Ask any coffee purist and they will tell you that for the best results at home, grind your properly stored coffee beans just before brewing. Doing so will ensure that all the delicate nuances of aroma and flavor can be fully enjoyed. But what if you do not have a coffee grinder or if the one you have is not working? Fear not. In all likelihood, you have the perfect backup sitting right there on your kitchen counter.
A kitchen blender can be used as a backup coffee grinder in a pinch and certain models can actually do a decent job of grinding beans to the desired fineness or coarseness as the case may be. Caution should be exercised, however, not to allow the blender blades to overheat the coffee grounds.
No matter how you prepare your coffee (e.g., hand pour-over, french press, regular drip brewer), the best brew results from freshly ground beans. With a little bit of know-how, an ordinary kitchen blender can grind coffee beans with surprisingly good results. But when it comes to using a blender for this specialized purpose, too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing. Here’s why.
Can I Grind Coffee Beans in a Blender?
The typical kitchen blender consists of a base containing a motor and a jar that has a blade incorporated into the bottom. By placing the jar on the base and turning the blender on, the motor will turn the blade at an incredibly high rate of speed, breaking up and pulverizing whatever items are placed in the jar. If run for a long enough time and at a high speed, a blender can puree or liquefy things like ice, fruit, and vegetables.
In the case of coffee beans, a kitchen blender can be used to break them up into small fragments or particles that are suitable for brewing coffee, much in the way that a traditional coffee grinder would. But where a coffee grinder is a highly specialized (and in many cases, expensive) piece of hardware capable of performing one job, a blender is a versatile multi-tasker that no kitchen should be without.
Can you grind coffee beans in a blender? Absolutely, and here’s how.
This is How to Use a Blender to Grind Coffee Beans
Structurally speaking, a blender is similar to a blade coffee grinder (which is the most common type). But unlike a traditional coffee grinder, there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure that your blender produces the desired results and that your time and effort to grind your own coffee beans do not go to waste. Here is the full rundown:
- Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to grinding coffee so to ensure that the coffee grounds are as uniform in size as possible, grind small batches at a time when using a blender – start off with no more than one-quarter of a cup and work in multiple batches if necessary
- By not overcrowding the blender jar you will ensure that the beans and fragments have sufficient space to move around and settle in the path of the spinning blades
- Grinding small amounts of beans at a time also allows the blender to run for shorter periods of time, which is important because the longer that the blades spin, the hotter they and the interior of the jar become due to friction, and this heat will carry over to the coffee grounds
- Overheating the coffee grounds can cause the natural oils in them to cook and yield a bitter flavor when brewed
- When using a blender to grind coffee beans, utilize the pulse feature to spin the blades in short bursts rather than prolonged cycles
- If your blender has variable speeds, start off at a medium speed and adjust as needed to achieve the desired particle size
Generally speaking, most kitchen blenders will produce a relatively coarse grind that is perfectly suitable for brewing on a regular coffee maker or in a french press. As more and more people are discovering, cold brew coffee is a wonderful way to prepare coffee and a coarse grind is ideal for this method of preparation.
Some methods for grinding coffee beans in a blender are specific to a particular make or model, particularly higher-end units. For instance, if you are the proud owner of a Blendtec blender, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- For a Blendtec Twister model, use 1 cup of coffee beans for best results
- A Blendtec FourSide jar can take up to 1 ½ cups of coffee beans at a time
- Blendtec’s WildSide + jar can accommodate up to 2 cups of coffee beans at a time
- Start with Speed 5 on your Blendtec blender
- 20 to 30 seconds should be sufficient time to yield a consistent grind (you can extend this time as needed to achieve the desired particle size)
If a Vitamix blender is what you have sitting on your kitchen counter, then these coffee grinding tips apply to you:
- On Vitamix blenders with variable speeds, start off at Speed 1 and gradually work your way up to Speed 8
- Grinding coffee beans should take approximately 10 seconds
- For the best results grinding coffee beans, the manufacturer recommends using its specially adapted dry grains jar
And if your blender is any number of other popular brands, many of these tips would still likely apply and aid in achieving proper coffee grounds. For instance, regardless of the make or model, as a general rule the longer you run your blender the finer the coffee grounds you will produce:
- On a Blendtec or comparable blender, running the blender for 10 seconds will yield a coarse grind and 15 seconds will produce a finer grind suitable for preparing espresso
- On a Vitamix or comparable blender, 10 seconds of blending will produce coarse coffee grounds while running the blender for 20 seconds will result in an espresso grind
It is worth noting that some blenders even have a “grinder” setting specifically for grinding dry goods like coffee beans.
Grinding Coffee Beans in a Blender? Things to Watch out For
Unlike a high-quality coffee grinder, which is purpose-built to withstand the rigors of grinding hard coffee beans to a precise, uniform size on a daily basis, a kitchen blender is designed to perform a multitude of tasks involving primarily wetter, and typically softer, ingredients like fruits, vegetables, liquids, and ice.
Which is not to say that a blender should not be used to grind coffee beans. It can, and many people, including daily coffee drinkers, use their blenders this way. But there are certain things to watch out for when using a kitchen blender to grind coffee beans. These include:
- If your blender does not have a pulse feature (e.g., quick bursts of blending) then you will need to manually switch the blender on and off quickly to avoid prolonged blending which can overheat the coffee grounds
- The power of a blender directly corresponds to its ability to effectively perform its tasks, whether they be blending ingredients or grinding coffee beans – to this end, a motor with a power rating of 500 watts or greater is ideal; anything less may not get the job done however
- Since the whole idea behind grinding your own coffee beans in a blender is to achieve the freshest, most flavorful brew possible, grinding more than is needed for immediate use will result in wasted coffee as delicate aromas and flavors will begin to dissipate shortly after beans are ground
Aside from considerations relating to brewing a great cup of coffee, thought should be given to the condition of your blender. There are countless varieties and types of coffee produced around the world and many of them yield beans that are very hard and brittle. With frequent use and prolonged blending sessions, grinding these beans in a blender can cause the blades to wear out faster and require more frequent replacement of blade assemblies.
Why all the Fuss About Grinding Your Own Coffee Beans?
As coffee purists (coffee snobs, to some) or even the occasional coffee drinker can tell you, a great cup of coffee satisfies like no other. Nothing can compare to the rich sensory experience that good coffee can provide: from the deep aroma wafting throughout your home to the delicate flavor notes that can range from sweet and floral to earthy and pungent.
It is for these attributes that coffee drinkers go through what seems to others like an awful lot of trouble just to prepare a pot or cup of coffee. And the process begins with grinding whole coffee beans into a powdery form with a level of fineness or coarseness dictated by the particular brewing method that will be used. To appreciate why grinding coffee beans is so important you need to understand how this step relates to the overall quality of the final brew:
- Coffee brewing is essentially the interaction between the water used to brew the coffee (usually heated) and the coffee medium itself (the coffee grounds)
- Think of each coffee bean as a package containing components responsible for the brewed coffee’s aroma, flavors, body, finish, and other characteristics
- The act of grinding coffee beans opens these packages and allows their precious contents to be removed (the technical term is extracted) by the water and carried into the finished liquid
- How effectively the water can extract flavors and other attributes from the coffee particles depends largely on how finely or coarsely they are ground
- Grinding coffee beans basically increases their exposed surface area – a coffee bean broken in half will have more surface area than a whole coffee bean; if those halves are then broken in half themselves, then the amount of surface area increases; if those quarters are each broken in half, then the amount of surfaces area increases again; and so on and so on
- Generally speaking, the more exposed coffee surface area that comes into contact with water during brewing, the greater the amount of extraction that occurs, and the more flavorful the brew
Putting this all together, finer coffee grounds will yield a deeper flavor in a shorter period of time while coarser coffee grounds will require a longer contact period with water in order to produce a decent cup of coffee. This is why coffee aficionados seek out a specific particle size for their coffee grounds depending on what particular preparation method they will be using to brew their cup of joe.
Here is a summary of how the size of coffee grounds correlates to different ways to brew coffee:
- Turkish coffee and espresso – requires an extra-fine consistency (0.1 to 0.3 mm) similar to that of flour or powdered sugar
- Moka pot (stovetop) and siphon method – a medium-fine consistency (0.5 mm) best suits these brewing methods – think table salt as the ideal particle size
- Drip coffee maker and hand pour over – a medium particle size (0.75 mm) similar to that of beach sand is ideal for these popular brewing techniques
- French press – this brewing method calls for a coarse grind (roughly 1.0 mm) similar in size to coarse sea salt (but not the rocks or crystals)
- Cold brew – because this method relies entirely on steeping time and involves cold water (as opposed to heated water), the contact time between the coffee grounds and the water is prolonged and therefore a very coarse consistency (approximately 1.5 mm), similar in size to small rock salt crystals, is needed
While it may not seem like a big deal to some, using a mismatched coffee ground size with any brewing method will either result in a watery, flavorless beverage (e.g., putting very coarsely ground coffee in a Moka pot) or an over-extracted coffee that is bitter beyond enjoyment (such as using an espresso grind to prepare coffee via a french press).
But pair the right grind size with the proper brewing method and you are on your way to pure coffee bliss.
Grinding Coffee in a Blender
A lot more goes into brewing a great cup of coffee than most people think. It all begins, of course, by buying and properly storing high-quality coffee beans. And then, knowing how to unlock the prized characteristics that lie within each bean, is the key to preparing café-quality coffee at home.
The process of home coffee brewing starts off with fresh ground coffee. Even without a coffee grinder, it is possible to use a standard kitchen blender to grind coffee beans for use in any number of coffee brewing preparations as long as you know what to look out for and understand the limitations of using a blender for this purpose.
Before long, you’ll be enjoying the best cup of joe you ever had, right from the comfort of your own home, thanks to your humble blender.