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Can small food processors be used as a spice grinder?

I have been having the need to grind some spices lately but since I don't want to get a unitasking coffee grinder just to make some chilli powder or fine cumin powder, I have been looking at getting a multitasking Blender/Food Processor Combo <http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CBT-5...>
to solve my pulverizing and grinding needs. I was wondering if the food processor would be able to do a good job of turning chilli's and other herbs into fine powder? My philosophy in the kitchen is to get only the bare minimum and try to use multitasking devices over unitasking ones? Also, how do you feel about food processors that are just 3 cups? Is it too small? I imagine I would only use the blender and processors to make sauces and dice a few herbs or spices.

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  1. I'm not familiar with the blender/food processor linked, but my guess is that a food processor won't do a good job of grinding spices. The standard blade on most food processors is thin, designed to slice through food. A grinder has a blunt blade which spins at high speed, designed to pulverize the spice. Hard spices just bounce around in a food processor bowl. If the combo unit has an interchangeable blade with a blunt edge, it might work.

    1. We have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and find it very useful for certain small chopping jobs. It does a great job on fresh herbs, for instance. However, I don't think it would do well as a spice grinder, partly for the reasons cheryl h mentions above, and also because there's too much space between the lower edge of the blade and the bottom of the bowl - you might get dried whole chiles reduced to small bits, but not get that last step to a powder. You say that you don't want to get a coffee grinder to dedicate to grinding spices, but it really is one of the best methods.

      1. I'm sure a number of people are like me, they have two small coffee grinders, one for coffee grinders and one for spices. Those small ones are pretty inexpensive, much less than even a mini-food processor. And, I'm sure as others have mentioned, they do the job while the processor really won't. The other option of course it to buy a morter and pistle and do it by hand.

        1. Yes, yes, and yes.

          I'll add my two cents: I use a cheap-o Mr Coffee grinder for all kinds of seeds and my mini food processor for batches of dried chiles. The mini-processor does a perfectly fine of job of grinding everything down - my processor also has a grind function I guess for nuts(?). If I need a finer chile powder I'll just put the results in the coffee grinder. Personally I prefer a coarser grind - a bit chunky instead of dust.

          I have been monkeying with the idea of using a pepper mill with chiles like petins.

          I've done the mortar and pestle before and have been unimpressed by the results - except for mashing up garlic cloves. Trying to put enough elbow grease into grinding down annatto seeds or cumin or cloves just ain't worth the hassle.

          1. Don't waste your money on that food processor! If you don't already have one, go with a reliable one like the Cuisinart Pro Classic. And I tried it tonight and it didn't do anything to my toasted spice mix (with cinnamon sticks). I normally use my Braun Multiquick for grinding spices and it's a tri-tasker for $30!
            Alton Brown recommends using a coffee grinder for spices and he's a unitasker hater.

            1. I use the same coffee grinder for spices as I do for coffee. To get the spice flavor out, I grind a few tablespoons of rice, pour that out, and wipe the entire inside out with damp paper towel. If not all of the spice is gone, I repeat the rice again.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Megiac

                Yeah...I did that for awhile until I made a pot of coffee that had chile oils - pequins if memory serves correctly - in it. Same day I bought an extra coffee grinder.

                To be fair it all depends on how much you use your grinder for spices and how much you want to clean it.

                I rarely "clean" mine. Then again I pretty much use the same dozen spices so cross-over doesn't matter too much.

              2. The Cuisinart Mini-Prep (http://www.cuisinart.com/catalog/prod...) has a reversible motor: forwards = food processor, uses the sharp side of the blade/ backwards = grinder, uses the dull side of the blade. I have used mine in both directions and it does just fine both ways.

                The Cuisinart Mini-Chopper (http://www.cuisinart.com/catalog/prod...) has a forward-only motor, but you can put the blade on forwards or backwards.

                One is cheaper; the other is easier to clean. They're probably both cheaper on Amazon than on the official Cuisinart site.

                I have (had) a machine similar to the Braun mentioned by FoxyWiles, above: I used the chopper attachment for making salad dressings, and the liquids got up into the gears inside the lid, and grew tons of black scary mold that was about impossible to clean. So make sure you use it only for dry ingredients. Probably the instruction manual contains a warning to that effect. Maybe I should have read it.

                A coffee grinder also works: anything that can reduce coffee beans to dust can probably do the same for any spice you care to put in it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: misterbrucie

                  I am constantly using the chopper attachment for salad dressings, but never had a problem. I'm sorry to hear that you did. Did you put yours through a dishwasher? Maybe we have different models because I've never had a problem with mine (I've had it for three years and haven't had a problem aside from the fact that one of the blades broke off the other week, but I found a replacement part for $6).

                  1. re: FoxyWiles

                    Mine is a Philips. Looks pretty much like yours in the pic, the basic setup I guess.

                    Apparently the gearbox/lid for the chopper didn't have a waterproof seal. Don't know if it was supposed to. I never ran anything through the dishwasher that wasn't supposed to go in.

                    I use the immersion blender all the time and like it a lot, so I'm not really complaining, just giving a warning in case some chopper attachments are meant for dry ingredients only.

                    OK... finally went and dug up the instruction booklet. It has no warning about "dry ingredients only," in fact it has recommendations for how much liquid to add. So I should have asked for a refund/exchange before the warranty expired. Oh well. Live & (hopefully) learn.

                2. A coffee grinder is the ticket for spices. The Mini-Cuisinart is really good for finely-chopped garlic: As the garlic pieces reach the right size, they stick to the walls of the bowl, away from the blades. You just run until the blades are not hitting anything, and you're all set.

                  In the coffee-mill department, I have had no luck making onion rings- the batter won't stick. Michael Chiarello presented an onion ring recipe made using arborio rice ground into flour in the coffee/spice grinder. That stuff sticks like death! You can probably find the recipe in the FoodTV files.