Picture of Reuse a
I've developed a taste for fresh ground pepper, but as someone on a low salary I don't want to buy an expensive pepper mill. Some spice companies sell peppercorns, sea salt grains, and dried spices etc. in neat little grinders, but you're not supposed to be able to refill them, which is a bit silly since you can buy bulk spices much cheaper from most supermarkets.

Step 1: Oops

My first attempt at getting the plastic grinder top off the glass container went badly. I tried to use a spoon to pry it off, wedging the end of the spoon into the lid and banging it on the table. It made some cracking noises, which I thought was glue. It turned out that I'd broken the rim of the glass bottle off.
geanp29 days ago

try using a hair dryer. Lid was easily removed afte 15-20 seconds of heating

I tried it using the hair dryer and you are right. Though I never would have thought of that if I had not found this Instructable first.

The sad thing is that I have a nice-ish mill, but it is so easy to adjust the coarseness on these particular disposable ones that I use them most times, unless I'm setting the table for a special occasion.

geanp29 days ago

What an inordinate amount of trouble to go to! Go to Trader Joe's, buy one of their assorted bottles of salt, pepper, sugar, whatever. What it's finished, UNSCREW THE TOP and fill it with whatever your heart desires. SCREW THE TOP BACK ON. No prying, heating, banging, etc., etc. There, fixed that for you.

but you have a perfectly unused bottle you can't fill and stares at you everytime you walk by .lol

I was reading this and then noticed that my Trader Joe's "Rainbow Peppercorns" grinder, which I was preparing to refill had a screw of lid!!!! Yeah Trader Joe's !!!

Those are not pepper GRINDERS.

1. The first and last time I visited a Trader Joe's in my area they had a very pathetic spice selection. None of the spices came in screw top jars.

2. I want this for a nutmeg grinder as replacement grinders at the same price point are plastic and the 'fancy' ones are $100. Given the hardness of the spice, I can't simply substitute this with one designed for black pepper.

There, UNfixed that for you.

xenobiologista (author)  mezzodiva541 year ago
Thanks for the information that TJ's grinder bottles come with screw tops - good to know. You may not have realised however that Trader Joe's doesn't have stores in most states of the USA, let alone other countries.
ptabakaru13 months ago

Everyday Essentials (I believe Walmart, or Shaws supermarket) uses screw off grinders for salt and pepper they are real easy to remove and refill.

dgunn-knight3 months ago

thank you! i knew the hoarder in me would find a use for the empty jar in my kitchen, lol.

TXcat223 months ago

Some good ideas here, thanks for posting. In the past, when visiting the Outback Steakhouse, I've asked the server for some of their salt and pepper grinders. :-)

I put the empty McCormick pepper grinder in the microwave for 30 seconds, then ran it under hot running water for 30 seconds, then used a kitchen towel to hold the bottom of it and a rubber jar opener square to hold the top & it popped right off with very little effort! No need to heat up the big oven in the summer this way!

JesslynC8 months ago

Just tried this and it worked perfectly. Thank you for posting! I'm pretty handy and resourceful, but COULD NOT get into the McCormick pepper grinder, very frustrating! This method was so fast and so easy - - much better (and safer) than fiddling with various objects trying to snap the top off.

ok so I put a disposable in the oven and it popped off like a hot knife through butter after trying for 20 min or something like that without it. just make sure to use a kitchen rag that goes without saying. so there someone who wants to kill an afternoon running around town to then drop cash on a grinder from a store. the type I used was called kotanyi and was a black pepper mill. I heated it in the oven for about 12 min at 125 c.

ElizabethH110 months ago

Thank you! This worked perfectly. I was just able to remove a McCormick pepper mill lid (just like the one pictured) using this method. I had not been able to pull, push, twist or pry it off, as some other users have suggested is "easy". Not so for me.

Thanks also to the person who suggested using a potato peeler as a prying tool. Perfect for the job!

I will be using this method (and my "disposable" mill) again and again :)

WeW110 months ago

Saxa salt grinder very easy to just flip out the seal on the top white part of the grinder. Thin blade knife (I used a normal "knife and fork" type knife) forced into the side of the top seal b/w the white and the blue, run it around the edge and the top-seal pops straight out, very little force required. Fill up, force the top seal back in by pushing around the edge all the way around (once again, not a lot of force required). Simple.

WeW110 months ago

Saxa salt grinder very easy to just flip out the seal on the top white part of the grinder. Thin blade knife (I used a normal "knife and fork" type knife) forced into the side of the top seal b/w the white and the blue, run it around the edge and the top-seal pops straight out, very little force required. Fill up, force the top seal back in by pushing around the edge all the way around (once again, not a lot of force required). Simple.

lloyd.witt212 months ago

pretty straight forward. 10 minutes in a 250 degree oven, grabbed the top and bottom with oven mitts, and it top popped right off.

I let it cool for a few minutes, cleaned it out and filled it up. The top went back on without any issues. Like new.

So far this worked on McCormick Sea salt and Pepper grinders.

As just an average guy and office worker, I don't figure my hands are all that strong. But I just grabbed the bottom in one hand, the top in the other, and sort of bent and twisted at the same time, and the McCormick top to the pepper grinder just came right orr. Not exactly child's play, but I didn't need hot water, a spoon or anything like that. Maybe people are afraid the glass is going to break, but I'm sure I don't have that strength. If you are squeamish, hold it with a rag in the bottle hand.

I so utterly love you, internet.

Didn't use the oven (that would be madness), but a couple of minutes under running hot water, combined with a finely-tuned combination of guile and mindless violence... and the lid of our "Saxa" hitherto-unopenable pepper-grinder popped off.

And all the while I was (metaphorically) slapping my forehead, (metaphorically) saying

"Of course, idiot... the surround is so obviously thermoplastic that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not thinking of this solution without recourse the the interwebs. Call yourself a smart dude? Pshaww, I say!"

Emay123451 year ago
Thank you for this!! I just did it for a disposable imported spice grinder I had and it worked like a charm!
I could NOT pry mine off....so again, thank you for this!
imactony2 years ago
I just refilled my disposable pepper grinder using the hold/twist/pull method. How easy was that?! Within 30 seconds of applying an even pulling pressure with small continuous back and forth turns, the top simply popped right off.
haha I was thinking the same thing! I actually came across this after I had already pulled the top off. It only took a couple of tries. This article actually made me laugh a bit considering how easy it was.
NMichael792 years ago
I read all the comments and after watching some you tube videos and trying to yank the damn top off myself, I was about to give up. It makes me mad that McCormick sells a perfectly good grinder that could easily last several years and yes, could be refilled with other spices or blends. So I think the best idea anyone has mentioned or shown thus far is that you can soak the lid in near boiling or very hot water to soften the plastic to make it easier to pry off. I would have already tried that if my grinder was empty but I'm too impatient to wait and I wanted to do it now since my grinder is already more than half empty. A problem with these grinders that somebody else mentioned here is that it looks like they are made to be kept upright (with the grinder pointed skyward). But then every time you flip the damn thing upside down again, lots of already ground pepper leaks out and can make a mess. That is a disadvantage to turning it up and down again. The partially ground kernels mix with the non-ground kernels and then by the time you get close to empty , the stuff inside all looks mostly like coarse granules.

So I had my own idea after I tried to yank several times. I don't really have the arm strength to pull it off even after holding my hand on the cap for a few minutes. It doesn't warm the plastic up near enough. But this is something I have done with some other kind of cap... I know, it was those damn child safety lids that come on prescription bottles (the kind that click). It is possible to defeat the stupid caps if you need to clean the area underneath them while still retaining the outer cap for a better grip. So this is the same concept. The inner white grinder plastic is a different material than the outer black cap plastic material. I might make a you-tube of this since it's my original idea as far as I know. Nobody else I know thought of this first:

First flip the McCormick grinder Upside down so that the grinder faces the ground. Get a medium sized butcher knife or smaller. BE REALLY CAREFUL IF YOU DECIDE TO DO THIS. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF YOU ARE UNDER 18 YEARS OLD AND WILLING TO ACCEPT THE RISK THAT YOU COULD ACCIDENTALLY CUT YOURSELF IF YOU ARE NOT VERY CAREFUL. There that's my disclaimer.

Now what you're going to want to do is to get a cutting board and set this on top of a clean counter top. Place the upside down grinder and set it on top of the cutting board in the direction you would use it to grind pepper. Make about a 1 to 1.5 centimeter vertical cut downward from the lip of the plastic where it meets the glass toward the upside down mechanism. Cut through the black plastic by teetering the knife up and down slightly while applying medium pressure. Cut from lip opposite from the red adjustment ring toward the cutting board. Take your time. Easy does it. Grasp the bottom glass part of the grinder with one hand and the medium-small chopping knife with the other. It may take a few passes till you can get all the way through the plastic to the glass cutting downward toward the red grinder adjustment ring to the length of 1-1.5 centimeters. GO SLOWLY. Be careful because the knife can and possibly will slip out of the cut and hit the cutting board. Once you got it at least 1 centimeter and you are sure you cut through to the glass, you are done. Flip the grinder back upright. Grasp the grinder top and Gently pull it off. It should come off really easily. If it doesn't, try CAREFULLY cutting this incision a little deeper till you reach the glass beneath the inside of the lid. It worked for me. I refilled the pepper back up to the top and it still grinds just fine. This hack will not effect the grinding mechanism, but will make the glass bottle, permanently refillable. Yay! Problem solved! Shame on McCormick for making a one time use overpriced product just so that they can reap double profits!


By the way, this type of pepper grinder probably isn't a long term solution for grinding because the plastic does probably eventually wear out, especially if you refill it with harder types of spice. If the plastic mechanism wears away, that means that it's grinding away into your spice which is not so good to be eating, especially if you wind up cooking the spice on high heat or grilling over open flame. Then, it would really not be good OVER TIME. Please America I love you but keep this in mind!

Yours truly,

LiftAndLove2 years ago
Kinda a dumb question, but can you put rice in there and use it to make flour?
xenobiologista (author)  LiftAndLove2 years ago
Probably not because hand-cranked pepper mills usually spit out little chunks, not fine powder. You'd be better off using a blender. Any reason you can't find rice flour for sale?
I can, but me and my ex are starting a farmers market booth that sells baked goods, and I thought It'd be better if it was more 'hand made'. Plus from what I hear rice flour isn't as cheap as rice.
xenobiologista (author)  LiftAndLove2 years ago
Yeah you DEFINITELY need a bigger mill if you're going to want enough stuff to make bread, and one that can grind finer. Try Googling "hand mill flour" or something.
Haha okay. But I have to make the mill, because since I'm not allowed to get a job yet. I'm looking around though.
callmeshane7 years ago


There is a heap on how primitive people ground stuff.... like before they invented the power point and things.

TWO flat stones.

Hand made rotary mills.


Sum Lynx.








And sumfing rooly educational... on water wheel driven mill stones.


I would not be surprised if once upon a time, that people actually WALKED to their friends places, or the shops, or to go fishing.

Perhaps, the may be some really easy ways to grind stuff, without the need to get the grinding device from a packet.

xenobiologista (author)  callmeshane7 years ago
Geez, there's no need to be such a smart aleck. Of course there are a million and one ways to pulverize stuff, but what I'm aiming for here is CHEAPNESS plus CONVENIENCE. I'm planning to buy a small mortar and pestle at some point in the future for grinding herbs, but it would be really annoying to have to whip it out every time I wanted a bit of pepper on my food.
I wish there was a way I could +1 this comment.
Funny thing is, I have never needed to tell someone that i am smart. They usually figure it out on their own. or not...
I have the exact same grinder in the picture and I have always popped the top off with a butter knife. I don't want to try the Grab and pull method that some have described here because that can result in Pepper bits all over the place when the top gives way. But I may just try your method next time i need to refill it.

I am very glad for these little bottles because it means I no longer have to carry my set of millstones and waterwheel up to my second story apartment every time I need a dash of pepper on my chicken. lol
awesome!!!! tried it out !!!!!
A good source for an inexpensive mortar and pestle would be at your local Asian food store. Here in Southern California, we have many of them that not only sell wonder selections of exotic fruits and vegtables but also many kitchen utensils, dishes, and small appliances. Great places to shop.
Nooooooo your upsetting yourself all over nuffin... I am just smart - pure and simple. I know how you feel tho, I get my empathetic monthlies from my boyfriend as well. Actually mortar and pestles.... well they tend to be fairly pricey... and you wouldn't want that. And while they are good for pharmacutical grinding, paint pigments, and really juicy food.. and all... I was thinking that the "two flat stones" may actually be a better overall grinder. The grinding tho' would if containment was an issue, be best done in a big stone with a shallow depression... Most of the "art of grinding" relates to contact pressure, and the "pestle" width and end radius. Soft herbs like tomatoes and basil go best with a wide, very low radius (almost flat) pestle, and hard things like pepper corns go best with a somewhat tighter radiused pestle and hard things like crystals and minerals go best with an almost pointy radius... The contact pressure and surface area ratio, determines both how the product works it's way under the pestle, and out from underneath it, - and the radius of the pestle and it's resultant contact area, also determines the crushing pressure. I have designed and made three pestles for my mortar to cover the median ranges of grinding. They give the best results in terms of speed and ende product. Damn I now have to go buy some man tampons for my empathetic monthlies. Cheers Shane
ha ha ha, right on! ; D
"...people actually WALKED to their friends places, or the shops, or to go fishing."
bobinnyc2 years ago
Worked like a charm! But since I don't have an oven I used a rice steamer to heat the plastic. Thanks again!
MsJan3 years ago
Never heat plastic. Stay Healthy.
DaveNYC7 years ago
I prefer freshly ground spices too. Just one question - if the grinder parts are plastic, wouldn't the plastic eventually shred into the ground spices?
I think you may be on to something. Free flavor and lots of chemicals included, no extra charge. Doodado
reeding DaveNYC7 years ago
you are not supposed to think about that.
doo da do3 years ago
We find all sorts of spices at the dollar store. Can't get much cheaper than that. I will try this when the next one goes empty. Doodado
spawnos37173 years ago
A few excellent choices for acquiring OTS grinders...Goodwill (or other thrift stores), freecycle.org, consignment shops, or other low cost/free donors such as manufacturers, restaurants, and swap meets, to name a few.
Having a lot of these on hand encourages you to find interesting things to grind. I recommend exploring international markets. Annatto seeds from the Mexican grocery are my current favorite; they're the same size as peppercorns, so no pre-grinding is required. Imagine grinding wasabi peas over your mashed potatoes, or dried baby shrimp for soups!
Wasabi too hot! Hot hot hot! Spicy hot!
wimp! :p actually, wasabi isn't so much hot like peppers, but if you get too much it's definitely , er... (searches for word) zingy? zippy? like "phoo, right up my nose!" or WOWZERS! and then once your eyes stop watering, the entire sensation is gone. Not like peppers where it lingers and can actually cause chemical burns. A little wasabi sprinkled cautiously is a good thing. But it leads to a heavy wasabi habit. They sell the powdered stuff by the pound, just FYI.
That wasabi sensation has always cracked me up! The first time it happened I heard a cartoon train whistle and thought the top of my head was going to explode, then *poof*, all gone! I might like to have a wasabi grinder...
pwasniewski4 years ago
I had bought maybe half a dozen of these things before I decided to reuse them, and I've never had any problem with popping the top off to refill it--I've been refilling a course salt grinder every week or so for about three months, and I don't even have any reason to think that popping them off cold makes them break faster. You just need to hold the glass bottle firmly and pull the top straight off very hard; once you're applying the maximum force you can apply directly away from the bottle, angle just a little away from the central axis. POP. You just need to BELIEVE. I now use all my empties for other spices, and the tip about being careful about the size of the spice you put in there is solid; allspice is a little too big for the pepper mill, as well as coriander, but if you bust it up a bit, it will work--you just have to have a little patience when you're grinding it. I'd recommend using the mills with the adjustable grinder (little red tab on the side).
Totally True!!!!! I just popped off the top no problem! Hold TIGHT and then PULL and it will come off without having to heat it in the oven and all use a spoon and all of that! So much easier!
BRILLIANT! 10 minutes was perfect, I just did it and so psyched! You can also use the tip of a potato peeler as the end is the perfect size and slightly curved. I am putting course sea salt and red peppers in mine. Thanks for the Instructable!
HoldOnTight4 years ago
Xenobiologista, I like this 'ible because the prices of "off the shelf" grinders are way too expensive! You can get a grinder with salt or pepper for less! Practical, effective and re-usable!
 The only problem I see is the hassle in heating it up every time to refill.  We have a LOT of these in our kitchen, and as some of them approach empty I'm thinking about things I'd like in them that the don't sell (like dried rosemary for my morning hashbrowns.)  I was hoping for some way to permanently mod the mill so that it could pop open when it was again empty.  I guess I'll just pull one apart and see how it's constructed, see if I can figure out a long term solution.
Thav6 years ago
I just bought one of the McCormick adjustable grinders today that looks a little different than the one here. I was able to just grab the top and "break" it at an angle and the top popped off. Refilled with coriander I'd had sitting around for a while but could never use.

Trader Joe's has nice "disposable" grinders that actually have twist off tops. Very similar if not identical to the ones here:
man ray Thav5 years ago
i have tried these before but usualy it breaks and poured full pepercorns on my dinner i go with mcormicks
mamaells6 years ago
thank goodness for this idea! now i won't feel guilty about buying those! good job!!
callmeshane7 years ago
Yeah I went the same trip with the "one off" pepper mills currently available in my part of the world. The fixed mill design, for the grinding head, was actually very very good... the flutes feeding the corns in, the cutting teeth profile - everything ...to make a fairly consistent grade of coarse ground black pepper... The bummer was that the connectors that kept the core of the grinding head in place, were too few and insufficiently strong to carry the irregular torsional and axial loadings. So the core broke out... and that was that. There are two ways to "grind salt" one is to mechanically shear the crystals (fracturing), as in grind them.. the other way is to mechanically fracture the crystals.. by crushing or rolling them. If you want finely ground salt.. either buy it in bulk preground to ones favourite crystal size, OR buy a grinder - new or second hand, with all STAINLESS STEEL components and fittings. Actually.... if your mechanically inclined and can use a drill press....a set of stainless steel GEARS meshed with lots of slop would make an excellent grinder... But I guess it's the ratio of how much is your time actually worth, vs. the real cost of picking up the proper stuff in a shopping run, vs. the pleasure and enjoyment of being creative and doing neat fun little doo dahs... Anyway... making stuff is COOL. Hmmmm
oo-oo! I know which gears to use! internal bicycle hubs! those nifty helical ones that once you take them apart and put them back together without the spec manual your wheel only rolls backward!
that would be one HUGE spice mill. Er.
xenobiologista (author)  el eliel7 years ago
LOL, the hazards of DIY bike repair...
I use a coffee grinder dedicated to non-coffee. Oddly, I prefer to buy my coffee already ground, although freshly ground coffee is a little tastier. But I don't want to mess with grinding the bloody coffee. I just want coffee, not a ritual. Just hand over the caffeine and nobody will get hurt. Not as cool as the in-bottle grinders, but I use a lot of herbs and sea salt and stuff, and it's much much cheaper to buy in bulk from the herb companies. Grinding them yourself means that more of the essential oil remains in the dried herbs longer. So I throw in my annatto and dried f*ing hot chinese chili pods and cloves and cumin, reduce it to dust, and voila have my spice mix for puerco pibil. Some coriander, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, mustard seed, and aswain and there's your basic masala spice blend. mmmm I do like the grinders, though -- my MIL gave me a nutmeg one and I use it all the time. Nutmeg is a major PITA so the grinder is fantastic. The oven is a good idea -- using a heat gun would work on the plastic but you might wind up with broken glass if the bottle isn't also heated evenly. Thanks!
trader joes also sells pepper and sea salt in grinders which have screw off tops. down with mccormic's disposable grinders!
I got some at Big Lots a while ago. $1 each, and filled with pepper! Only downside: The screw-on lids are made of cheap plastic, so they break if you twist too hard or in the wrong direction. I'm curious to know if yours from Trader Joes worked better.
thanks for the info-I love trader joe's.
carpespasm7 years ago
Pretty neat idea. I'll give it a go some time. I love reusing disposable things that shouldn't within reason be disposable.
Mr Criver7 years ago
Awesome! Believe me or not, I just 'finished' one of them disposable sea-salt grinders and I was thinking the same thing: popping the cap will be hard, maybe use heat. My thought was to use a blower (as used for removing old paint off of wood). This way you can monitor the temperature by heating-trying-heating-trying until it comes off. I'd be careful with the blower though since the airflow is *really* hot (you do not want to soften the cap to the point it starts melting, plus you don't want to burn your fingers). I looked for it here, because I figured someone had come up with this idea already. Nicely done!
I was just doing it by brute force before. If you grab the top firmly, and bend it away ffom the glass it will separate on about the third try. This sounds much easier.
Phoghat7 years ago
Walgreens Drug Chain (NE USA) sells sea salt in grinders 2/$2. The tops screw off, replace with spice of choice, enjoy>
Thank you very much for the instruction. I have been wondering how I could do it because I love my disposable pepper grinder but I cannot afford to keep on buying them.
yedjoyce7 years ago
Great post, but for me the reason to do this is because all the F#$%ing peppermills out there have the grinder on the bottom, OPEN, leaving a mess of pepper bits everywhere. I got the one with a twist to open that covers the bottom grinder is useless, you can;t tell how much you're grinding. I HATE THE PEPPER MESS!
Sheesh! I was wondering how to remove the top recently from my emptied pepper grinder and after an hour I gave up. I so wish I had come on here a few days ago to see this! Thanks for figuring this out.. I'll have to try this next time!
spylock7 years ago
Thats what I do,I use the disposable pepper mill to grind sea salt that I buy in bulk, because I dont have alot of cash either, although I do have a good pepper mill for my pepper,good tip.
callmeshane7 years ago
Actually.,.... you could just go buy ONE or TWO really decent Pepper and or Salt mills, with ceramic or stainless steel grinding heads in them... They don't cost very much and if you get decent ones, you can have one set of refillable grinders for life.
xenobiologista (author)  callmeshane7 years ago
You're right that the 'real" spice mills aren't all that expensive either, but another thing I like about these is that they're small, whereas most of the reusable ones are a bit bulky.
Huh. We've refilled a couple of those grindy jars from Loblaws. They unscrew nicely if you hold the plastic top just below the grindy part. I don't know if there's a Loblaws equivalent in other countries, though.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Cool! I got a nice wooden one for about $5, Its not that expensive. Pre-ground pepper is disgusting!
dchall87 years ago
Great idea! I have passed on those grinders because they are so much more expensive than already-ground spices. This changes my mind completely. As I recall if you look around you can find both metal and nylon teeth mills. As someone else said, salt never goes with metal grinding parts.
moranch7 years ago
Good Instructable, I will definitely try this. Thanks.
fishhead4557 years ago
I have found in the local supermarket a new grinder,empty, with metal teeth. They come apart basically the same way but will last much longer than those with the plastic teeth. I tried it for grinding sea-salt but the teeth corroded and became useless...but for pepper it will work. Hope this will help as it follows the path of being reusable even though it is bought as new.
ve2vfd7 years ago
It's a great idea! I've often thought of reusing those, only problem I see is that the grinder in it is plastic and I noticed it gets worn. I guess it would still be good for a refill or two.
el eliel7 years ago
the first time i did this (long ago) i thought i broke all of my teeth. then i used my broken needle nose pliers to just pull the grinder part off. do this several times, the plastic gets used to it and then hands work ok. p.s. your oven is very scary and cool. can i have it?
el eliel7 years ago
aww...i wanted to do this one! but thanks for showing folks how not to have to keep buying these (which actually work better than many *real* ones).
Brennn107 years ago
Neat Idea! I like how you have the mindset of "reusing" things.
inquisitive7 years ago
Yeay!!! You have been reading my mind and took the time to get the solution! Kudos!
awoodcarver7 years ago
I have found these at the $1 store ...I did stock up after I couldn't pry the top off now I will have to refill the next one I empty ....Very good!
reedz7 years ago
This is a great idea, the only thing I would do differently is come up with some way that after getting the top off once you can get it off easier the second time, like cutting the plastic away a little bit. Otherwise, good job