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I have seen a tool which is in two parts. In either part, you place both the plastic ball that comes with the tool and spices. You then screw the two parts of the tool together (it's plastic, it's easy). Now that you spices and the ball are sealed within the container, you can violently shake the tool to grind your spices to near dust. I've owned one, but because it was made out of plastic, the violent shaking smashed it.

What is the name of this tool? enter image description here

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  • I don't know the name, but I remember a similar device used to shake salad dressing from a while back.
    – dbmag9
    Mar 18 at 18:55
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    What the advantage over a mortar and pestle?
    – Redy000
    Mar 19 at 14:34
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    @Redy000 The shaking motion may be easier for some people than the grinding motion needed for a mortar and pestle. If it were better designed you could probably also get more consistently uniform results with some things in a shorter time period. Mar 19 at 15:38

2 Answers 2

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The product name (as it says on the side) is the 'Flavour Shaker', and it is a (now discontinued) product marketed by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. I read through a few reviews (e.g. here) from when it came out, and none of them use a more general term to describe it so I think it's fairly unique as an item – there is no widely-used general term for the type of tool for regular home use.

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    I'm getting the same impression: It's a unique item from Jamie Oliver. I didn't know that it was discontinued, but the prices suggest as much. Having read the Amazon reviews, it looks like I'm not alone in finding it fragile. It's such a shame. All they had to do was make the main container out of metal! An adequate replacement for this item would make for a fantastic gift. A shame that nobody has found a more general product.
    – J. Mini
    Mar 18 at 23:40
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    Funnily enough, I "invented" something like that as a kid. Don't remember what I was intending to grind up (definitely nothing for the food) but I made the fatal mistake of having the "ball" be a heavy metal nut and the container a glass pill bottle. It cracked after like 1 second :-D Mar 20 at 1:14
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    @J.Mini it would probably be very loud made of metal (steel) - but you could try it with a stainless cocktail shaker even though that's the wrong shape at the ends. TBH the ball probably isn't heavy enough to grind everything anyway
    – Chris H
    Mar 21 at 10:40
  • @ChrisH: In principle, you're not limited by the weight of the ball if you shake it vigorously enough. The lightness of the ball may have been an intentional consideration given the shaker's fragility.
    – Flater
    Mar 21 at 13:00
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    You know, I could have sworn these were a thing before and after Jamie Oliver's product; I honestly remember them being briefly popular in the 90s and would have expected them to still be around now, but I can't find any evidence of either. And for heaven's sake be careful when using Google Image Search for "ball grinder", that's all I'm saying on the matter.
    – Spratty
    Mar 21 at 13:02
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I haven't seen this type of device as a home spice grinder, but in commercial/industrial settings, this type of device is called a ball mill.

Industrial ball mills will have a cylinder filled with balls. The item that needs to be ground is added, the the cylinder is then turned on an axis so that the balls & material tumble, with the balls pulverizing the material. (picture a laundry dryer, filled with steel balls, and using that to grind up "stuff".) These basically use the tumbling movement and the strength of the spheres (usually made from something like steel or ceramic) to pulverize the subject material (usually something softer than the spheres).

While ball mills traditionally use multiple balls, and a mechanized tumbling motion, the spice grinder you describe would work on the exact same principle.

I'm not sure if there is a specialized name for the specialized version of the ball mill you describe that is meant to be shaken & used for spices--but it would certainly be a derivative or subclass of a ball mill. I also suspect that a steel version would be much more durable--as you noted the plastic version would eventually shake itself apart from frequent use, or using it with very hard spices.

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