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July 13, 2023 7 min read

In a fast-paced world where quick and easy solutions reign supreme, using pre-ground spices and herbs might seem like the most convenient option. However, have you ever considered the potential benefits of grinding your own spices and herbs using a traditional mortar and pestle?

In this article, we will examine the key considerations when choosing between grinding your own herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle grinder or opting for pre-ground options. Additionally, we will provide useful tips to improve your grinding experience and bring new levels of flavor to your cooking. Let's dive in. 


Factors to Weigh When Deciding Between Freshly Ground Spices or Pre-Ground Spices


When deciding between grinding your own herbs and spices using a mortar and pestle grinder or using pre-ground options, there are several factors to take into account. Here are some of the key considerations to help you make an informed decision:


1) Aroma and Flavor


woman stirring pan while enjoying the scent of spices
Credit: Envato Elements/ mimagephotography


The aroma and flavor of spices and herbs play a crucial role in the taste of any dish. Freshly ground spices and herbs are known for their superior taste and aroma. The reason for this lies in the volatile oils contained in these ingredients. When spices are freshly ground, these oils are released, providing the robust and distinct flavors and aromas that we love. In contrast, pre-ground spices often sit on store shelves for months or even years, causing their oils to evaporate and their potency to diminish, resulting in a loss of flavor.  

Therefore, by grinding your own herbs and spices just before use with a mortar and pestle grinder, you can ensure that your recipes are infused with the full potential of these ingredients. This leads to dishes with a depth of flavor and an irresistible smell that can't be achieved with pre-ground spices. So, not only will your dishes taste better, but your kitchen will be filled with tantalizing scents of freshly ground spices.


2) Variety and Customization


Pre-packaged spice blends may be convenient, but they often come with drawbacks such as added fillers, preservatives, or excessive salt, and they do not offer the flexibility to create your own custom blends. Grinding your own herbs and spices, on the other hand, provides you with the flexibility to create custom blends that are tailored to your individual taste buds and dietary needs.

Additionally, grinding your own herbs and spices opens up a world of flavor possibilities, as it allows you to choose from a wider variety of ingredients. Many specialty spice shops and online retailers offer whole spices that are not commonly found in the pre-ground form at local grocery stores. This provides you with the opportunity to explore new and exciting flavor profiles in your recipes that would otherwise be unavailable.


3) Health Benefits


different spices displayed in bowls
Credit: Envato Elements/ Allegro_Sympatico


When choosing between grinding your own spices and herbs with a mortar and pestle grinder or using pre-ground options, it is essential to consider the health benefits of each. As mentioned earlier, pre-packaged spice blends may contain fillers, additives, or excessive salt,  making them less healthy than freshly ground spices.

On the other hand, by grinding your own herbs and spices, you have complete control over what goes into your food, allowing you to create healthier meals. Additionally, some studies suggest that freshly ground spices have higher levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds compared to pre-ground spices. This is due to the fact that the grinding process releases these compounds, which then begin to degrade over time. By grinding spices just before use, you can maximize their potential health benefits.


4) Ease of Use and Time Investment


When considering whether to grind your own spices using a mortar and pestle spice grinder or use pre-ground options in your cooking, the ease of use and time investment are important factors to consider. While using a mortar and pestle grinder may take more time and effort than simply grabbing a jar of pre-ground spices, there are still benefits to this approach. Grinding spices by hand offers a sensory experience that allows you to connect with the ingredients and become more attuned to their scents and textures. This process can be satisfying and even meditative, providing a sense of mindfulness in the kitchen.

On the other hand, pre-ground spices offer the convenience of being readily available and requiring no extra effort. If you're short on time or prefer a quick and easy solution, pre-ground spices may be the better option for you.


5) Economy and Waste Reduction 


different spices displayed on spoons
Credit: Envato Elements/ orcearo


The economy and waste reduction aspect is a crucial factor to consider when deciding whether freshly ground spices or pre-ground spices are better. On one hand, purchasing whole spices in bulk can be a more cost-effective option as they often have a longer shelf life and can be stored for longer periods without losing their potency. This enables you to purchase larger quantities, reducing the risk of waste. However, it's important to keep in mind the initial investment required for a quality mortar and pestle spice grinder. Prices can vary greatly, with basic models starting at as low as $10 and high-end, artisanal options costing over $100. While the upfront cost may seem daunting, a quality mortar and pestle grinder can last for many years and eventually pay for itself in the long run. 

On the other hand, pre-ground spices can be quite cheap but however, have a shorter shelf life and are more susceptible to spoilage if not stored in optimal conditions. This can lead to waste if you're not someone who cooks regularly and are unable to use them in a timely manner. 


The Verdict: Is Grinding Your Own Spices with a Mortar and Pestle Grinder Worth It?


man grinding chilies in mortar and pestle
Credit: Envato Elements/ Prostock-studio


The decision to grind your own herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle grinder ultimately comes down to personal preference and priorities. If you value fresh flavors, the ability to customize your spice blends, and the potential health benefits, then using a mortar and pestle grinder may be well worth it. Additionally, the cost savings and waste reduction benefits make it an eco-friendly and budget-conscious choice.

However, if you're short on time or not interested in experimenting with new flavors in your recipes, pre-ground spices may be a more convenient option. It's essential to consider your cooking habits and lifestyle when making this decision.


Tips for Getting Started with a Mortar and Pestle Grinder


If you've decided to give grinding your own herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle grinder a try, here are some tips to help you get started:


1) Choose a Quality Mortar and Pestle


spices in a porcelain mortar and pestle
Credit: Envato Elements/ Vikif


While it's tempting to opt for the cheapest option, investing in a quality mortar and pestle grinder will provide better results and last longer. Look for models made from durable materials such as granite, marble, or unglazed ceramic. Consider the size of the mortar and pestle spice grinder as well. A larger one will allow you to grind larger quantities, while a smaller one may be more suitable for individual recipes or small kitchens. 


2) Store Whole Spices Properly


To maintain their flavor, whole spices should be stored in airtight containers, away from heat, light, and moisture. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids are an excellent option, as they allow you to see the contents easily and keep them sealed. Don't forget to label your spice jars with the name of the spice and the date of purchase to keep track of their freshness. 


3) Get Familiar With the Grinding Technique


woman grinding spices in a granite mortal and pestle
Credit: Envato Elements/ LightFieldStudios


Practice using your mortar and pestle spice grinder to become more comfortable with the grinding process. It's important to apply consistent pressure and use a circular motion to crush the spices effectively. Start with softer spices like cumin, pepper, or coriander, and work your way up to harder spices like cinnamon, fennel, or cloves.


4) Toast the Spice Before Grinding It


For an even deeper and more complex flavor, try toasting whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding them. This process helps to release the essential oils and enhances the aroma of the spices. Be sure to keep an eye on the spices and stir them frequently to prevent burning.


5) Experiment with New Flavors


Grounded spices displayed on table
Credit: Envato Elements/ Artem_ka


Grinding your own herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle grinder opens up a world of flavor possibilities. Don't be afraid to try new combinations or incorporate lesser-known spices into your recipes. You may just discover a new favorite! Consult cookbooks, and online resources, or ask friends and family for recommendations on unique spice blends or recipes to try. 




Choosing between freshly grounding your spices by using a mortar and pestle grinder and pre-ground spices is a personal decision that depends on your individual priorities and preferences. While grinding your own herbs and spices offers benefits in terms of flavor, customization, and health, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Regardless of the path you choose, exploring the world of spices and herbs can lead to a more exciting and delicious culinary journey.

And, if you do decide to go the fresh grinding route, consider using a high-quality mortar and pestle grinder like Pepe Nero. Made from premium granite, Pepe Nero offers durability and performance that can withstand the test of time. Its ergonomic design and smooth surface make grinding spices a breeze, elevating your culinary experience to new heights. From coffee to black pepper to cinnamon and cumin, this grinder can handle all foods. So why not add Pepe Nero to your kitchen today and embark on a flavorful and healthy cooking journey?

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