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Indian Spice Grinder

s
SharpCheese Jul 5, 2010 07:34 PM

I have just recently experienced Indian cuisine and cannot get enough! I have started to make it at home, but would like to achieve greater results by using whole spices and grinding them myself.

I know most people in the U.S. use a coffee grinder for this, but I would like to know what people use in India, both for dry spice grinding and wet grinding (for pastes and chutneys). I want to be as authentic as possible :)

Thank you!

  1. m
    MFalk Jul 6, 2010 07:10 PM

    You could use a mortar and pestle. In many ways it's the best tool for the job. But if you're just starting out, I don't recommend it. Get a coffee grinder--you'll have freshly ground spices in under a minute, rather than a long time for a mortar and pestle. It'll encourage you to grind more spices yourself, which is the most important thing. As for authenticity, the specific tool you use to grind your spices won't matter much. I've seen plenty of "authentic" Indian cooks use a coffee grinder for dry grinds and a blender for wet grinds.

    1. k
      kayceeyes Jul 27, 2010 10:06 AM

      In India we use what is called 'Mixie" which is a kind of powerful (550 watts or better motor) blender that comes with different jars/blades for wet/dry grinding. There are several brands currently in the market and many are sold here in US (110 volts as opposed to 220 volts in India) with warranty. Google for "Indian Mixie".

      The most popular one for decades was "Sumeet Mixie", but the company closed few years back and spare parts are difficult to find. There is a dealer in Canada and you can google for information.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Bada Bing Jul 27, 2010 10:48 AM

        I'm interested to see the replies here, too--like kayceeyes below--on what Indians typically use. I think that there are only three general possibilities: rotational/propeller blades, like blenders and most coffee grinders; mill grinders; and mortar and pestle.

        If I had the budget, I'd consider getting a dedicated mill for dry spices, but I have only one mill and that's for coffee. I like it that mills do not heat things up as much as propellers. And the mill gives an even, fine grind that takes quite some time to accomplish with a mortar and pestle, which can leave shell residues from coriander and cumin even after a lot of pounding and grinding. That's why I use a dedicated coffee grinder when I need to avoid any grittiness.

        I love my mortar and pestle, though: it is sometimes faster and always much easier to clean than a blender. But if you go that route, I strongly urge you to get a big granite one (best prices maybe from a local thai grocery and market, which is where I got one, but I can't tell where you live; try to avoid the inflated pricing of online retailers targeting rich foodies). The point about size is that even small amounts of spice ground much better with a heavy pestle (the weight does your work). My mortar and pestle together weigh about 17 pounds. I also make pesto in it and often use it to mash up wet pastes for various cuisines (Thai, etc.).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bada Bing
          a
          ajilani Jul 27, 2010 09:54 PM

          Mortar and pestle would be most authentic and traditional. I think though that as spice grinder is perfectly acceptable. For mixing wet spices I use the mini chopper attachment on my KA hand mixer--love that tool!

        2. o
          OnkleWillie Jul 28, 2010 09:23 PM

          I had a Sumeet Mixie on order for a year before I gave up on it.

          Several sources have recommended the Preethi Eco Twin as a better replacement. It is somewhat bigger than the Sumeet but also twice as expensive. I believe that their US dealer is in the Dallas area.

          I'm still debating how much I want to spend.

          2 Replies
          1. re: OnkleWillie
            luckyfatima Aug 3, 2010 06:49 AM

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6951...

            I ordered this on your suggestion and I am very satisfied with it.

            1. re: OnkleWillie
              t
              Tinker Jan 8, 2011 05:35 AM

              Has anyone tried to order the Sumeet Mixie lately? This seems to be the best buy although I can not understand $35 for shipping. However, may have to pay that much possibly. I have searched for an excellent spice grinder to fill in the the M&P when I want fast grinding and seems this is the most recommended.

            2. r
              Rasam Jul 28, 2010 09:41 PM

              India is very diverse, and it's hard to generalize. To grind spices, most middle class Indians use a mixie (a wet and dry grinder that has different cups and blades, some of which handle dry spices and other wet spice and dal batter mixtures). Dedicated coffee grinders are less used in India, just because of the ubiquity of the mixies.

              If you have household help (or if you are very rural with no electricity), you may use an old style granite grinding stone (not the large round one with a hollow in the middle that is used for batter) - the flat kind with a rolling cylinder on top, that sits on a counter.

              If you use a mortar and pestle, there are different types for different purposes - brass or stainless steel ones that are smooth inside fpounding spices; or granite ones which are rougher, which really pulverize and paste spices.

              Hope this helps?

              Remember "authentic" is something that changes from time to time and place to place. What was authentic for our great grandmothers would not at all be authentic now. And no doubt our GGM's were considered innovators by their GGM's.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Rasam
                JungMann Jul 29, 2010 06:57 AM

                The grinding stone is all purpose for milling as well, is it not? I don't know that I've seen one small enough for countertop before.

                Growing up, my father used a mortar and pestle. A small food processor could handle pastes. Because I move so often, I've avoided stocking a mortar and pestle and have stuck to using a coffee grinder which I clean by milling rice and then dusting with a pastry brush.

                1. re: JungMann
                  r
                  Rasam Jul 30, 2010 12:08 AM

                  Jung Mannn: Southern kitchens traditionally had two kinds of granite grinders:
                  1) aatu kallu: large, round, central bowl, with a pestle that you roll round and round in it. This is used for batter and sometimes for milling. This is larger, and is difficult to make smaller, and has largely been replaced among the urban middle class by wet/dry grinders aka mixies, or the electric idli grinders that have small granite rollers in a stainless steel drum with granite base.
                  2) ammi kallu: flat rectangular base, with cylindrical roller that you roll back and forth on top. Wet and dry grinding, but not really suitable for milling. You can get small versions of this, e.g. around 8" by 12" base, definitely used on a table top or countertop.

                  Because of the rice based diet, the Northern Indian chakki is not widely used in the South, except on a commercial basis.

                  Definitely, the texture and taste of the masalas ground by hand on these granite stones are far superior to the electric ground thingies, but the labour is backbreaking, and no-one in their right minds today would rely wholly on these when they have an alternative. Maybe some rare persons.

                  1. re: Rasam
                    alkapal Jul 30, 2010 08:29 AM

                    >>>>"""Definitely, the texture and taste of the masalas ground by hand on these granite stones are far superior to the electric ground thingies, but the labour is backbreaking, and no-one in their right minds today would rely wholly on these when they have an alternative. Maybe some rare persons."""<<<<<

                    slightly OT, but related: i was just searching about kerala cuisine, and found a blog discussion about how the natural materials pots really affected the final dish -- flavor for sure (maybe texture, too?).

                    <i had been looking for information on the kerala brass pots that a fellow chowhound was seeking (never did find what he was talking about)>.

                    here's the discussion, anyhow: http://www.anothersubcontinent.com/fo...
                    i noticed the mention of soapstone, which was intriguing.

              2. alanbarnes Jul 30, 2010 01:42 PM

                I use a spice grinder that's a compromise between a coffee grinder and a mixie. The stainless grind chamber is removable and dishwasher-safe, and it's gasketed, so things like wet spice mixes and ginger/garlic paste don't cause problems:

                http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-SG-10...

                1. j
                  jaykayen Jul 31, 2010 01:00 PM

                  Anyone else use the mini food processor attachment to their immersion blender? You can do wet and dry.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jaykayen
                    a
                    ajilani Aug 1, 2010 10:22 PM

                    I use my mini food processor attachment (from my KitchenAid hand blender) for everything. It does a super job on garlic and ginger (just not very small quantities--as in cooking for one) as well as mixing wet spices. I have not tried it as a spice grinder for whole dry spices, but I would imagine it could do the job. It chops onions beautifully, actually does a better job on one onion than my regular food processor and purees tomatoes perfectly. I've had it for about a year and I cannot believe I lived this long without it! I used to have a cheaper Braun hand blender with attachments and that mini chopper did not do nearly as a good a job.

                    1. re: ajilani
                      paulj Aug 2, 2010 12:50 PM

                      I tried an immersion blender chopper on dried chilies (which were still pliable). After a certain point it just threw the flakes around with out breaking them up any more. I had to switch to the coffee grinder to get the pieces smaller.

                      It does better on bread and cracker crumbs. I haven't tried hard spices.

                  2. luckyfatima Aug 3, 2010 06:41 AM

                    I own the Preethi Eco Twin for my American kitchen and got it after someone recommended it to me here on this board on CH. I use it specifically for grinding dry whole spices (how can anyone use a tiny coffee grinder?), chutneys, and lentils.

                    Preethi is well loved in India and I had one in Dubai but couldn't take it with me cuz of voltage issues. Preethi is an excellent work horse mixie/grinder. Luckily Preethi makes a 110 voltage for the North American market.It is only like 40$ in Dubai so the price was a shock for me here but if you need one, what to do? It is pricey but well worth it for wet and dry grinding since that is a regular part of my cooking, might not be so if you don't have the need to do that very often.

                    Do not order Sumeet. They went out of business and the only Sumeets out there right now are fakes.

                    I ordered my Preethi from here:http://www.perfectpeninsula.com/

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: luckyfatima
                      q
                      qianning Apr 4, 2011 07:41 AM

                      Hi Fatima: I'm curious about the Eco Twin, do you still use it? Love it? And do you use it at all for pastes that involve lemon grass? galangal? previously dried then soaked chilis? would love to hear your experiences.

                      1. re: qianning
                        luckyfatima Apr 4, 2011 07:57 AM

                        Yes, I like it. It can be used for all of those, it is meant for wet and dry grinding and has a powerful motor so galangal and lemongrass will not be a problem.

                        1. re: luckyfatima
                          q
                          qianning Apr 4, 2011 08:33 AM

                          thanks for the info....once the mini-food processor gives up the ghost i think i know what's going in its space....

                    2. n
                      nwatson88 Aug 9, 2010 10:14 AM

                      Hi All, I just spoke to an online seller about the Preethi and the Sumeet mixies. She was great! She said they stopped selling the Sumeet b/c in the past few years the quality has really, really gone down hill and she was no longer able to get repair parts. Also, the wait to get one was beyond what Sumeet was quoting. She said they stopped selling it and now only carry the Preethi line. My decision is made! Thanks to all on chowhound for pointing me in the right direction;)!

                      1. s
                        slopfrog Jan 8, 2011 04:27 PM

                        Well I'm not Indian, but I have gotten into making Indian-style food at home. I used to use a coffee grinder to grind spices but I have since gone to a stone mortar and pestle. The old Braun coffee grinder I had was difficult to clean and would trap ground up spices in little crevices. And I think the plastic of it trapped the spice smells and could "taint" other spice mixtures. That last bit could just be all in my head though.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: slopfrog
                          t
                          Tinker Jan 9, 2011 09:29 AM

                          Good to hear someone else using the M&P. I had hunted for a hand grinder and never been satisfied with my finds. Heard from Paulj or someone and they said cheaper to just use the P&M. So that ended looking at the coffee grinders for a spice grinder.

                          1. re: Tinker
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 09:43 AM

                            I have both. I have mortar and pestle and I have a cheap coffee grinder. I won't say a mortar and pestle is cheaper than a coffee grinder. A cheap coffee grinder is only $10 and there are not many good size mortar and pestle less than that. I find I have uses for both sets of tools. When I have a small job or a specific job, I use the mortar and pestle, but when I have a bunch of things to grind, I use my $10 coffee grinder.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              t
                              Tinker Jan 9, 2011 10:43 AM

                              What brand is the coffee grinder you found for 10. I have looked at Braun, Krups etc but keep finding plastic breaks and all those reviews that makes me think I need someone to tell me the one they have that seems to just keep going for a few bucks. Thanks. Also saw a Kyocera manual grinder which is a little more expensive and I am not for certain if others may recommend it for spices such as cinnamon etc.

                              1. re: Tinker
                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 10:57 AM

                                Hmnm, I use Krups one, but I guess you have already tried. I suppose I am lucky. I have been using mine for 1-2 years and it is fine. Maybe because I only use it for spices. I don't really drink coffee. Sorry, I cannot be of more help.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  t
                                  Tinker Jan 9, 2011 11:04 AM

                                  That is a great help to me. Just needed the brand. Thanks.

                                  1. re: Tinker
                                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 11:09 AM

                                    Krups (I mentioned above). The one you have troubles. Specially this one:

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Krups-203-42-Touch-Coffee-Grinder/dp/B00004SPEU

                                    I used a Bed Bath and Beyond discount coupon to get it down to ~$10.

                                    I think we have a similar post on this topic if you have not gotten a chance to check it out:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/696439?tag=search_results;results_list

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7179...

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      t
                                      Tinker Jan 9, 2011 11:14 AM

                                      The Amazon krups 203-42 is good or not good? Was not for sure if you meant the Amazon specific one have troubles with. If so, I will check with the Bed Bath here for one like you suggested.

                                      1. re: Tinker
                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 11:17 AM

                                        I got exactly that model I have posted, the white one just to be specific (not that the color matters). No, I don't have trouble with it. I thought you said you have trouble with the Krup one. You wrote: "I have looked at Braun, Krups etc but keep finding plastic breaks "

                                        I also edited the early post. It seems a few of us (Bushwickgirl, Channa, me) have used the Krups ones and we are fine (or lucky). Here is the older post:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6964...

                                        Sometime Bed Bath and Beyond has those $5 off for $15 dollar purchase, this basically bring this coffee grinder down to $10.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                          t
                                          Tinker Jan 9, 2011 11:22 AM

                                          Reviews mentioned breakage. I have not tried any to recommend. I see which one you recommend now. Thanks much. I have a coupon too. Will go to BB&B.

                                          1. re: Tinker
                                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 11:26 AM

                                            I don't think it is going to be perfect, but for $10-15, it does an excellent job, and overall review is still very good on amazon. Best wishes and let us know if it works out or not (either way).

                        2. chefathome Jan 9, 2011 11:03 AM

                          Another M&P user/lover here! I truly would have a very difficult time without it. It is massive and made of granite. However, as most others have mentioned, I also use my coffee mill (don't drink coffee) that is dedicated to only spices. I almost always dry roast my spices first (whole ones, anyway) before pounding or grinding.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chefathome
                            t
                            Tinker Apr 9, 2011 09:34 AM

                            Finally bought a new Oliver Hemming Spice Boy walnut made that I was able to get cheap on Ebay before they were all sold. About $20 with S/H. Anyhow this one seems to be okey for what I need it for, reasonable enough and good internal parts. I use the M&P also mostly. I decided against the Krups since I have a Kitchenaid grinder for coffee although I would not use the Krups for coffee beans considering a lot of cons. I also read many reviews and took into consideration what a few of you suggested was the best way to go.

                          2. d
                            dibribac Aug 30, 2012 10:44 AM

                            Traditionally like someone said here we use a mortar and pestle - a really large one to avoid spills.
                            http://ramanipgr.blogspot.com/2012/04.... Check this link. It has pictures of traditional indian utensils and objects used for grinding dry and wet spices. Wet meaning the pastes and batters. We use coffee grinders or like someone in this thread said a mixie a short name for blenders in India. The Indian blenders (Sumeet, Prestige, Preethi, Butterfly and many more brands) have many jars that come for different purposes. If you really want to get in to Indian cooking, try getting one of these at Amazon or an Indian store that sells Indian appliances. Although to avoid hassle, you could order from Amazon. But they are slightly higher than and in some places less than Indian stores. I hope this helps! Oh and these blenders cost around 140 to 180 bucks.

                            1. d
                              dibribac Aug 30, 2012 10:52 AM

                              I would also suggest getting some authentic cookbooks to learn true Indian cuisine. When I moved to the United States, I was pretty stumped by the difference in the taste and quality of Indian food here. As an Indian who grew up with Indian food all my life, I could say what we get here is simply not the original stuff. Some authors who have managed to pass on some authentic recipes would be:
                              1. Tamil Cuisine - Meenakshi Ammal (Mind you, the language and formats used in this book can be ridiculous. You will need an extra half hour for each recipe for understanding and translation. But that is definitely worth every minute spent)
                              2. North Indian cuisine - Tarla Dalal (she's easy on the spices but it is still hot by American standards) and Sanjeev Kapoor (he is now super popular here in the US. His spice levels are hot. Not extreme hot like some states in India do.)
                              I haven't really used cookbooks for other cuisines. I mostly get my recipes from the internet for other cuisines.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dibribac
                                s
                                SharpCheese Sep 3, 2012 12:08 PM

                                dibribac, thank you for the information and cookbook recommendations--I will certainly put them to good use!

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