Spices make good food taste better. They enhance food flavor and palatability. And they also come with nutritional benefits that make them a healthy addition to any recipe, including pork, beef, and vegetable soup.
But you know what the secret is to using them properly? It’s using them freshly ground. That’s because you can get the full strength of the volatile aromatics that are inside the spices.
Grinding spices fresh is also a more cost-efficient way of using them. Whole spices last much longer than pre-ground ones so it’s much better stockpiling them and using them when needed. Also, when they’re freshly ground, they’re very potent so you only need a small amount for any recipe.
In the old days, one used a mortar and a pestle to ground spices to bits. And while there are still home cooks that use this pair today, most modern kitchens now rely on hand crank spice grinders to do the task more quickly and efficiently.
The spice grinders are portable, and more fun to use since they come in various designs and colors. But if you’re shopping for one online, chances are you’ll come upon products that are also marketed as a spice and herb grinder.
According to kitchen pros, this type of product isn’t really ideal for spices. They’re meant to be used for shredding cannabis so that smokers will be able to easily hand-roll the leaves into a joint that burns more evenly.
An actual spice grinder is one that uses a burr mechanism to grind spices. This means that the spice is crushed by two revolving abrasive surfaces whose distance from each other is controlled by the user. When the two surfaces are far apart, the grind quality is coarser and when it’s set closer, the resulting material is finer and smaller. In some spice grinder models, this control mechanism is found at the base of the product.
Burr mechanisms are great for spices because they don’t heat the ingredient by friction. They also produce uniformly-sized particles more consistently than any other grinding device.
Most spice grinders use burrs that are made from ceramic because ceramic is versatile and durable enough to be used for many types of ingredients. This makes it perfect for making spice blends because one can also grind salt with this type of grinder. Pro chefs, however, generally prefer burrs that are made from carbon steel because they’re even more durable and provide the sharpest edges.
The best spice grinders are those that are a blend of form and function. They’re decorative and durable but are also easy to use. More importantly, they grind spices efficiently and effectively enough for the cook’s needs.
Here are my top four picks for the top hand crank spice grinders online.
Best Hand Crank Spice Grinders
- Bazaar Anatolia Spice Grinder
- GROSCHE BREMEN Manual Spice Mill
- DRASHOME Household Manual Spice Mill
- Kuhn Rikon Adjustable Ratchet Grinder
1. Bazaar Anatolia Spice Grinder
Made in Europe, this spice grinder has an Ottoman Vintage design which should appeal to anyone looking for a functional but also decorative spice grinder.
It is constructed out of Zamak alloy, which is a metallic amalgam of copper, zinc, aluminum, and magnesium. It has a detachable ornate holder, a sliding pour hole and includes a Crystalia measuring spoon for spices. Grind quality can be adjusted through its settings located at the bottom of the grinder using a simple clockwise turn for a fine grind and a counterclockwise turn for a coarser grind.
This grinder is best used for peppercorns, coriander, salt, cardamom, mustard, cumin, and sumac.
- Easy to clean with a brush and dry cloth
- All metal construction
- Not for nutmeg, corn, or oily seeds
- Not dishwasher safe
2. GROSCHE BREMEN Manual Spice Mill
This grinder uses a double conical burr mechanism that’s powerful enough to evenly grind coffee beans and tough spices. It uses adjustable gears for coarse and fine grinds; just hold its screw in place and twist gear left for a fine grind and right for a coarse grind.
Its crank handle is easy to turn. Its primary glass container is equipped with a non-slip silicone base and a silicone lid to prevent spillage. There’s also an extra glass jar to store up to 3.5 fl oz. of ground spices or coffee.
Users reported that this spice grinder works well with peppercorns, cumin, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon.
- BPA and Lead-free
- Dishwasher safe
- Some parts are so small that they are easy to lose when cleaning
- Not dishwasher safe
3. DRASHOME Household Manual Spice Mill
Made out of stainless steel, this grinder is primarily marketed as a coffee bean grinder but it can also be used as a spice mill as well. Its grind quality can be adjusted for two settings: coarse and fine.
Its hand crank mechanism is user-friendly; the handle is long enough to reduce wrist strain when cranking and the knob on top of it is made of wood for a comfortable grip.
This spice grinder can be used for grinding dry spices, nuts, and herbs.
- Stainless steel construction
- Compact, lightweight
- No warranty stated
4. Kuhn Rikon Adjustable Ratchet Grinder
While it isn’t exactly a hand crank grinder, its ratchet operating system is useful for those with hand mobility issues who may have difficulty turning a crank. By simply moving the ratchet handle back and forth to grind, the process should be easier on the wrists.
This spice mill uses a ceramic grinding stone that’s rust-proof and long-lasting. It delivers a consistent grind that can be conveniently adjusted to coarse and fine using the dial on the face. When compared with other manual mills, this can produce the same amount of ground pepper about 1.5 times faster.
It can be used for a wide range of spices, salt, and for making spice blends. Users have reported using this successfully for peppercorn, coriander, cumin seeds, dried rosemary, and other dry spices.
- 2-year warranty
- User friendly for arthritic hands
- Not for cloves or anise
- Not dishwasher safe
How to Pick the Right Hand Crank Spice Grinder
Type of Burr Mechanism
In general, metal-based burrs are better for grinding spices not only because they’re more durable but they’re also more efficient in their grinding capability. The ones made from stainless steel are made from sintered metal and are machined to maximize their grinding power. For pepper mills, a zinc alloy burr mechanism is often used. Carbon steel is the best and is usually preferred by chefs.
But if one is looking for a multi-purpose spice grinder, one should pick a ceramic burr. That’s because it doesn’t corrode when it’s used to grind salt. This makes it useful when one needs to add salt into their personal spice blend recipes.
Look for consistency in the grind. Are the particles uniformly fine or do they have a lot of coarse particles as well? Does it also have a variety of grind settings? When it comes to spice grinding, the finer the grind the better.
Is it durable enough to withstand repeated use? Is it smooth and easy to crank? Some models will have special features like a removable crank for easy storage and cleaning.
Hand crank spice grinders are generally small enough for use with small quantities of spices. Some can fit into your palm, others will be a bit bigger but still portable enough. Choose one according to your requirements.
Look for a spice grinder that feels well constructed and durable. Whether it’s made of metal or hard plastic, it should be able to handle a few accidental drops.
Ease of Cleanup
This is an important thing to consider because you’ll be using the grinder for a lot of spices and you need to avoid cross-flavoring unless you’re making a blend. Some questions to ask: Can it be disassembled for easy cleaning? Are the parts dishwasher safe? Does it come with an accessory like a small brush to get rid of spice particles?
Look for a product with at least a 1-year warranty. Since you’re going to be using it on a daily basis, it should at least be durable enough for that long. The more high-end brands will have a longer warranty which can be an indicator of how much they trust the durability of the product.
It also helps if the brand has a reliable after-sales service. Check the user comments on the product’s page. They’ll give you an idea of how quick they are to respond to complaints and requests for replacement.