Originally, electric blade grinders were meant to grind coffee. But peek into almost any restaurant kitchen and you’ll discover that chefs use these handy little machines for grinding spices instead. It’s a practice that home cooks are adopting too — and for good reason. When it comes to depth of flavor, ground spices from a jar just can’t compete with freshly ground whole spices.
It’s worth noting that our tests focused only on grinding spices, not coffee. Grinding both spices and coffee in one machine isn’t a good idea — unless you like the idea of cumin-scented java. For our tests, we ground fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds in increments of 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, and 2 tablespoons. We also ground dried ancho chiles, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, peppercorns, and a mix of whole spices to yield 1/4 cup curry powder. The grinders featured here performed best overall and are listed in order of ranking.
DeLonghi Aromatic Coffee Grinder
Model DCG39, $29.95 at www.Espressozone.com
This grinder excelled at grinding just about every spice type, quantity, and blend we tested. It ground spices speedily and to an exceptionally fine, even consistency. It’s extremely quiet, excellent at pulsing (quick to rev up and quick to stop), and doesn’t leak. It’s so efficient that you need to watch out for overprocessing and thus overheating — just 20 seconds is all it takes for most spices. With all these strengths, we’re more than happy to overlook its bulky size.
Braun Aromatic Coffee Grinder
KSM2, $24.99 at www.Theessentials.com
Another standout, this powerful grinder was the only one to ace the black pepper test: grinding a tablespoon of peppercorns into a uniform texture like coarse sand — no whole or partially ground berries — in just five seconds. The blade accelerates the instant you press the on button, but it does take two to three seconds for the blade to stop spinning, so it’s not the most efficient at pulsing. It’s also on the loud side.