How to Grind Coffee Beans WITHOUT a Grinder – 7 ways that work!

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Stuck at home with a bag of whole coffee beans but no way to grind them? Here are the 7 best methods for how to grind coffee beans without a grinder.

I spent the better part of a week researching how to grind coffee beans without a grinder. 

While there are several ways to go about this, most are either inefficient, too messy, or produced a poor quality grind. 

That said, there were a few methods that passed the test!  Here is a list of what I recommend. 

Method 1 – Blender
Method 2 – Food Processor
Method 3 – Mortar & Pestle
Method 4 – Rolling Pin
Method 5 – Hammer, Mallet, or Tenderizer
Method 6 – Knife
Method 7 – Pot or Pan

Be sure to take into consideration what brew method you plan to use with the beans you grind. Each option will vary in what grind consistency you can expect to achieve.  To make it easier on you, I have recommended a few brew methods for each option.

Keep reading to learn about each method.

Method 1 – Blender

Items Needed

  • Blender
  • ¼ – ½ cup whole coffee beans
  • Ziploc bag or small container (optional)

Process

  1. Place the blender on a flat solid surface and connect to power.
  2. Fill the pitcher with ¼ – ½ cup whole coffee beans of choice.
  3. Lock the pitcher into the blender base making sure the connection is secure and the lid is on tight.
  4. Select the appropriate setting per your blender’s features. Using a Grind or Pulse setting is best in most cases.  If you do not have Grind or Pulse, use a medium to medium-high setting.
  5. Grind or pulse the beans in short bursts, 3-5 seconds max.  This will prevent from generating too much heat and scotching the beans.
  6. Repeat this process for up to 30 seconds or until you achieve your desired consistency.

It’s worth noting that while a blender will certainly work to get you usable grounds, it is not the most consistent method. Try tipping the blender to the side while grinding to achieve a more even consistency.  Remember not to over fill the pitcher.  You are better off making several small batches rather than trying to get it all done at once. Empty each batch into a Ziploc bag or small sealable container.  

Given the coarseness of the grind, I recommend using beans ground in a blender for brew methods such as French Press, Cold Brew, or perhaps Pour Over. 

Method 2 – Food Processor

Items Needed

  • Food Processor
  • ½ – 1 cup whole coffee beans
  • Ziploc bag or small container (optional)
  • Sieve and paper towels (optional)

Process

  1. Place the food processor on a flat solid surface and connect to power.
  2. Fill the pitcher with ½ – 1 cup whole coffee beans of choice. (This takes more than the blender option above due to the typically larger circumference of the container)
  3. Lock the container into the food processor base making sure the connection is secure and the lid is on tight.
  4. Grind or pulse the beans in short bursts, 3-5 seconds max.  This will prevent from generating too much heat and scotching the beans.
  5. Repeat this process for up to 30 seconds or until you achieve your desired consistency.

To achieve the best consistency, follow these extra steps.

  1. Once the grounds are approaching your desired consistency, strain them through a sieve into a small container. Re-grind the larger pieces left behind.
  2. Repeat this process 1-3 times then discard the remaining large pieces.
  3. Lay out 1-2 paper towels and dump your newly ground beans on top. Rub the grounds around with your fingertips, then using the paper towel, dump them back into your container.
  4. The extra-fine grounds will remain stuck to the paper towel which you can then discard.

While this method runs into some of the same problems as the blender, using a food processor is still your better bet.  The larger base and often adjustable blade options allows for a finer, more consistent grind.  Depending on the length of time you grind, a food processor is capable of achieving a medium to fine grind.  A good rule of thumb is 15 seconds total for coarse, 20-25 seconds for medium-coarse, and a full 30 seconds for medium to fine grind.    

I recommend using beans ground in a food processor for brew methods such as French Press, Pour Over, Drip, or Moka Pot.

Method 3 – Mortar & Pestle

Items Needed

  • Small to medium size Mortar & Pestle
  • Enough whole beans to fill ¼ – ⅓ of the mortar (actual amount will vary depending on the size of mortar & pestle you have)
  • Ziploc bag or small container (optional)

Process

  1. Place the mortar (bowl) on a flat solid surface.
  2. Fill the mortar ¼ to ⅓ of the way full with whole coffee beans.
  3. Holding the pestle with your dominant hand and the mortar with the other, begin hammering the beans lightly to initially break them up.
  4. Once broken into small pieces, begin rolling the pestle in a circular motion to grind the beans into a finer consistency.  This will take repetition, elbow grease, and more repetition… 
  5. Repeat these steps depending on how much coffee you intend to brew.

Mortar & pestle is without a doubt the best way to grind coffee beans without a grinder. This is because of the control you have over the size and consistency of your grounds. 

That said, it does come with its drawbacks.  Unlike the powered methods above, using a mortar & pestle takes time and energy.  You also have to work in small batches, forcing you to repeat the process multiple times depending on how many cups of coffee you intend to brew.  What you gain in consistency and quality, you give up in time and convenience. 

With enough time and elbow grease, a mortar & pestle will produce coffee grinds across the entire size spectrum. I recommend using beans ground in a mortar & pestle for anything from a French Press to a Turkish Coffee Pot. 

Method 4 – Rolling Pin

Items Needed

  • Rolling pin
  • ¼ – ¾ cup whole coffee beans
  • Cutting board
  • Ziploc bag or plastic cling-wrap

Process

  1. Place ¼ – ¾ whole coffee beans in a Ziploc bag.  If you do not have Ziploc bags, lay out a sheet of plastic cling-wrap on a large cutting board and place the beans on top.
  2. Seal the Ziploc bag making sure to press out most of the air.  If using cling-wrap, cover with a second sheet and be sure to fold and press the edges to prevent the beans from spilling out.
  3. With the beans laid on top of a large cutting board, use the rolling pin like a hammer to gently crush the beans initially.
  4. Once the beans are broken up into smaller pieces, use gentle but firm force to roll over the beans using the rolling pin, 5-10 passes. Gather the larger pieces in the middle and repeat.
  5. Repeat the last step until the desired consistency is met. Much like the mortar & pestle option, this will take time and energy!  

In a pinch, a rolling pin will work to break down whole coffee beans. Odds are you have one on hand in your kitchen too!  If you go this route, prepare to make a bit of a mess and know that your end product will not be very consistent. 

Given the coarseness of the grind, I recommend using beans ground with a rolling pin for brew methods such as French Press or Cold Brew.

Method 5 – Hammer, Mallet, or Tenderizer

Items Needed

  • Hammer, mallet, or meat tenderizer
  • ¼ – ¾ cup whole coffee beans
  • Large cutting board (to prevent damage to counter)
  • Ziploc freezer bag 
  • Small container

Process

  1. Place the appropriate amount of whole beans (up to ¾ cup) into a Ziploc bag. Use a thick freezer bag if available to prevent punctures and spills.
  2. Seal the Ziploc bag making sure to press most of the air out.
  3. Place the bag on your cutting board and use the hammer, mallet, or meat tenderizer to press down on the beans using medium force.  DO NOT strike the bag like you would a hammer to a nail.
  4. Move the crushed beans to the side and push the remaining whole beans to the middle and repeat step 3.
  5. Once crushed, you can begin striking the beans (gently) to achieve a finer grind. Be careful not to overdo it or you’ll get too much fine powder and will over extract when you brew.
  6. Empty each batch into a small container and repeat these steps until you have the desired amount of beans for your brew.

This method takes time and it is quite easy to create a hole in the Ziploc bag. Try double-bagging your beans to prevent punctures and spills, especially if you are wanting to hammer away at a finer grind.  

This method can easily get you a coarse to medium grind. I recommend using beans ground with a hammer, mallet, or tenderizer for brew methods such as French Press, Cold Brew, Pour Over, or Drip. 

Method 6 – Knife

Items Needed

  • Large chef or Butcher knife
  • Cutting board (preferably wooden)
  • ¼ cup whole coffee beans
  • Small container 

Process

  1. Place ¼ whole coffee beans in the center of your cutting board.
  2. Using the flat edge of the knife, start on the edge farthest away from you and press down firmly on the beans to crush them.  DO NOT use the blade to cut the beans.
  3. Draw the knife closer to you and continue to press firmly to crush the beans.
  4. Reposition the crushed beans in the center of your cutting board and repeat steps 2 and 3 until your desired consistency is met. 

You may experience some runaway beans using this method.  Even so, grinding beans with a knife actually gives you a decent amount of control over the grind size.  Draping a towel over the blade of the knife as you press will help prevent beans from shooting out all over your kitchen.  Additionally, you can try using a darker roast bean as they are more brittle and easier to crush than a light roast.  

With time and care, it is possible to achieve a medium to medium-fine grind. If you are not accustomed to working with a Chef’s or butcher knife, I recommend trying another method on this list.

If you do choose to go this route, I recommend using beans ground with a knife for brew methods such as Drip, Siphon, or Moka Pot. 

Method 7 – Pot or Pan

Items Needed

  • Large cooking pot or frying pan
  • Large cutting board
  • Large Ziploc bag (freezer preferred) 
  • ½ – 1 cup whole coffee beans

Process

  1. Place the appropriate amount of whole beans in the Ziploc bag, press most of the air out, and seal. 
  2. Spread the beans out flat and lay them on your cutting board.
  3. Grab the opposite sides of the pot/pan (use handles if your pot or pan has them) and press down firmly on the bag of beans.  Alternate pressure from one hand to the other in a rocking motion to begin crushing the beans.  Do this for 5-10 seconds.
  4. Shake the bag and lay it out flat again on the cutting board then repeat the last step.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you achieve the grind consistency you are looking for.

Much like using a hammer, rolling pin, or knife, using a pot or pan will rely on crushing the beans to achieve grind consistency.  The advantage you get from using a pot or pan is volume.  Given the larger surface area or a cooking pot, you can crush more beans at time.  You’ll use less energy too!  That said, you may want to take advantage of this method if you are brewing a large pot of coffee for a group of people. 

You should easily be able to achieve a coarse to medium grind using this method.  I recommend using beans ground with a pot or pan for brew methods such as French Press, Pour Over, or Drip. 

So which method is best for grinding coffee beans without a grinder?

You won’t find a better solution than the tried and true mortar & pestle.  There is a reason it has been used for thousands of years. It works.  Compared to the rest, the mortar & pestle offers the most control over your grind size and consistency. 

That said, we realize not everyone will have one of these laying around their kitchen. Or maybe you’re just looking for a quicker solution.  

In that case, start by narrowing down the list by what items you actually have on hand.  Then narrow it down further by the type of brew method you plan on using.  

Remember to look at what grind size you can expect out of each option as this will be important depending on what you plan to brew with. I have made suggestions for what brew methods work best with each grinding alternative. 

Once you’ve made your decision, simply follow the steps I’ve laid out and enjoy your home brew! 

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author

Neal Drown
Neal has been proudly wearing the label of coffee enthusiast for over a decade now. He has an M.A. in Research and a true passion for all things coffee. Let's Brew Coffee was created to leverage his skills as a researcher and deliver the best content available on crafting the perfect brew.