Instructables

Reuse a "disposable" spice mill

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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.

 
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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.

Step 2: Soften the plastic

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Later when I had another empty pepper grinder, I decided to soften the plastic before prying it off more gently. I set my oven at 250F and put the grinder inside for about 10 minutes.

The room smelt like pepper =)

Step 3: Remove lid and refill

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Pry off the top gently. REMEMBER: hot glass doesn't look hot!. Use a potholder.

Refill with peppercorns or whatever other spice you like. I don't know if maybe some others might be too hard for the plastic grinding surfaces to handle. You may have to experiment. Also, if you look at the size of the teeth (on the underside of the top) it can't handle very big objects.

Step 4: Replace the top

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Bang it lightly with your fist until it clicks. Enjoy fresh ground pepper.
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ElizabethH125 days 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 :)

WeW11 month 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.

WeW11 month 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.witt22 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.

mezzodiva545 months 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.

xenobiologista (author)  mezzodiva545 months 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.
Kratoklastes8 months ago

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!"

Emay1234511 months 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!
imactony1 year 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.
NMichael791 year 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!

YOU'RE WELCOME AMERICA!

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,

NMM
Kinda a dumb question, but can you put rice in there and use it to make flour?
xenobiologista (author)  LiftAndLove1 year 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)  LiftAndLove1 year 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.
callmeshane6 years ago

Actually...

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.

Etc.

Sum Lynx.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/CMOC_Treasures_of_Ancient_China_exhibit_-_millstone_and_roller.jpg

http://www.sindoolaa.com/etamp.jpg

http://www.timespan.org.uk/media/images/stillgrinders.jpg

http://www.vegtv.com/images/MilletgrindBishnoi.jpg

http://www.travelswithsheila.com/mini-wmangrinding.jpg

http://www.birdsbyrandjack.com/NEPAL/KATHIMGS/imgMar24/T_01.jpg

http://ime.imb.org/lottiemoon/gallery/007093.jpg

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

http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millrestoration/millstones.html

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.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooo
xenobiologista (author)  callmeshane6 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!
MsJan2 years ago
Never heat plastic. Stay Healthy.
DaveNYC6 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 DaveNYC6 years ago
you are not supposed to think about that.
doo da do2 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
spawnos37172 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...
pwasniewski3 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!
HoldOnTight3 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!
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