Electric Spice Grinder?
I know that most folks use a coffee grinder to grind spices, but I wonder whether there's a particular brand/type that works better than others. My main concern is that most coffee grinders seem too big for the relatively small amount of spices I typically grind. Suggestions? Thanks.
I retired my old Krups coffee grinder and now use it solely for ginding spices. Works well enough for me.
My recommendation doesn't specifically answer your question about small amounts, but I've found the KitchenAid blade coffee grinder is the perfect spice grinder because it has a stainless steel cup with a built-in blade that sits over the motor, and can go in the dishwasher or be hand washed, so you can completely cleanse the blade, cup, and cover between uses without having to worry about odors or flavors mixing, grinding rice, etc.. And if you want to grind both coffee and spices, no worries.
Here's some info:
I got a mini Cuisinart for spices, herbs etc. It's pretty old now but if they still have it or something similar, you might consider it. It has a blade on a removable shaft which has two sides. Inserted one way, the sharp edge of the blade cuts. Reversed, the blunt edge of the blade crushes. So I use the sharp blade to chop garlic and ginger which I do a lot. Then I can reverse the blade to chop peppercorns coarsely. The container can be washed easily, unlike a coffee grinder.
Two possibilities exist that do not require any electricity. A small mortar and pestle is sometimes useful, but even more simple is a chefs knife. Depending on what you're grinding you can use the side of the knife (or a small pan for that matter) to crush the spice and then for lack of a better description pinch and pull the broken spices using the side of your knife across your cutting board until they reach the desired consistancy. This does require a little practice and a careful hand to avoid a mess all over the floor.
Any bladed coffee grinder works fine for chopping spices. I use my Braun for large quantity pepper grinding and flax seed. I have a mini Cuisinart, but the blades lost their fine edge years ago so it generally bludgeons rather than chops. Bludgeoning can be fine too....
You could also do what I do to crack peppercorns - put them in a ziploc bag and pound with the edge of a meat pounder (more effective than the flat surface).
It depends on your definition of "small".
I use a braun blade coffee grinder for medium to large spice grinding jobs. For small jobs I use a small mortor and pestle. The M&P is pretty cheap and if you use spices (or make cocktails that require grinding herbs) it is a great investment. Having said that, the braun coffee grinder does a good job on even small amounts of spices. Like I said, though, it depends on your definition of small.