I usually buy prepackaged ground coffee for my drip coffee maker, but recently I accidentally bought a bag of whole bean coffee and threw away the receipt.

Can I salvage this bag of coffee without purchasing a coffee grinder?

I have seen the suggestion of using a blender or perhaps a food processor, but I don't own those either.

Are there other ways to grind these coffee beans that will provide acceptable quality?

  • 3
    You could coat the beans in chocolate and eat them as a sweet treat. Dec 6, 2012 at 21:22
  • What about a pepper mill? Mar 12, 2013 at 18:24
  • I'm not sure, but I think there are several cultures around the world where they make coffee without grinding it. Ethiopian coffee? Comes to mind. You might want to look up how to make coffee without grinding it. There's got to be a way to get it straight from the bean, because they didn't have grinders back in the day. Especially not out in the stix. Just a little thinking outside the box, since the goal is still to drink coffee, not just to grind the beans. I mean, ultimately, right? I'm so high right now; sorry.
    – user17869
    Apr 16, 2013 at 8:46

9 Answers 9


In my opinion, the best option is to have someone grind them for you. Ask your friends--someone may have a grinder you can borrow, or would be happy to grind them for you in exchange for some cookies or part of the bag of coffee.

If you have a local coffee shop, talk to the barista (over the latte' you just bought) and ask if he/she will grind your beans for you. I've heard even the mighty Starbucks will grind your beans for you if you ask nicely enough.

If you want to do it yourself, you need to find a way to get the beans down to grinds. Some ideas:

Mortar and pestle. Be careful not to make Turkish coffee powder instead of the more chunky grinds you want.

mortar and pestle

Rolling pin. Put the beans in a heavy Ziploc bag or similar, and have a go at them. Roll, whack, smash.

rolling pin

Have a nice, heavy frying pan? Ziploc bag again, hammer away.

frying pan

And speaking of hammers...

MC Hammer

No, not that Hammer. This hammer.


  • 6
    +1 for having a friend do it or borrowing a grinder. If you really don't want to spend $20 on a cheap coffee grinder (which can also be used for spices!), none of these other methods are worth the effort.
    – paul
    Dec 6, 2012 at 3:51
  • 5
    I've rolled back the edit. The hammer is a serious suggestion, and the answer is squarely on-topic. The MC part of the hammer is a little stab at humor, but I don't feel like it takes away from the question.
    – JoeFish
    Dec 9, 2012 at 20:28
  • The mortar and pestle works well, but does take a lot of effort. (I've used one on a long car camping trip where weight was not an issue but electricity was not always available.)
    – jscs
    Dec 9, 2012 at 20:34
  • Thanks for making the pictures smaller. I went ahead and also added alternate text for them, which helps out users with screen readers.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:55
  • 1
    If you go with hammers, make sure your swings are very short, like a few inches and not the "I'm building a house" hammer-swing... It's been a few years and I'm STILL finding pieces of that black walnut.
    – Pulsehead
    Jun 25, 2013 at 13:56

I would say the short answer to your question is NO, nothing you do at home without a food processor or blender will give you satisfactory results. Working with a hammer/morter & pestle/rolling pin/pan etc, is going to be a lot of work for very inconsistent results. My best suggestion would be to take them with you to work and ask around if anyone wants to purchase them from you or like mentioned above grind them for you.

  • a coffee/spice grinder can be found for $10.. at most decent wages that's worth it in a day or at most a week of the primitive manual method
    – zanlok
    Dec 8, 2012 at 10:46

Many of the big grocery stores (Safeway? Albertsons? I don't know which ones you have near you) have grinders for grinding beans you buy there. If the brand of beans you bought isn't from the store you grind it at, they shouldn't think you stole it...

  • 3
    OTOH, you dodgy sysadmin types always look like you're up to something, so security will probably stop you on your way in. Dec 6, 2012 at 1:10

Methods mentioned above are all great quick fixes for your problem however, as said before you'll get a poor grind and a poor cup of coffee.

My suggestion is to go to your local coffee house...tell them your sad story and if you ask really nice they might grind it for you if you buy a couple latte while you wait. Don't go in on a busy Saturday afternoon. They'll laugh at you. However, a place like Starbuck's that grinds beans they sell for customers will probably do it for you.

Just a suggestion, REI in the US and MEC in Canada sell some great hand held camping coffee bean grinders for around $20. If you're going camping you load them up with beans and grind enough for your French press camping mug. Makes for a nice way to wake up in the morning.


You'll have trouble making a high quality cup of coffee without a burr grinder.

To quote CoffeeGeek:

I've often said that I can make a better shot of espresso with a $200 espresso machine and a $400 grinder than I can with a $2,000 espresso machine and no grinder (or a blade grinder)... and it's absolutely true.

No matter how good your coffee machine is, it's worthless without proper grinding. The taste of coffee relies on how the beans filter your water... faster or slower flow will drastically alter the taste. You might as well just eat it.

As mentioned, only reasonable alternative is to get someone to grind it for you.


I predict that most answers you'll get will be along the lines of, "Pre-grounded is bad, buying whole beans and grinding just before use is good, and you should buy a good conical burr grinder."

I agree with that sentiment, and probably the most inexpensive quality burr grinder would be one of the Hario Coffee Grinders. I use the MSCS-2TB hand grinder which works really well for me.

  • 4
    That wasn't his question. He wants to know what he can do to make use of the whole beans he accidentally bought and from the sounds of it he doesn't want to go out and buy something special to do it since his go to is those evil pesky pregound beans
    – Brendan
    Dec 6, 2012 at 0:48
  • 1
    Evan seems to have poor precognitive abilities but he's correct about grind-to-serve. While not answering the question about what can be done right now without buying a new gizmo, he has however, given the OP knowledge about inexpensive methods of grinding beans. I can only hope that the OP didn't realize that they could be had for so cheap hence their lack of ownsership. Maybe we should take up a collection and buy the OP a grinder for xmas?! ;-) The poor soul is drinking pre-ground and needs our help desperately... Dec 8, 2012 at 0:29
  • It's not cheap. Amazon charges $34 for it on sale. For a grinder that can make good espresso grinds, that's a fantastic price, but it says right in the question that the OP is making drip coffee. Amazon also sells a cheap electric blade grinder for $10 which would be fine for that purpose. This answer is just noise.
    – intuited
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:26

I made the same mistake about a month ago and woke up desperate for caffeine and did the first thing that came to my head which was put the beans into a glass bowl and then used the bottom of my coffee mug as a grinder pressing and spinning repeatedly. It took some work but was well worth it.

  • I've used the 'impromptu mortar and pestle' a few times in the past ... never tried it for coffee beans, though, as I'm not a coffee drinker. All you really need is some heavy dished bowl or cup, and something that you can get inside there to apply force with. Before I got a mortar and pestle, my standard was a bowl + a tall shot glass.
    – Joe
    Apr 12, 2013 at 15:35

You could try simply chopping the beans on a cutting board, and brewing the coffee in-cup (like you would brew tea). Be careful not to ingest the beans (which will sit at the bottom of the cup).


Coffee grinders are a really good investment if you love coffee. You can get a good price at http://www.dailycuppacoffee.com/coffee-grinders . But I see your dilemma. 1.) I'm not sure Starbucks would grind it if it's not Starbucks brand coffee beans but I'm pretty sure your local grocery store or coffee shop has a coffee bean grinder in the coffee section. 2.) If not, it's a good excuse to talk to a couple of neighbors :D and make some new friends... 3.) Also if you really don't want to bother grinding it, you could give it away as a gift or use it as decoration.

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