Walgreen's or the supermarket and get a $20 grinder. Or just grind them at the supermarket for now and get the grinder if you decide it's sooooo good you really can't go back to pre-ground coffee again.
posted by amethysts at 8:13 PM on September 13, 2009

Can I grind coffee beans in my food processor?

Somebody thinks so.

If I was your buddy I'd bring you over my spare, so maybe check your buddies, it's the kind of thing you get an extra one of when you get married. I do have to side with those that say this is a great opportunity to buy a basic grinder and start grinding your own. It adds literally less than half a minute to the coffee making process, it just tastes better, and when you grind just one brew's beans at a time your coffee stays a lot fresher.
posted by nanojath at 8:45 PM on September 13, 2009

I got a coffee grinder for $10 new from a grocery store. $20 may be high for a cheap model.

If I couldn't get that I'd just grind it up manually using a mortar and pestle or something.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2009

The blender I just bought claims that it can grind coffee. Not sure about a food processor, though.
posted by alms at 9:01 PM on September 13, 2009

I know that I would never try this with my food processor, but I rely on it a lot, and it wasn't cheap. It would suck to ruin a more expensive machine in lieu of buying a $20 (or less) one. I don't have any actual evidence, just a gut feeling from using a food processor a lot that this could be a bad idea and would not work.
posted by ishotjr at 9:06 PM on September 13, 2009

It really depends on your Cuisinart; if the blade is too far away from the bottom, you might not be able to chop the beans effectively. Likely won't ruin your food processor, but you might not grind the beans very well. If the processor is light enough, you can shake it up and down while grinding (I know people who do the shake-thing with regular chopper coffee grinders).

A cheap chopper-style grinder won't set you back much and fresh-ground coffee is better than pre-ground coffee.

I've also used my coffee grinder for other stuff, like for herbs or flaxseed.

However, if you really want to get into serious coffee territory, try to find yourself a burr grinder. Hardcore connoisseurs complain that the chopper style grinder heats up the beans too much whereas the burr grinder won't and thus won't alter the flavour of perfectly-roasted coffee.
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on September 13, 2009

It might not be a bad idea to make the switch to grinding your coffee fresh: there are a couple of decent entry-level burr mills in the $40–50 range that will give you much more consistency than a blade grinder, especially for a coarser (press or perc) grind.

Look on CoffeeGeek for some reviews; I seem to recall the Cuisinart and one of the Starbucks-rebranded ones considered good values.

You'll likely notice a quality difference, plus you can fine-tune your grind for different prep methods (if you have a press and a drip machine) or to your taste.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:18 PM on September 13, 2009

I so would not do this. Big blades in the food processor, plus the hard shell of the nuts is going to equal nicks and scratches on your bowl, and poorly ground coffee. Even those little miniature palm blade grinders do not stand up over time. If you want to grind your coffee, get a cheap grinder made specifically for coffee.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:42 PM on September 13, 2009

If you still have the receipt, why not just return the beans to the store and get ground coffee?
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:44 PM on September 13, 2009

Oh good heavens, no. Well. For french press, maybe. Because french press takes big grinds, and that's all you'll get if that. But only if you don't mind sludge in your coffee.
posted by paultopia at 11:09 PM on September 13, 2009

One of these Mini Jars, my old Oster blender, works as about as well as a blade grinder. You could also use a pint sized Mason Jar, if this fits your blender.
posted by easilyamused at 12:23 AM on September 14, 2009

Sure you can. Run it til the beans are pulverised, give it a quick sift to get rid of the dust.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:22 AM on September 14, 2009


No. No. No. No.

Short answer: go to a Starbucks and have them grind it for you.

Long answer:
Bear with me here. You're bound to have an area of expertise where the various nuances (and widely held misconceptions) of things are crystal clear; project that onto what I'm saying here. I am not being a snooty connoisseur. This is empirical fact (to pre-empt any "Gosh, well I'm pleased with my results"-types: You have no idea what good, fresh coffee, properly grinded and prepared will taste like. No. Idea.). Caveat: I'm assuming your coffee is good quality, roasted by professionals and packaged properly. Polishing a turd is futile, and this applies here as well.

The reasons:

You can't use a blade - one that looks like a food processor or blender - grinder (which includes $20 "coffee grinders" that are a disgrace) because they are unable to grind coffee to an even grind. If you have lots of big and lots of small grounds, the larger ones won't be extracted, and the smaller ones will be overextracted (no flavour and bitter dreck, all at the same time!). By the time the coffee is an even ground, it will be a fine powder unsuitable for much of anything. Sifting won't help. Very slight unevenness is a good thing, but we're talking slight, and even then mostly for espresso brewing.

You can't use a mortar and pestle because it's just the same thing as the blade grinder, except blunt. With the added pleasures of whatever garlic or spices you were mushing around last time.

Flat Burr grinders are great for French Press and downwards (towards fineness of grind) until you get to espresso. After a certain degree of fineness, the heat developing in the knives will negatively affect the flavour (and flavour is the most, if not only, important thing when making coffee).

For espresso, you pretty much should be using a Conical Burr grinder. This knife configuration develops less heat and retains flavor more effectively.

Coffee professionals all agree that the grinder is more important than your brewing device of choice (and that also includes the espresso machine). I'm talking here about world leaders in coffee and espresso (currently doing loads of exciting things; PM me for links if you're interested).

Also: weigh your coffee and time your extraction (steeping time) to ensure a consistent result. Making coffee is similar to baking a cake. Though throwing stuff together might be alright, measuring, timing and attention to detail will get you much better (consistent) results.

If your coffee is any good, that is.
posted by flippant at 5:58 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

For just this time, grinding them in the food processor is just fine. As an ongoing thing, it could be a bit of a hassle to clean the food processor every time you make coffee--you'll probably be getting a fine dust that will stick with static cling to a lot of the interior surfaces--so if you get in the habit of buying whole bean on a regular basis, you'll want to get an actual grinder.

Plus, you'll have an anecdote about making decent coffee with food-processor-ground beans that you can annoy coffee snobs with. Priceless!
posted by gimonca at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2009

I'd have my husband go to Starbucks. After all he's the one who wants the coffee grinded.

Nah...just kiddin' . Why don't you give him a burr grinder for his birthday or x-mas? From the above discussion it's obvious that that is the best way to go.
posted by kyraline at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2009

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