December 21, 2023

Equipment — You Don't Have a Grinder or It's Broken.


Bean dilemmas solved: grinding without gadgets.

Written by Mekki Jaidi

Photos by Taylor Glenn

Updated on December 21, 2023

Picture this: you've just received a bag of whole bean coffee as a Christmas gift, you're setting up camp in the wilderness but realize you forgot your portable grinder, or worse, your trusty grinder just conked out.

While a grinder is arguably the most important tool for a flavorful cup of coffee, sometimes you're left without. But don't worry, whether you're in the comfort of your kitchen or out in the wild, there are ways to get your coffee fix.

Mekki Jaidi, formerly in New York finance, founded Outpost in Jackson Hole in 2014. He expanded into O2 Cleaning, Terrain, and Provisions. In 2021, he acquired Snake River Roasting Co. He actively contributes to the Jackson Hole community through nonprofit work and lives there with his wife, two daughters, and son.​

A Quick Tid-Bit on Grind Size

When it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee, the size of your coffee grind plays a pivotal role in the extraction process.

Coarse grinds, like sea salt, suit long-extraction methods such as French press and cold brew. They allow a full flavor without over-extraction and prevent grounds from infiltrating your cup.

Medium grinds, resembling sand, are ideal for drip and pour-over methods, facilitating steady water flow and even extraction for a balanced brew.

Fine grinds, akin to table salt, are crucial for espresso and Moka pots. They enable a robust flavor extraction, essential for concentrated espresso-style coffees.

In the Kitchen Without a Grinder

When you find yourself grinder-less in your kitchen, here are some methods to achieve different grind sizes for your preferred brewing method:


Rolling Pin

Place your beans in a sturdy bag or between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll back and forth with firm pressure.


Gently crush your beans with a hammer, mallet, or even a heavy skillet.


Blender / Food Processor

Use the pulse setting to avoid over-grinding. Aim for short bursts and check the consistency frequently.


If you have a hand-mincer, it can surprisingly provide a decent medium grind.


Mortar and Pestle

This takes elbow grease, but it's effective. Grind in small quantities for a more uniform size.

Out in the Wild Without a Grinder

Camping with coffee but no grinder? No problem. Here’s how to get your outdoor brew:


Rock and Roll

Place your beans in a sturdy bag or between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll back and forth with firm pressure.

Bottle Grinding

Use your water bottle as a rolling pin.


Manual Chopping

If you have a sharp knife, you can chop the beans as finely as possible.


Back to the Mortar and Pestle

If you're a camping enthusiast who doesn’t mind the extra gear, a small mortar and pestle can be a savior.

While nothing quite replaces a good grinder for the perfect cup of coffee, life sometimes throws us curveballs. Whether you're dealing with a kitchen mishap or a camping oversight, these methods can save the day.

Remember, making coffee is an art, and sometimes a bit of improvisation can lead to a surprisingly delightful brew. So next time you find yourself grinder-less, embrace the challenge and enjoy the process!