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spice mill? Or coffee grinder?

Are they any different? I have a coffee grinder that I'm happy with. But I'd like to get a spice mill. I'm thinking of cardamom and star anise.

What do you Chowhounders think? Are they different products or the same thing?

If they are actually different, what spice millsa are easy to use and clean and don't cost a lot of money?

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  1. I have two identical braun coffee grinders- one I use for coffee, the other for spices. Works great.

    1. I have two electric grinders, one dedicated to spice grinding and one for coffee grinding.

      The one for coffee grinding is a coffee specific grinder -- it has a lever I can slide to select how many cups worth of what grind of coffee I want to grind, and then it automatically stops grinding at the "right" point (I occasionally disagree with the grinders definition of right).

      The one I use for spices I bought labeled a coffee mill, and it works fine.

      Cleaning an electric grinder really isn't that hard -- just wipe it out with a bit of paper towel or coffee filter or what have you. Then, if you are concerned about flavor transfer, grind a quarter cup of white sugar in it for about ten seconds, and wipe it out again -- the sugar absorbs any remaining essential oils in the grinder, so they won't transfer to what you grind next.

      I used one mill for both spices and coffee that way for several years -- other then one notable pot of curry powder flavoured coffee with I forgot to do the sugar thing, I never noticed any taste problems.

      2 Replies
      1. re: AnnaEA

        I clean my spice grinder by grinding raw rice then wiping out with a paper towel.
        Sugar is a good idea, too, I will try that.


        1. re: AnnaEA

          Thanks for the sugar suggestion! I was just gifted a spice grinder, and made a pretty pungent Indian spice with it the other night; was worried about flavour transfer.

        2. The first electric coffee grinder I ever bought -- an inexpensive Krups model, not a burr grinder, soon found its way to the back of a cabinet because it didn't allow for adjusting the grind. But I resurrected it as a spice grinder and it works just fine for that purpose.

          1. I have two grinders for java & spices but a mill specially design to grind whole nutmeg.

            Pepper mills, coffee grinders can tackle a bean no larger than a coffee bean well but a whole nutmeg is larger & harder requiring a grind or scraping method.

            1. I have a older Salton grinder that I bought for grinding coffee, that was relegated to spice use after a piece of the blade chipped off.

              I replaced the Salton grinder with a Braun grinder for daily coffee use.

              HillJ, I use a micro-plane rasp for nutmeg and other large spices

              3 Replies
              1. re: Kelli2006

                Kelli, Ouch! I'm always tearing my knuckles with small bits taken to a micro-plane, so I mill instead.

                1. re: HillJ

                  I either toss any nutmeg that is too small to hold on to safely or throw them into a potpourri pot.. Whole nutmeg is dirt cheap, so why try to save a few pennies and bloody your knuckles? Nutmeg loses the essential oil extremely rapidly, so you aren't saving any money by grinding whole nutmegs in a mill.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    Must be me then. Saving $ wasn't my focus...I'm just clumsy !
                    The mill gives me control and the bits get tossed in soup.
                    I own a microb..rough and fine...and use for bigger objects like hard cheese, chocolate, etc. Thanks!

              2. I believe Cooks Illustrated rated the Krups blade style grinder as top choice for this application.
                I've been using one as a spice grinder for about seven years of heavy use. It is now just needing a new top.
                Time to replace really as it has served well and they are affordable.

                1. I also own two coffee grinders, one of which is used exclusively for spices. Given the very inexpensive price of coffee mills nowadays, it's probably less expensive to buy a coffee grinder than something that's probably exactly the same but is labelled a "spice grinder." Specialty items always seem to have a premium price tag attached.

                  1. I wouldn't use an electric blade grinder for either application, personally. I have a non-electric burr grinder, the old-fashioned kind (although it's new) with the crank on the top, for coffee. It allows the grind to be adjusted and doesn't heat up the beans. If I need to grind up spices I use a mortar & pestle. I suppose I'd get me one of those microplane things if I was needing fresh nutmeg (don't much care for nutmeg, I'm afraid).