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If your dream meal is a richly spiced tagine or curry, freshly grinding your spices will elevate your dish to the next level.
It might seem like a hassle or an unnecessary extra step, but with a decent spice grinder, your spices will be ready to use in less than a minute, and you’ll taste the difference. There are all sorts of makes, models, and varieties of spice grinders on the market, so how do you pick one that fits your needs? Well, you're in the right place!
We performed extensive research, analyzed customer reviews, and consulted Samantha Attard, an expert with a Ph.D. in nutrition, to bring you the information you need.
Here at BestReviews, we never accept free products from manufacturers, so you can trust what we have to say. And once we’re done with our thorough tests, we donate the products to charities helping those in need.
At the top of this page, you'll find a product matrix that features our five favorite spice grinders on the market. If you want to learn more about spice grinders and how to pick the right one for you, please continue reading this guide.
Let's take a look at the two main types of spice grinders — manual and electric — and how to pick the right kind for you.
Manual spice grinders are operated by hand, usually with a crank that you turn but sometimes with other mechanisms, such as a pull-cord or a push-button.
Samantha Attard, nutrition PhD, is a consultant, coach, yoga instructor, and founder of Happy Healthy Human. Through her business, Samantha provides personalized health solutions to individuals and groups of all sizes. She also has a line of health snacks that to help individuals all over the country eat with intention. Her research has been featured in the British Medical Journal, Diabetologia, and Journal of Hypertension, among others.
You get more control over your grind with a manual spice grinder; it's common to over-grind and get a finer result than you wanted with an electric grinder.
Manual spice grinders are easier to clean, even if they don't have a removable grinding chamber, as it's okay to get a manual spice grinder wet. Electric models should not get wet.
As a rule, manual spice grinders are cheaper than electric versions.
Manual spice grinders can be used on the go — for instance, on camping trips — as they don't require electricity.
It takes longer to grind spices in a manual spice grinder.
Manual spice grinders might not be suitable for people who have problems with hand dexterity or grip.
More specialized spice grinders allow you greater control over the size of the spices, impacting the flavoring and texture of your meals.
Electric spice grinders plug into a power outlet and operate at the press of a button.
Electric spice grinders are quicker than their manual counterparts.
You can generally grind larger amounts of spices in one go in an electric spice grinder.
Electric spice grinders may give you more even and uniform results.
Some electric spice grinders allow you to choose between different grind sizes.
Electric spice grinders often cost more than manual versions.
If you only want to grind a very small amount of spice, electric spice grinders might not give the best results, as they tend to have larger capacities.
If you'll only be using a grinder for occasional small batches of spices, a manual version is compact and affordable.
Some spice grinders, both manual and electric, allow you to select the grind size. You can choose whether you want your spices to be ground fine, coarse, or somewhere in between.
For some users, this is an essential feature, since certain types of recipes may call for a coarser grind. But others users might only ever want their spices ground as finely as possible.
The best part of freshly ground spices is that you’ll need to use less salt and sugar. And because you’ll have more flavorful spices, you’ll end up with a healthier dish.
Properly cleaning out your spice grinder between uses is important. If you don't, you may find the fresh cinnamon you ground for a loaf of banana bread ends up tasting like cumin.
Manual grinders are easier to clean. You can just wash them in the sink with soap and water, and some are even dishwasher safe. Electric grinders, on the other hand, can be tricky to get perfectly clean. Some have removable grinding chambers that can be washed and dried separately from the main body of the grinder, which houses the motor and electrics. However, if your grinding chamber isn't removable, you have to be more careful. Simply wipe it clean and/or brush it out with a pastry brush.
Electric spice grinders are easy to use, even if you have issues with manual dexterity. If you suffer from arthritis in your hands, for example, an electric spice grinder would probably be easier to use than a manual spice grinder.
Here we're talking about the external size of your spice grinder. If you don't have much counter or cupboard space, you might want a compact model that you can tuck away somewhere.
However, if you have plenty of room in your kitchen, size won't be such an issue. In fact, you might prefer a more substantial model that would look good on your countertop.
Make sure that your flavors don’t meld and that you don’t have volatile oils going bad on an unclean device. One solution is to grind rice after use to clean out the spice grinder.
A spice grinder’s capacity refers to how much spice you can grind at one time. Physically larger spice grinders will generally have a larger capacity, but this isn’t always true. (For instance, some electric grinders might have a large motor that accounts for most of its real estate.) It’s best to look at both the external size and the internal capacity.
When deciding what capacity you need, take this advice from our expert Sam: "If you’re freshly grinding spices at each meal, you may be able to get a manual or small grinder with a very good blade at a reasonable cost. If you’re doing a larger batch of spices, you may want an electric grinder instead, and you may have to compromise on the blade because of the size."
Electric spice grinders tend to have larger capacities and are best for grinding larger quantities of spices in a large batch.
Color likely isn’t the main deciding factor when picking out a spice grinder, but we understand that you might want a grinder that matches your kitchen hardware or other appliances.
Most spice grinder brands come in just one or two basic colors, like black or brushed steel, but others give you a much larger range of color choices.
After you grind your spices, keep them in dark containers, stored in a cool place, to help preserve the flavors.
The good news about spice grinders is that they're all relatively inexpensive.
An average manual spice grinder costs between $10 and $20, but we recommend paying at least $15 to get a durable model that won't break after a few months.
An electric spice grinder could set you back anywhere from $15 to $50. Pricier models will have more options — for instance, multiple choices of grind size — but you can get good, durable (albeit more basic) models for as little as $20.
Q. Can't I just use a coffee grinder to grind my spices?
A. Let's refer to our expert Sam on this one: "Coffee grinders work well for grinding spices, but they may cut up the spices unevenly. This means that in your cooking, there will be uneven saturation of the spices with the food, impacting taste and texture."
So yes, you could use a coffee grinder in a pinch, but it's better to get a dedicated spice grinder. It's also unwise to use the same grinder for both coffee and spices, unless it has a removable grinding chamber, as the flavors could inadvertently transfer between your coffee and your spices ... and nobody wants that!
Q. How can I make sure my spices are as flavorful as possible?
A. For flavorful spices that will truly elevate your cooking, toast spices in a hot, dry pan for a minute or so before grinding them. Just be careful not to burn them, and let them cool before grinding.
Q. Why should I use freshly ground spices instead of the pre-ground type?
A. Jars of pre-ground spices are available in every grocery store, so why bother with freshly ground seasoning? Well, there are two main reasons: freshly ground spices taste better, and they're likely healthier.
According to Sam: "Freshly ground spices are more flavorful and healthier. The aromatics and chemicals in spices are very volatile, which means that they can dissipate quickly. If you use a freshly ground spice, you’ll likely have a higher-quality raw material, and the flavors and health benefits will be more potent."
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