Can you use a juicer to grind coffee beans? In a word, yes—but you have to proceed with caution if you want to get a decent cup of coffee out of it. Since that’s probably your goal, you should read on for tips on how to use your juicer for the task without destroying the integrity of the beans.
What’s the Difference?
Essentially, both a juicer and a coffee grinder use blades to transform larger items into smaller particles—extremely small, in the juicer’s case. So why does it matter which one you use? To answer, you need a basic understanding of the structure and design of both products.
There are two different types of juicer: centrifugal juicers, and cold-press or slow-masticating juicers. The centrifugal models use a wide, sharp blade to separate juice from the flesh, or pulp. The slow-masticating ones, by contrast, work to extract the juice by crushing it and pressing it slowly, thereby retaining more nutrients. These are a better choice for grinding coffee beans, for reasons we’ll get into a bit later.
Coffee grinders, or “burr grinders,” consist of two abrasive surfaces, rotating against each other to create friction. The grinder uses gravity to force the whole beans toward this breaking point, pulverizing them until they’ve reached the consistency you want.
You have more control over the finished product when using a coffee grinder, which is why they’re generally preferable to other methods. However, as long as your juicer has a grinder attachment (check the user’s manual to be sure), there’s no reason why you can’t use it to prepare your morning coffee.
The Heat Factor
One of the reasons it can be problematic to use a food processor or blender to grind coffee beans is due to the heat that builds up on the blades. Coffee beans are extremely susceptible to heat—it’s why the finished beverage smells and tastes so heavenly when it’s freshly brewed, because all of the essential oils have steeped in the steaming water. Since the last thing you want is for all of those lovely oils to escape before brewing, it’s imperative to keep the heat at a minimum while grinding whole beans.
Fortunately, you won’t have this dilemma if you use a slow-masticating juicer. The cold-press method is renowned for extracting the highest possible level of nutrients from the ingredients, and will do the same for your whole coffee beans. Look for an auger speed no greater than 80 RPM (revolutions per minute). Anything higher will be too fast, and greater engine speed translates into higher heat. The Omega Nutrition Center is an 80 RPM juicer that includes a grinder function, making it a good choice for this task. Just be sure to give the machine a minute or two to cool down in between batches.
Consistency is Key
With a coffee grinder, you have an impressive amount of control over the consistency of your ground coffee beans. You can see, hear, and even feel the difference in texture as the coarse grind gives way to a fine powder. Since you don’t have that luxury with a juicer, you’ll have to rely on trial and error at first.
If your coffee beans have a high oil content (this is especially common in gourmet beans), they should be dried out overnight before grinding. Affix the “blank” cone attachment and the round or oval-shaped nozzle onto your juicer. If necessary, refer to the instruction manual to be sure you’ve got the proper attachments. Add the whole beans at a steady pace. There should be no need to repeat the process. If you find that the grind is not coming out at your desired consistency, it might be necessary to experiment with other attachments to achieve the results you want. Before using the juicer for other functions, be sure to clean the chute and other component thoroughly.
Purists might argue that there’s no replacement for a good old-fashioned coffee grinder, but if you’re willing to experiment, there’s no reason why you can’t use your juicer instead. After all, these units don’t come cheaply. If you’ve invested in a high-quality product that’s capable of performing many different functions, why shouldn’t you try to get your money’s worth?