12 Unexpected Ways To Use Your Coffee Grinder

If you're like a lot of other people, you probably have several different kitchen appliances taking up space on your counter. This can be a problem if you want to stay organized in the kitchen, particularly when you live in a small space. But one way to cut down on the number of necessary appliances is by finding alternate ways to use the ones you already have on hand — and a coffee grinder is a great example.

A coffee grinder can function as a miniature food processor, and perform numerous tasks you might think would require a completely different appliance. By utilizing it in these alternate ways, you may actually save yourself the time and money of picking out (and then purchasing) a brand-new kitchen appliance.

To ensure you're getting the best bang for your appliance buck, we've compiled a list of creative ways to use your coffee grinder — just make sure you thoroughly wash it out before using it to prepare your morning cup of joe. Without further ado, here are some unexpected ways to use your coffee grinder.

Grind pepper

If you sample freshly ground black pepper and a pre-ground version side by side, you'll likely be able to distinguish a difference. Pre-ground pepper is thinner and less complex, and just doesn't taste the same as the fresh stuff. Therefore, buying whole peppercorns to grind yourself is usually a better way to go if you want to maximize the flavor in your dishes. Of course, while you can always use a pepper grinder, if you don't have one on hand — or you just want to try a different method for grinding your pepper? You can use a coffee grinder instead.

Using a coffee grinder to grind your peppercorns heats the spice up, which helps accentuate the aromatics and flavors. The result is freshly ground pepper that's much better than any cheap, pre-ground alternative you'll find at the grocery store — and may even top standard freshly ground pepper, as well. Since it only takes a few seconds to blitz some peppercorns in a coffee grinder, it really shouldn't add any time to your meal prep routine, either.

Crush up breadcrumbs

Sure, you can always buy an expensive box of breadcrumbs at the grocery store. But it's not the most budget-friendly option out there, so you may want to consider making your own instead. Luckily, the process for making homemade breadcrumbs is pretty easy — especially if you happen to have some stale bread and a coffee grinder on hand.

Wondering why you'd need stale bread? Well, it's much drier than fresh bread, meaning it will break down more easily into the desired crumbs. Once you have an old loaf on hand, then, you can start making the crunchy condiment. Since most coffee grinders aren't very large, you'll want to break the bread down into relatively small, bite-sized pieces before starting rather than putting whole chunks into the machine.

If you're looking for larger breadcrumbs, try running the coffee grinder for just a few seconds before stopping. On the other hand, when you want finely ground crumbs, consider blitzing your appliance until the bread pieces turn into a powdery substance — and feel free to use the resulting product in whatever recipe you happen to be preparing.

Make your own powdered sugar

Have you ever realized that a recipe you're making calls for powdered sugar ... only to realize you don't actually have any on hand? You may think you can just swap in the granulated stuff and call it a day. But oftentimes, that strategy simply doesn't work. Granulated sugar isn't nearly as fine as powdered sugar, after all, and can leave you with a crunchy mess instead of a lightly dusted masterpiece. Yet just because you don't already have a bag of powdered sugar lying around doesn't mean you can't make some on the fly with a coffee grinder.

All you'll need to make powdered sugar in your coffee grinder is some granulated sugar and cornstarch. In fact, you can just throw both of those ingredients into the appliance, and turn it on until it turns the sugar mixture into a fine powder. If you want to control the kind of texture you end up with, make sure you stop pulsing the sugar and cornstarch every now and then to check the consistency. Once you learn this trick, you may never buy another bag of powdered sugar again.

Create spice blends

Do you find your ground spices tend to go bad before you've had the chance to use the entire blend? It's a common problem that many home cooks encounter. It can be especially frustrating when you spend good money on those blends, since building a solid spice collection isn't exactly an inexpensive endeavor. Additionally, if you live alone and really only cook for yourself, you're basically just asking for those pre-ground spices to go bad.

The best way to keep your spices for longer, then, is to buy the item whole (and dried), and grind it yourself in a coffee grinder. This process can be handled fairly easily with the appliance — particularly considering you're probably only going to be grinding small amounts of spices at a time.

We love this method because you can mix and match your favorite flavors into specific spice blends. Perhaps you want to make your own taco seasoning or BBQ rub, or even a pasta sauce blend. If that's the case, combining all the necessary ingredients in your coffee grinder before adding them to the recipe may just be the easiest way to accomplish that goal.

Make your own flour

Whether you bake all the time, or just occasionally need a few cups of flour, learning how to make the pantry staple at home can be an especially useful skill. It may sound like a difficult task, but as long as you have the right tools? It's relatively easy to make your own flour in a pinch. Of course, while a food processor is required for larger amounts of grain, a coffee grinder will work just as well if you only need small amounts of flour (or are willing to make your homemade variety in several batches).

All you need to do is place the necessary grains in your coffee grinder, and grind the cereals until you see a fine, flour-like texture develop. Various types of flour require different consistencies, though, so pay attention to how long you keep the grains in your coffee grinder. Cake flour, for instance, is quite a bit finer than all-purpose flour, so make sure you stop often to see what the flour is looking like during the process.

Oats may seem like an obvious choice here, but don't feel you need to limit yourself to that food if you're interested in making different types of flour. In fact, if you want to try this method with wheat berries or rye berries instead, don't be afraid to do so. Since you're working with such small quantities in a coffee grinder, it should be relatively easy to experiment with new flavor combos.

Create tea mixes

Sometimes, when you want a hot drink, nothing is more appealing than a cup of herbal tea. But that doesn't mean you have to buy boxes and boxes of different tea blends that correspond to all your different moods. Rather, you can make your own tea mixes at home by — yes, you guessed it — utilizing your coffee grinder.

To start, you'll need some dried tea leaves, which can be sourced from specialty shops, or online. After you've gotten those items squared away, feel free to get really creative with dried herbs, flowers, and fruit. No matter the ingredients, make sure you break them all down into smaller pieces before placing anything into the coffee grinder. After that, pulse the machine until all your ingredients have transformed into a rough powder. At this point, you can either place it into individual tea bags, or simply keep the mix in an airtight container until you're ready to steep it in hot water.

This unexpected way to use your coffee grinder is a great avenue to try different flavor combinations, which can make drinking tea even more enjoyable than it actually is. Not only will you get fresher, more flavorful tea this way, but you may just save some money in the process — and what's not to love about that?

Turn dried fruit into decorative colored powders

When you want to get creative with your cooking or baking, sometimes you have to think outside the box. Whether you're baking a cake, or just want to add a colorful flair to cookies, colored powders can make your treats pop. But that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy costly baking supplies. Instead, it's easy to make your own colored powders at home — if you're not afraid to pull out your coffee grinder, of course.

First, you'll need to start with fresh or frozen fruit, then dry the produce out by putting it in a dehydrator. You'll want to be certain the fruit is completely dry before you place it in your coffee grinder, as you'll need to blitz the fruit until it forms a powder-like consistency. You can then add it to white frosting to give it a vibrant color, or sprinkle it on top of cakes, cupcakes, and cookies to help them pop. Try it with a wide variety of fruits — like strawberries, oranges, and blackberries — to discover an array of colors for your baked goods.

Chop up nuts

When a recipe calls for chopped nuts, you may be tempted to buy a bag of pre-chopped nuts at the store. But that's likely to cost more than the whole, intact bag you can get down the aisle — and why pay more for what's essentially the same ingredient? Of course, while you can always chop the nuts yourself with a sharp knife, this can be tricky if you don't have a particularly sharp knife (or you're working with harder, firmer nuts like almonds). Don't worry, though, because your coffee grinder can come in handy here, too.

Instead of using a food processor, just drop whole nuts into a coffee grinder, and push down to get super quick (and super easy) chopped nuts. Keep in mind that you only need to chop for a few seconds to get relatively finely chopped nuts, though. After all, if you keep the coffee grinder running for too long, you may end up with more of a nut butter situation (which could be tricky to clean). This may not be a problem if you're using your coffee grinder solely for nuts. But if you plan on using it for anything else (like coffee), you're better off not taking this route.

Make a flavorful marinade paste

The last thing you want to do in your kitchen is cook a bland cut of meat. Of course, since well-made meat dishes take some time to properly prepare, you should avoid throwing your steak, chicken, or pork right onto the stove, or straight into the oven. Instead, you'll want to infuse your meat (or tofu, or beans) with as much flavor as possible beforehand. Making a marinade paste or a meat rub is an excellent way to do this, which you can easily make happen if you have a coffee grinder on hand.

You can use a slew of different ingredients to make a marinade this way. We like adding some garlic, olive oil, and herbs — like rosemary or thyme — to our coffee grinder, then blending it until a paste forms. Afterward, you simply take that paste and spread it onto anything you're preparing (from red meat to fresh veggies) before you start to cook it. After you've let those flavors soak into the ingredient of your choice, you'll never consider eating plain meat or veggies again.

Grind dried chilies into red pepper flakes

Whether you purchased dried chilies from the store, or just had some fresh chilies that dried out on your countertop, you can easily turn such items into red pepper flakes to use in a variety of ways in your kitchen. In fact, you simply need to put the dried chilies into your coffee grinder, press down, and grind away. In a matter of seconds, the blades in the appliance will turn those dried chilies into flakes you can use in a whole slew of recipes.

Of course, you may prefer to more evenly distribute the spice in your dish. In that case, you'll want to keep the dried chilies in the coffee grinder for a bit longer — until it morphs into a powder rather than the larger red pepper flakes. You can then add this concentrated dash of home-ground spice to chilis, soups, and so much more. By utilizing this method, you'll save yourself from having to run to the store at the last minute, while avoiding any unappetizing (or under-seasoned) foods.

Create a dried coconut garnish

When you're trying to quickly get dinner on the table on a busy weeknight, you may not care too much about any aesthetic flourishes that might make your food look more appealing. But when you have more time to spend in the kitchen, and you're making a dish for a special occasion — be it a birthday party, anniversary, or just a nice weekend family dinner — you may want to spend some time making your food look as pretty as possible. Luckily, your coffee grinder can help add a flourish to sweet treats by creating a dried coconut garnish to sprinkle over the top.

Buying a dried coconut garnish at the store or online can be pricey. But if you already have coconut at home and know what you're doing, you can make this garnish in no time with a coffee grinder. To do so, put a few small pieces of dried coconut into the machine, and pulse it for a few short bursts; any longer, and you risk turning it into paste (which is probably not what you're going for). Once finished, use that garnish to decorate your favorite baked goods and dessert items without putting in too much extra effort.

Flax seeds

Whether you're trying to get some more healthy fats into your diet, or aiming to boost your morning smoothie, using a coffee grinder can be a simple way to break down flax seeds. These small, hard seeds are difficult to pulverize without the help of an appliance, and you probably won't be able to manage with a knife alone. That's why a coffee grinder can come in handy. With just a few pulses, it will turn whole flax seeds into a powder with a wide range of uses.

We actually prefer using a coffee grinder to a more traditional food processor when it comes to flax seeds, because you don't usually need to break down too many of them. In that sense, utilizing a smaller appliance, like a coffee grinder, can make this process less messy. Plus, you won't have quite so much to clean up after you've finished your recipe.