Best Spice Grinder of 2020
The Chef Sofi Mortar and Pestle is our favorite overall grinder for its simple, durable design, versatility, ease of use, and good grinding consistency. It ground all the spices we could toss in, including tough cinnamon sticks and cloves. Its simple design is made of strong and heavy unpolished granite, allowing it to grind ingredients into the desired consistency. It's also easy to clean and care for. It doesn't grind quite as fast or fine as most electric grinders (most spices took between one and two minutes to grind), but it was competitive in all categories and created fine enough powders to include in most recipes. The versatility of this set was attractive to us; it grinds spices (including cloves which cannot be ground in many electric grinders or grinders with plastic components), herbs, garlic cloves, and other wet ingredients, as well as crushed nuts and ground seeds. Just rinse it out with warm water (without soap) and air dry, and you are ready to grind something else.
Though we found this to be our favorite overall kitchen tool for grinding spices, it can be a little high maintenance at first. It does require users to season it to ensure no granite dust remains once you start using it. Before you use the mortar and pestle for the first time, you should grind small handfuls of white rice several times, until rice grinds white (our rice stayed white the entire time, but we still ground three handfuls of rice, as the instructions indicated). After grinding the rice, the instructions give you a recipe of garlic cloves, cumin, salt, and pepper to grind in your new mortar to season it. After, it is ready to be rinsed, dried, and used. This set is certainly an investment when you can purchase an electric grinder for half the price, but it is a long-lasting, durable, and versatile tool.
The Shardor Coffee and Spice Grinder is a versatile tool. It's a coffee and spice grinder, and it also chops small amounts of vegetables or nuts. This grinder has a large capacity; at its max fill line, it holds six ounces of spices. In testing at full capacity, it has the finest grind, making up for its average grinding performance at lower capacities. This grinder comes with two removable stainless steel bowls — one for grinding coffee or spices and one for chopping vegetables or nuts, which adds to its versatility. We used it to grind spices and then used the chopping cup to chop onions and garlic and make a cilantro chutney. The Shardor has a 200-watt motor, which makes it a powerful grinder. The chopping cup can be too powerful for small amounts of onion, and if pulsed too much, can puree the vegetables instead of chopping them. Take care and pulse accordingly.
This model was the loudest and largest of all of the grinders tested. At 8 ½ inches tall and 3 ½ inches wide, it has a large presence in the kitchen. The two cups stack within each other, and the lid stacks on top, making for a clean look when storing. It has a sturdy and handsome design, complete with black plastic housing and a clear lid. This leaves a very small window to peer in and look at the consistency of the grind; sometimes it is necessary to take the lid off to check the consistency. It's a bit bulky for grinding spices, and the chopping tool is less effective than a food processor because of its limited capacity and hard to control power. This is a versatile tool to have in the kitchen if you plan to maximize its use as a bulk spice grinder or utilize its chopping capacity.
The Hamilton Beach is an affordable and modest grinder. It's a quiet powerhouse that boasts a great design. It kept up with the more expensive specialty electric grinders, grinding spices, including cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom at equal consistency. It has a 200-watt motor housed in a slim plastic housing; this model is one of the smaller electric models we tested. For how powerful it is, we're impressed by its consistency in creating a fine grind. It was the quietest model we tested while grinding coffee or spices, and also has a removable cup that clicks into the base like a blender. The cup is constructed of stainless steel and plastic, and has convenient measurement lines for the maximum capacity of coffee and spices.
This quiet little grinder is sleek, but it has the smallest capacity of all the grinders for spices. The max line on the cup for spices holds two ounces, compared to 4.5 ounces at the max line for coffee. After a day of testing, we noticed that the blade was loose and wobbly unless snapped into the base. Once the cup and base were connected, the blade seemed more secure; this made us often question if the mechanism that connects the blade to the cup was properly attached.
We love the design of the compact Zassenhaus. At three inches tall and three inches wide, it's a powerhouse made of cast iron and a beechwood lid. It's comprised of three pieces — an outer cup, an inner cup that doubles as a compartment to hold excess spices, and a lid. It's heavy and durable, and the weight of the cast iron, combined with the ridges on the bottom of the grinding bowl and outer bowl, work together to pulverize whole spices in a simple twisting motion. We ground cloves and cinnamon with some elbow grease and other spices more easily. We found that it ground small quantities easier, optimally ½ - 1 tbsp. It ground one stick of cinnamon to an acceptable powder, leaving only a couple of small pieces. It didn't perform as well as the Chef Sofi Mortar and Pestle, or the electric grinders, but we found it very useful and easy to use, and it has an attractive, rustic design that we wanted to show off on our counter.
As smart as this grinder is, there are some design flaws. We like that it has a storage compartment with a lid to hold excess spices, but wouldn't want to keep them in there while grinding other spices, as the lid isn't snug and moves around while twisting and grinding. The cast iron is a durable, safe and attractive material, and is easy to rinse clean with just a little warm water, but it requires a little TLC like any cast iron product, as well as occasional lubrication to prevent rust. it can be a little tiring to use, and takes more energy than the mortar and pestle manual grinding motion. Take care with this grinder, as the heavy cast iron can be damaging to countertops if not held still while grinding. We found it best to hold the grinder and twist instead of placing it on the counter and twisting.
The Kuhn Rikon Ratchet is a lesson in a sleek design. This model is all one piece, with no removable parts. It has a small trap door, a simple twisting mechanism on the bottom to adjust the grind, and an ergonomic handle to crank back and forth, moving the ceramic grinding device inside. This grinder was fun to use, super simple, and could be used with all the spices we ground except for cloves and cinnamon. It's small and unimposing on the counter or in the cupboard standing about eight inches tall with the handle up, and has a narrow cylindrical base of two inches. It looks like an unassuming salt or pepper grinder but is capable of grinding a variety of small spices quickly. We occasionally ground coarse salt to clean the grinder.
Though this is not the most versatile grinder — as it cannot grind big spices — it is a capable addition to the kitchen, and can be used to grind quick, small amounts of fragrant spices. While testing, this little grinder was by far the fastest manual grinder to use on the course setting. However, when set on the fine setting, it took a good chunk of time — far longer than the Chef Sofi Mortar and Pestle and the Zassenhaus Cast Iron. We didn't find the course and fine settings results to be so dramatically different that you would want to spend the time grinding at the fine setting.
The KRUPS F203 is the lowest profile electric grinder we tested. For a small grinder, it houses a powerful 200-watt motor and performed very well. It kept up with the pack with grind consistency, offering similar performance to the Hamilton Beach model. We like the simplicity, particularly the simple power button on the lid and the fixed-cup design. It was the easiest to use and clean, and its slim design made pouring spices easy. It outperformed the Quiseen model in grind performance and design.
As the cup is fixed, we did find that pouring spices or coffee from it was a little less comfortable than the models with removable cups. However, its slim, oval shape and steep walls helped keep spices and coffee in place better than the Quiseen model.
The Quiseen is a fixed-cup simple design with decent grinding performance. It offers decent grinding consistency and comes in at a nice price point. Its weakest point was the cinnamon test, understandably. This model tested as a very close second in the sound test, taking second place behind the Hamilton Beach model. It is a competent and quiet grinder.
Though we liked the performance of this grinder, some design considerations affected the use and effectiveness. During testing, we noticed that the lid was shallow, slick, and hard to remove. It was also hard to get back on, as the pin that presses the power button is hard to perfectly align. The grinder is designed with a wide top and wide grinding cup, with a crease between the stainless steel cup and the plastic housing. Because of these things, ground material collected and spilled when we opened the lid. The wide opening made it hard to pour from, while the challenging lid made it difficult to use the device without creating a bit of a mess — losing some of the ground coffee or spices in the process.
The DCOU hand-cranked, herb grinder is a very specific tool for grinding herbs. It's suitable for leafy herbs and handled them well in testing. Its capacity is about a 1/2 teaspoon of leaves. The DCOU has fewer grinding teeth (24 total) and larger holes for the herb to fall through, which means it gives a coarse grind; however, since less got stuck in the teeth, a greater percentage of the herb was useable. The hand crank has a smooth rotation and the grinder is easy to use.
Because of the lack of versatility and the very small capacity, this grinder wasn't our go-to tool for grinding spices. We also found that the magnetic lid was not very strong; while rotating, we needed to hold the lid on. Be sure to clean this product well before use, as we found some shards of aluminum in the grinding mechanism, presumably left over from the manufacturing process.
The Golden Bell herb grinder is very similar to the DCOU model and is used for leafy herbs. It handles well, has a smooth rotation while grinding, and was the smallest model — it could fit in a pocket. It is a four piece set with a magnetic lid and 54 diamond-shaped teeth. These teeth help grind plant-based material into a fine grind, which falls into the screen/pollen catcher below. This model had the finest grind of all three of these similar models.
This grinder has a limited capacity and could hold about a 1/2 teaspoon of freshly dried oregano. We noticed wear on the grinding teeth after only a few grinds, as the anodization/paint started to chip off.
The iRainy model is a very similar model to the Golden Bell, and has the same number diamond shaped grinding teeth. Instead of only one pollen catcher, it had two different pollen catcher screens of different sizes and a smooth rotating grinder. It has the same capacity of about a 1/2 teaspoon of leaves. It ground the freshly dried oregano well — almost as fine as the Golden Bell. This was the largest of the herb grinder models with five pieces.
Because of the limited capacity and the limited use of herbs, this was not one our first choice for grinding herbs.
Why You Should Trust Us
The lead tester in this review is Kristin Anderson, a long time cook, outdoor enthusiast, and jeweler. She loves detail-oriented tasks like testing products and comparing details, or fabricating tiny pieces of silver into works of art. Kristin learned to cook in her youth while working at a cafe in a natural food store; she was an understudy in cooking for different dietary needs, herbal remedies, and eating for health and nutrition. She mixes a lot of her own spice mixes and uses them in various recipes throughout the year.
To start our scientific testing, we did our research, sifting through products. After choosing ten different models to test, we got to work and created a testing plan. With all grinders in hand, we started by unboxing each one, comparing details like size, materials, and features, etc.
We then started grinding spices in each device at intervals of five seconds. We compared consistency by sifting the spices through a sieve. We ground cardamom, cumin seed, cinnamon sticks, and cloves (in the devices that can handle clove oil). We also measured decibel levels while grinding, cleaned each one between use, and noted design features we liked.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you want to grind small amounts of fresh spices to liven up your dishes each night, or you plan to shop at the grocery and stock up on five pounds of spices and grind in bulk, we have recommendations for you. We've analyzed and tested ten spice grinders, both manual and electric side-by-side. After three days of grinding spices and herbs manually and with electric grinders, we ranked each based on four metrics: grinding performance, ease of use, design, and versatility.
To test grinding performance, we gathered five pounds of spices and ground them. We ground cumin seed, cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, as well as freshly dried oregano from the garden. We specifically looked at the consistency and speed of the grind. We did this by grinding pre-measured amounts of spices (e.g., eight grams of cumin seed) with the electric grinders in five-second intervals, sifting the spices through sieves. We measured the fineness of the grind at five, ten, fifteen, and twenty seconds.
For the manual grinders, longer intervals from 1.5 to two minutes were given to completely grind the spices. This test was repeated with each spice. With the Kuhn Rikon model, we needed to grind the pre-measured amount until the chamber was empty and compared the time to the other manual models. The manual grinders were obviously considerably slower. The other models that did well in this category were the Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind and the Krups F203 Spice and Coffee Grinder, offering similar test results, surpassing the grinding performance of the Shardor coffee and spice grinder, even with tough spices like cinnamon sticks.
Ease of Use
When evaluating ease of use, we looked at key features like how many pieces and parts there were to assemble. We also questioned if the lids fit securely and if the operation was simple or complicated. Is the grinder easy to control the consistency of grind? Is the product easy to clean and maintain? All these things are hard to know until you've fully put the product to the test.
For ease of use, we appreciated the simplicity of the Chef Sofi Mortar and Pestle. It was a little laborious to get going with pre-seasoning, but with just two pieces, simple instructions, and tips and tricks in the instructions to help you get started, it was the most basic and simple to use. The open bowl allowed us to see the consistency as we ground the spices, and cleaning it was a breeze — just a rinse in warm water and air dry.
Other grinders that performed well in this category is the Kuhn Rikon grinder; it has simple and ergonomic grinding, practically no setup, and fast grinding on the coarsest setting. The Zassenhaus Cast Iron is similar to the mortar and pestle; it takes a simple twisting motion to grind and requires a similar cleaning process. The removable cup grinder, like Shardor, was great for easy cleaning if you like to toss things in the dishwasher, or clean the cup separately and let air dry. Most electric grinders require a little more effort when getting spices out of the grinding cups and blades or cleaning between uses. It's also harder to see the grind and manage consistency through the plastic lid.
For this metric, we looked at size and storability, sound (measured in decibels), grinding capacity, and fun features like cord keepers and adjustability. The electric grinder that stood out for design was the quiet and efficient Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind. What it lacked in capacity (compared to other electric grinders), it made up for with its extremely quiet motor and fine grinding capability. It's also one of the smallest electric grinders to have a removable cup that is easy to empty and to clean. It also features a practical, easy-to-use cord keeper, which keeps the cord out of the way while storing.
The manual grinder that stood out in this category was the Kuhn Rikon ratchet grinder. It has an ergonomic, slim design and an easy, quiet ratchet system. It can grind substantial amounts of spices especially for its size, and has an adjustable setting that allows you to choose the consistency of your grind, making it an easy, smart addition to your kitchen.
To understand the versatility of each grinder, we looked at what each one was designed to do. Some are meant for specific kinds of herbs, while some can handle seeds and spices.
Others can handle anything you throw at them. As a spice grinder, the Chef Sofi mortar and pestle is the most versatile; it can handle all the spices you can throw at it including cloves, which can often ruin the plastic on electric grinders and other plastic grinders.
It can also crush wet ingredients like garlic and fresh herbs to make a poultice, or seeds and nuts. The Shardor Coffee and Spice Grinder also shines in this metric, as it sports two removable cups — one for chopping vegetables and fresh herbs and nuts, and the other designated to grind spices and coffee.
We used both functions on this grinder; it performed as an average electric spice grinder, made a tasty cilantro chutney, and chopped onions, garlic, and fresh jalapenos with ease.
Choosing a spice grinder to fit your kitchen needs can be confusing, especially with electric models and manual models — with each being designed to do different jobs. This review is designed to do some of the leg work for you. Our research is thorough, unbiased, and can help you choose what kind of spice grinder suits your culinary style. We hope that this information can help you narrow down the list of contenders and choose the best option for your kitchen.
— Kristin Anderson