For hundreds of years, coffee to be used at home was ground by hand with a box-type mill that held only a small amount of Coffee.
Anyone who uses one of these, and they are still available, realizes immediately that a greater storage capacity is not required; it takes so long to grind the beans that any ground coffee would be drunk before the little box could ever be full.
Still the hand mill can grind well as it has done for many years in the past, and with a surprising degree of uniformity in the particles.
The grind is adjustable within a range that would qualify as "course", to a "medium" or even "fine", but it cannot grind fine enough for espresso. These are inexpensive, but it is an extremely time consuming method of grinding.
The prince of hand mills is the genuine Turkish grinder. The tall heavy copper or brass mills are still used today throughout Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries for home grinding.
The dome-like top pulls off to reveal the space where the whole beans go. The handle on the top is used to turn the mill; this detaches and fits over the grind adjustment screw which is revealed in the middle of the cylinder when the bottom half is removed. At the end of grinding - the range of which is all degrees of "extremely fine" - the bottom part of the cylinder holds the ground coffee.
Middle Eastern coffee must be ground to the consistency of talcum powder, something no other type of domestic grinder can achieve. The difficulty in serving an authentic Middle Eastern coffee is not in getting the grind right; rather, it is in finding the right blend of coffee roasted to the right degree. (It is far easier just to buy a commercial brand, such as People's imported from Nicosia, or Kurukahveci, from Istanbul.)
There is a wide range of electric coffee grinders available for the domestic market, most with some sort of receptacle or space for catching the ground coffee, which never needs to hold more than enough coffee for a day or two.
There are two general designs for domestic grinders - those which simply cut the beans with a propeller-type blade, and those which truly grind the beans between metal discs.
The most common kind of home coffee grinder is the rotating blade, or propeller grinder. This type, which sometimes comes as an accessory for a blender or some other food processor, is almost useless when it comes to coffee.
The first problem is that it is nearly impossible to get uniformity of grind, which means that the coffee liquid will be very unevenly extracted. The larger chunks are wasted if they are too course for the water to penetrate; the fine powder particles will quickly saturate and yield bitterness, and could also clog a filter basket and create sediment in cups of plunger-pot coffee.
With a blade grinder it is best to grind small amounts of beans, shaking them up and down in the hope that the propellers will get to all the particles.
Running the machine in short burstswill help avoid scorching the beans from overheating. At least it is relatively easy to keep a blade-type grinder clean and avoid contamination with rancid coffee oils.
With the machine unplugged, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the chamber and blades. The plastic lid is washable, but must be carefully rinsed, so as no to leave a soapy taste for the beans to absorb.