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Jul 5, 2010 07:34 PM

Indian Spice Grinder

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!

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  1. 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. 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. 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

          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. 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


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

            1. re: OnkleWillie

              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. 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

                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

                  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

                    >>>>"""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:
                    i noticed the mention of soapstone, which was intriguing.