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Oh Bother Blog / Hardware

How to Build the Pepper Drill

April 23, 2014

Alton Brown's Pepper Drill Hack

The Good Eats faithful might be familiar with a unique piece of equipment I keep in my kitchen: a high-powered pepper hack built from a cordless drill, aka, the Pepper Drill. This stroke of genius came about while mulling over the shortcomings of pepper-grinding technology.

Although I suspect that a controlled sonic pulse system is the key to perfect pepper grinding, almost every pepper mill currently on the planet is based upon a design introduced in 1874 by Jean-Pierre and Jean-Fredrique Peugeot, who, at the time, were best known for manufacturing hand saws of all things. Their design featured a wooden tube that fed the pepper into a rotary mill, composed of a grooved male head and a grooved female ring.

While steel has long been the norm, quieter ceramic mechanisms (which I think are more precise) are now coming onto the scene.

In another new development, some mills are replacing the classic drive shaft with a mill housing that allows the entire container to be turned.

Regardless of the model, there are a few things to keep in mind when mill shopping:

  • One, it has to be easy to load. If the refill slot isn’t much bigger than a peppercorn, it’s useless.
  • You also want a high capacity, because you don’t want to be refilling it every week.
  • The grind has to be consistent. If, upon testing, you notice that there are big chunks mixed in with pepper powder, you need to keep looking.
  • Another thing you might want to look for are indexed grind settings for everything from very, very fine to very, very coarse.

Oh, and about one-handed electric mills: You know, this is a good concept, but I have never seen it executed properly. Of course, I’ve been working on a little something of my own…



Pepper grinder with a removable top
Whole peppercorns
35 mm film canister
Box cutter or utility knife
Multi-speed cordless drill


1. Remove the top from the grinder, fill with peppercorns. Measure the axel of the pepper grinder.

2. Remove the lid from the film canister and set aside. Use the utility knife to cut off the bottom third of the film canister.

3. Remove a small round from the top of the film canister and replace the lid on the canister. Place the film canister over the pepper mill axel. Insert the grind axel into the drill as you would a drill bit. Make sure the grinder is secure before turning the power to high and enjoy the power that is the Pepper Drill.

Click here for a video demonstration.