Yes, you can use a a food processor to grind coffee beans, but don't expect it to come out like a decent grinder. There are a lot of variables that affect the outcome based on the food processor itself. In this article, we're going to point out the obvious reasons why you should not use a food processor unless there are no other options reasonably available.
If there are no other options, sure, fire up the food processor and get that much needed first cup, just don't expect it to taste the same, nor a Starbucks quality cup of Joe. Now we get into the finer details of why your food processor is not the best option for grinding coffee beans. But don't worry, if you must, we have a guide at the bottom on how to best grind coffee beans in a food processor.
Let's make a list of issues we'll cover so you can skip through quickly if you're short on time. If you have the time to read, it's interesting information that may help you pick better food processors down the road.
1. Food processors are designed completely different from a “grinder”.
2. The distance of the bottom blade from the floor of the processors container
3. The watts, or horsepower of the motor
4. Does the unit have the ability to pulse
Coffee Grinders vs Food Processors
Grinding coffee beans is done to have consistent size pieces of coffee grounds so your coffee will have a consistent flavor and aroma. This is one of the reasons why we pay for beans to grind ourselves instead of buying ground coffee, you can grind it to your liking.
Grinders grind, food processors cut or pulverize, depending on the quality of the processor as a whole and task at hand. They are two completely different processes that yield two completely different results. The design of a food usually has a spinning blade in close proximity to the floor of the container, but therein lies the problem.
Blade Distance is a Problem When Grinding Coffee Beans
One of the basic flaws of lower end food processors is that their blades are too high above the container floor. This lets food below them go untouched, and the same applies to the side. The closer the blade to the side, the better and more consistent your processing will be. The food will be more uniform in size, making cooking far superior to food partially or over processed.
If the beans are below the blades, you will have a huge variation in size of grounds when done because the ones on the bottom are untouched. If the blades do not extend to the sides close enough, you miss more.
The Watts of the Food Processors Motor Makes a Difference
The beans will shatter as they are struck by the blades as they whirl around and around, so the RPM's and the motor play a major role in the time you can grind before turning a good portion of it into dust, which is never a good thing with good coffee beans.
Now we have conflicts.
If you have a 750 or small food processor, you have the better motor for the job, but smaller processors usually are not as well designed and built as the large family size units. This means your bottom blade on the 750 watt unit will likely be further off of the processing containers bottom, making it less effective, creating inconsistent coffee grounds. On the flip side, your bigger, more expensive family units usually have better blade engineering in relation to the processing container, but have so much power it's almost impossible not to over grind the coffee beans.
Does your food processor have the ability to pulse power it?
The ability to use the pulse mode when grinding coffee beans with a food processor is paramount since most food processors keep their RPM's in a very close range. Being able to just tap the pulse button makes sure you don't turn your beans to powder… that is unless you want them that way.
I have use very cheap and small food processors to grind coffee beans before and I've also done it with several different size machines. The smaller units are easiest to use because after pulsing, you can just pick it up and shake it a bit, moving this around and pulsing again.
On the larger units, pulse is absolutely necessary of you want grounds that are usable if you don't shut it off immediately each time. It takes me about 3 to 4 pulses to have decent coffee in my Cuisinart family side processor. They are too heavy and bulky to pick up and shake, but if your blades are close to the bottom and sides of the container area, you can make a decent Java in a pinch.
With the small units, just pulse if you can, keep the runs as short as you can, and shake between your pulses. It's not as consistent as the higher end units with a pulse, but you can get that coffee fix before heading out to work in the morning.