The Best Spice Grinders

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Photographs: Vicky Wasik

Fresh spices liven up a dish unlike anything else. You can travel to India through garam masala and be transported to China in a flash by a fiery xinjiang blend. Unfortunately, the volatile aromatics in spices dissipate rapidly, leaving pre-ground coriander tasting less of citrus and more of stale pine.

The best way to purchase spices is to buy them whole, so their complex aromas and flavors remain under lock and key until you decide to set them loose. With the a good spice grinder, this is as easy as it sounds. A mortar and pestle is useful for small, on-the-fly spoonfuls of fennel and mace—you can read about our favorite mortar and pestles here—but if you find yourself frequently pounding away for large batches or daily cooking, then a great electric spice grinder is a necessity.

We rigorously tested the top 13 models to find you the ones that quickly blended spices to a fine and consistent powder, while remaining easy to use, clean, and store.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

The Best Removable Cup Spice Grinder: Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder

The high-capacity removable bowl and lighting fast grinding speed make the Cuisinart the ideal spice grinder for the spice fanatic. The grinder cup easily locks into place with a twist and is dishwasher safe for fast clean up. The cord tucks away into the base for tidy storage and the grinder is simply activated by pressing down on the lid.

Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder

The Best Fixed-Cup Spice Grinder: Krups Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder

The sleek and minimalist design of the Krups is easy to hold, handle, and store—perfect for anyone tight on space. Even without a removable bowl, clean up is a cinch because spices never get trapped beneath the blade and there are no unnecessary ridges or notches to clog with spices. The one-touch button makes it easy to operate, quickly yielding a fine and consistent grind with both large and tough spices like cinnamon as well as smaller seeds.

The Criteria: What We Look For in a Great Spice Grinder

The majority of blade spice grinders available are also marketed as coffee grinders (sometimes exclusively so). While these devices can be used to grind coffee, the reality is you’re probably better off with a burr grinder for coffee. Burr grinders allow you to more consistently control your coffee-grind size, leading to better brewing results.

Instead, we think these blade grinders should be used for what they excel at—grinding spices—regardless of how they’re marketed and sold. (In a rare shift, Cuisinart broke with their competitors and decided to market their grinder exclusively for spices and nuts, not for coffee.) However, if you do prefer to use a blade grinder for coffee, we suggest you purchase two, keeping one strictly for grinding spices and the other for coffee. This will help you prevent unfortunate cross-contamination—cumin-tinged coffee doesn’t sound like "the best part of waking up" to me.

Blade grinders are available in two major styles—fixed cup and removable cup. Models with a fixed cup can be harder to clean, but there’s not as much risk of spices getting into the motor housing. With the removable cup models, there is some risk of ground spices working their way down into the motor housing over time, which could shorten the lifespan of the grinder. On the flip side, the grinder cup itself is easier to clean, limiting cross-contamination of flavors.

For the past several weeks, we’ve on the hunt for a great spice grinder—one that quickly pulverizes tough spices down to a powder fine enough that it will blend into soups and curries without leaving them gritty. When it comes to spices, the finer the grind, the better. Consistency, too, is key. A spice grinder that’s capable of blitzing cinnamon into the finest powder is useless if some jagged shards remain in the mix.

Speed is important not just to save you time in the kitchen, but also to ensure that the spices don’t heat up during prolonged grinding times. Heat releases many aromatic compounds, which is something you want to happen during cooking, not while you’re prepping your ingredients. If a unit takes minutes to properly grind the spices, and heats them up in the process, you’ve already lost a lot of flavor.

Because your spice needs may vary, we also wanted to find grinders that work equally well with smaller and larger quantities of spices. Blending as little as a teaspoon can become challenging for an electric grinder, but a good unit that can handle smaller amounts can save you from also needing to equip your kitchen with a manual grinder or a small mortar and pestle.

Easy clean up is essential, especially for a step that might seem excessive to some. We marked down units with annoying ridges or nooks that became caked after repeated use. We also looked for spice grinders designed in a way that prevented too many granules from getting trapped beneath the blades, and ones that didn’t spill powdery spices during use.

The Testing

Grinding Large Spices: Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a tough spice to grind, especially if you want that perfect, delicate powder that comes pre-ground at the store. It’s definitely a challenge for a mortar and pestle, and turned out to be a tough one on several of the electric grinders as well—one brand even warned against attempting it at all.

For the first cinnamon test, we ground ten grams of cinnamon sticks broken into one-inch pieces for ten seconds. After grinding for ten seconds, we passed the cinnamon through medium and fine lab-grade sieves to determine which units performed the best at initially cracking through the sticks and how consistently they were able to do so. The worst units left nearly all ten grams of the cinnamon unable to pass through either sieve.

For the second cinnamon test, we ground 20 grams of cinnamon sticks broken into one-inch pieces until it was visibly fully ground and no more than five grams remained after sifting through our finest sieve. We ground the cinnamon in ten-second bursts with a break after one minute to allow the motors to cool down, per the manufacturers’ instructions. We also noted any units that heated up the cinnamon by the time if was fully ground. There was quite a wide range in the results of the second test, with the worst performers taking as long as 110 seconds and the best completing the task in just 45 seconds.

Grinding Small Spices: Cumin

Cumin is smaller and easier to grind than cinnamon, but it has challenges of its own. When grinding cumin by hand, tough fibers often remain. The tiny seeds can also easily become lodged beneath the blades of an electric grinder.

As with the cinnamon, we ran two cumin grinding tests. For the first test we ground ten grams of cumin for ten seconds before sifting through medium and fine lab-grade sieves. The winning spice grinders left almost no cumin behind after just ten seconds, while the worst performers failed to break down all the seeds.

For the second cumin test we ground 20 grams of cumin until fully ground, again following the manufacturer's recommendations. All the grinders were able to fully grind the cumin into a fine enough powder to pass through the finest sieve, but the top performers accomplished the task between 20 to 40 seconds, while the worst unit took 70 seconds.

After narrowing down to six finalists through the cinnamon and cumin tests, we put the remaining six contenders through more spice grinding tests. In addition to repeating the earlier tests, we tested each unit’s ability to handle extremes, filling the grinders to maximum capacity and also filling them with a small amount to just below the blades, checking for consistency once again by passing through sieves.

Ease of Use

Some of the units featured simple one-touch operation while others required you to dial in settings. Even among the spices grinders with one-touch operations, a few had buttons that were uncomfortable to hold down, especially with longer grinding sessions.

Grinders with removable bowls allow you to run them under water or put them in the dishwasher for fast clean up, but in those cases we wanted a bowl that was a cinch to snap on and off the grinding body. Some of the spice grinders with removable bowls also left too much room between the bowl and the base, which led to spices getting trapped beneath the bowl and thus required additional cleaning.

Sufficient cord length is important, since it makes maneuvering around a kitchen easier, so we measured the length of each cord. Built-in cord storage can be a great bonus if well designed. A couple of units have designs that allow you to quickly coil or tuck away the cord, but the majority were tough to use.

While most of the spice grinders did a good job of keeping the spice dust contained while blending, several had short lids or shallow blending bowls that spilled upon opening, even with as little as ten grams of spice. We preferred units with taller lids that didn’t spill upon opening, even when grinding large amounts.

How We Chose Our Winners

Our winning spice grinders blasted through cinnamon and cumin, providing a fine and even grind without overheating. They are both easy to clean, with simple smooth designs that are quick to wipe down. We found these units the most comfortable to hold, with intuitive and user-friendly designs.

The Best Removable Cup Spice Grinder: Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder

What we liked: The Cuisinart offered the highest capacity with a maximum volume of 120 milliliters, grinding just as well with its volume topped out as it does with just a teaspoon. It was one of the fastest grinders, pulverizing cinnamon sticks to a powder in 70 seconds and cumin in only 40.

This is the only unit that didn’t require you to blend in ten-second bursts, nor did it require that you stop blending after one minute. Instead, the Cuisinart spice grinder can be run until it feels warm, which we found through our testing to take at least two minutes. The removable bowl twists on and off in one quick motion and is dishwasher safe along with the transparent lid.

What we didn’t like: At two pounds and four ounces, this is one of the heftier units. Some spice dust was emitted upon opening the lid. Some of the ground spices can end up on the inner rim during blending, which can then find their way under the removable bowl.

The Best Fixed-Cup Spice Grinder: Krups Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder

What we liked: The Krups is one of the smallest and lightest models we tested, at just over six inches tall and one pound and five ounces, and a steal at nearly half the price of the Cuisinart. The smaller size doesn’t mean smaller capacity: This unit can grind up to 85 milliliters of spices at a time. The slim, oval design was easy to handle, and the grinder bowl narrows at one end to cleanly pour out its contents.

It was one of our fastest and most consistent grinders, crushing cinnamon to a fine powder in 60 seconds and cumin in 40. The fixed cup doesn’t make it harder to clean because it’s wide enough to allow you to reach inside and thoroughly wipe it down. Plus, no ground spice was ever trapped under the blades. We also appreciate the generous two and a half–foot long cord.

What we didn’t like: If only the Krups had cord storage, it might be the ultimate spice grinder.

The Competition

Here are notes on the other models we tested for this review:

The Bodum Bistro Blade Grinder has a nice grippy rubber exterior and plenty of color options. Unfortunately, the unit doesn't easily sit flat because the cord doesn't stay put in its cord cut-out. The cord storage is also tough to use. It has one of the slowest blending times, with spices often getting stuck under the blades.

The Epica Electric Coffee Grinder and Spice Grinder has a similar lid design as the Cuisinart, but with a lip that kept spice dust from getting on the rim of the grinder. However, some spices still got under the grinding cup and it was harder to clean out than the Cuisinart due to narrow plastic ridges below the cup. This unit blended well and was very easy to clean. It was ultimately knocked out of the running due to the small size of the button, which was difficult to press down.

The Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder has a low capacity of only 35 to 45 milliliters, depending on what spice you are blending. The activation button is hard to hold down and the plastic parts in the grinder bowl easily became clogged with spices. The lid fits on very tightly and it’s tough to remove, leading you to spill upon opening.

The Hamilton Beach Custom Grind has a removable blending cup that’s hard to remove and even harder to put back in place. The unit is large and clunky, making it difficult to grasp, clean, and store. It also yielded an uneven grind.

The KitchenAid Blade Coffee and Spice Grinder comes equipped with two bowls with different blades, one for spices with a winged blade and one for coffee with a straight blade. The one for coffee performed poorly, leaving lots of large and unevenly processed cumin seeds. The spice bowl performs better, but only slightly. It's slow to grind, has an uneven grind, low capacity, and the opaque lid makes it difficult to see inside the bowl to monitor the grinding process. The spice bowl performed better with 20 grams of spices than with 10, but it can't do much more than that, resulting in a limited sweet spot where it grinds well. Spice gets under the removable cup, where the ridged surface makes it difficult to clean.

The Mr. Coffee Electric Coffee Bean Grinder is an oldie, but a goodie. It quickly produced a surprisingly fine and even grind with a simple design that’s compact and easy to use. We ultimately ruled it out due to its small button design and spillage upon opening.

The button on the Proctor Silex Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder is hard to press down. Combined with a low capacity—20 grams of cinnamon maxes it out—and spillage upon opening, this unit didn’t make the cut. It does, however have the best visibility while blending, so it’s a good choice if you like to watch your spices whirl.

The feet fell off the Quiseen One Touch Electric Coffee Grinder immediately upon unboxing. There is cord storage, but it's difficult to use. Its design is similar to the Bodum, with nice grippy sides but an unstable base. The blade placement is very low, resulting in spices getting trapped beneath, and it is difficult to clean out. This unit has the shallowest lid and most spilling of all the ones we tested.

The Saachi Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder is equipped with a deep bowl for high capacity. Its time for initial breakdown of spices is fast, but this unit struggles to get stuff really fine. The slim shape is easy to hold and handle with simple twist cord storage. Unfortunately, a lot of spice gets stuck under the blade and the design has hard to clean plastic ridges.

Spices tend to get stuck along the wall and lid of the Secura Electric Coffee Grinder and Spice Grinder. With a double lid, spice dust stays in the bowl, while remaining transparent enough for a clear view while blending. This unit yielded the finest ground cinnamon, but it was also the only unit to have large chunks left behind after blending for a full minute.

The Westinghouse Select Series Stainless Steel Electric Coffee and Spice Grinder cinches at the center like a waist, making it easy to grip and maneuver. The removable bowl is simple to remove and replace, slipping in and out without the need to twist or lock into place. Because the bowl sits snug in the base, spices don’t get caught underneath it, allowing for easy clean up. Unfortunately, this unit didn’t make the cut due to a low capacity and excess spillage upon opening.