Along with water and tea, coffee is the most consumed beverage on the planet. It comes from East Africa, what used to be called Abyssinia, and is now Ethiopia.
The evolution of how we have been consuming this product has mutated over time. Initially, its fruits were consumed by travelers as a source of sustenance and energy, and it was not until several centuries later that we began to consume it as a beverage.
Just as the way of consuming it evolved, the instruments we use also developed. Coffee grinders have had an exciting history and we are going to review everything you need to know about antique coffee grinders.
With this guide, we want not only to introduce you to the fascinating world of coffee but also to give you clear and precise information about antique coffee grinders, their value, how to identify them, and to make it clear which are the most valuable and sought after among antique collectors.
Table of Contents
The History of the Coffee Grinder
Grain grinding has been practiced for thousands of years. In the Neolithic period, grain was ground in hand mills by placing it in a concave stone and rubbing it with a rounded stone.
The revolving stone mill appeared after the hand mill, in which a stone rotates on a fixed one. They increased in size over time, first powered by people and animals, later by wind, water, or steam.
However, coffee was not always processed through a mill. It was manually crushed with a stone and a mortar. Keep in mind that it was not always used as a beverage. Because they had discovered the rejuvenating effects of coffee, the Ethiopians crushed the coffee fruit and combined it with fat, then formed small balls of dough and utilized them as a source of energy on long hikes.
Coffee spread from Ethiopia to Islamic countries, where it was highly regarded for its medicinal properties. It was utilized in various ways, including in wars to provide vitality before the fight and in medical texts to treat various illnesses.
Léonard Rauwolf was a German doctor and botanist who already in 1583 left writings on how it was consumed in liquid form in the Islamic world.
At some unknown point in history, coffee beans went from being crushed to leaving them soaking in cold water to consume as a drink.
From the 13th century, coffee beans were left in the sun to dry before being roasted, as is done today. According to folklore, the first time coffee was roasted was by monks.
A huge storm arrived while they were collecting the grains, so they dried them next to the fire. When they returned, they observed the lovely aroma of the grains and started using that technique.
Coffee was extremely popular among the monks because it helped them stay awake during their lengthy vigils.
By the fourteenth century, Constantinople had already recorded the first cafeterias, which served as gathering spaces for intellectuals and philosophers.
Islamic countries attempted to prohibit its drinking, but the drink became so popular that the prohibition was overturned. And the first technology for grinding coffee was devised in Islamic countries.
They were manual grinders that were used to mill spices, but they were also used to ground coffee. These copper or brass grinders feature a cylindrical shape with a crank at the top. They are made with remarkable finesse, as is the case with everything in Islamic culture.
Even though Islamic regimes outlawed the export of coffee, European traders were able to get the plant to Europe and eventually to America.
By the 17th century, coffee had become widely popular over the world, and the first coffee grinders began to appear. They were opulent artifacts destined for high social courts in France.
The French used precision technology they already knew from weapon manufacturing. One of the first places where these new utensils would be created would be Saint-Etienne.
The first serial mills in France were known as the “Louis XIV model.” They are made from a single piece of walnut wood.
And they weren’t for sale to the general public; instead, they were built to order by expert blacksmiths or toolmakers.
It is not until the eighteenth century that the most functional mills develop. The majority of them have a mechanism to secure them to the table.
The “hourglass” model was the most popular model of the period, and it influenced the following versions. A bayonet connection connected the two cones.
Nicholas Book, an Englishman, made a bold declaration in the 17th century. He is credited with creating the first coffee grinder in the world. Most likely, it was purely a publicity trick, like coffee, and the method of grinding it was already well-known in Europe at the time.
Indeed, Humphrey Broadbent wrote in his book “The Domestick Coffee-Man” in 1722 that the distinguished families of Holland ground their coffee. It was also suggested that people grind their coffee to avoid contaminants like burnt berries.
Individual grinder models arose in the nineteenth century. The Flemish open-cavity mill was followed by the Peugeot mill in France in 1840, which had a significant influence on following models and is now highly prized by mill collectors and experts.
The Peugeot model
The Peugeot versions popularized and made the wooden grinders in the shape of boxes a symbol of the coffee grinder.
Peugeot grinders come in 56 different models with 280 variations in terms of material, size, design, and color.
They first appeared on the market in 1840 and were commercially made until 1960. Peugeot invented the silent grinder in 1938. They have a sheet metal hopper to absorb the mechanism’s vibrations.
Peugeot grinders are of excellent quality, with beautifully machined parts. The cranks are constructed of polished steel, and the deluxe ones have had a nickel bath since 1890.
The coffee was loaded from the back of the unit until 1935 when it was moved to the right side.
Coffee grinders had fallen out of favor by the second part of the twentieth century and were nearly extinct by 1975 when electric grinders were introduced to the market.
How Do You Know If Your Grinder Is Vintage?
To identify an old coffee grinder or a vintage mill, you must first understand what they are constructed of.
The material it was built of will immediately tell you how old it is. Before the 1950s, all mills were made of wood, cast iron, or glass.
The grinder knob is another easy way to spot them. Keep in mind that the first electric mill without a crank was invented in 1938, but electric mills did not become popular until the 1960s when traditional mills were no longer man
Brand recognition and serial numbers
Knowing the brand and year that the coffee grinders were made is crucial to determine if they are old or not.
It was fashionable to have the brand name printed on the front of the grinder. There are certain exceptions, such as the back of the box.
You must also consider the serial number, as you will not be able to identify the year it was manufactured without it. The majority of serial numbers can be located around the corporate logo.
The MacMillan Index to Antique Coffee Grinders contains more information. A very valuable book that offers a comprehensive list of coffee grinder serial numbers.
Manufacturers of coffee mills in Europe
As you can expect, there are a lot of coffee grinders from Europe. For example, the DePe brand from Germany is well-known and easy to recognize. Because all of their grinders are white glass with the word “coffee” written in German on the front.
It’s also worth noting that the DePe brand changed the typeface with which it signed its models after a few years, thus varied signatures from the same brand are not uncommon.
Another instantly recognizable brand is the well-known DeVe from Holland. The firm used to lavishly embellish its models with intricate artistic drawings.
These drawings also aid in determining the year they were created, as the style of the painted artwork represents the decade.
M-S-F and Elma from Spain, Spong, and Kenrick from England, and Armin Tosser from Germany are all well-known brands in Europe.
Manufacturers of coffee mills in America
The United States also had several quality manufacturers when it came to coffee grinders.
One of the most famous was the Charles Parker Co. which made mills from 1860 to 1950. Keep in mind that the company changed the signature of their mills to CPC and then changed again to Parker starting in 1920.
Arcade King is another brand that one can come across regularly. The company stopped making mills relatively soon. By 1910 they were no longer making models, but they were of such good quality that they continue to work to this day and are highly valued by collectors.
Other brands worth mentioning are Fray & Clark and Logan & Strobridge.
Is There Any Value in Antique Coffee Grinders?
But, sure, of course. Coffee grinders from the old days are highly collectible and can be worth hundreds of dollars or more.
However, it is recommended that you use the following criteria to receive an approximate price for your antique grinder.
Inspect the condition of the grinder
It’s important to remember that a coffee grinder was once a common household item. That it is usually worn out or does not function well.
It’s also worth remembering that materials like wood or cast iron will unavoidably deteriorate over time.
The way it was maintained, where it was stored, and the sort of climate it was exposed to are all factors that influence its degeneration. However, four criteria might greatly assist you in determining all of this.
- Many collectors may use it as a decorative piece, but it is a 100% functional instrument, not an ornament. So, if your coffee grinder is in fine working order, the price will almost certainly increase.
- Remember that because the piece is made of iron, there is always the risk of it rusting. If the rust is only superficial, it can be repaired; nevertheless, other elements may not meet the same destiny, and the rust may become substantially affected, lowering its worth.
- If your grinder isn’t 100% functional but still looks great, you’re in luck because most collectors use it for decoration, so it won’t stop you from selling it. Porcelain mills are popular because, in addition to having exquisite finishes, they are also exceedingly resistant to the passage of time and do not sustain significant damage.
- Take a close look at your grinder for any cracks, as most are constructed of wood, which cracks over time. The fewer the cracks, the higher the market price.
Examine the grinder
You must pay close attention to the smallest details. Examine your grinder from every angle. We recommend writing down all of your grinder’s details in a notepad, including the size, materials used, embellishments, and any other distinguishing or distinctive features.
Nothing should be allowed to escape. Check to see if it’s portable or if it needs to be mounted on the wall, and if it has table support or not. Look for brands and serial numbers as well.
Also, keep in mind the names of the most well-known corporations. Here’s a quick rundown to help you remember: Arcade King, Kenrick, Elma, M-S-F, PeDe, Fray & Clark, Armin Trosser, DeVe, and Charles Parker Co.
We recommend that once you’ve written down all of the data about your vintage grinder and learned the names of the manufacturers and their variants, you examine the pricing of auctions or vintage object pages. This type of information is also available on sites like eBay.
The idea is to look for grinders that have already been sold rather than those that are currently on the market. It’s critical to remember that anyone can ask for anything they want for any object, even if it’s a ridiculous amount.
True collectors, on the other hand, will know how much to pay for certain items. You will be able to get a better idea of how much you can make for the item you wish to sell if you look at previous sales.
That way, you won’t make the error of pricing it too high, resulting in no sales, or, even worse, price it too low, resulting in a missed opportunity to profit from your coffee grinder.
Is it Possible to Use an Antique Coffee Grinder?
Yes, you can use an old manual coffee grinder, but first, make sure it works properly and is worth fixing.
You must ensure that all of the components are present and functional. You must be extremely careful because even the tiniest loose screw can cause the entire device to malfunction or fail in a short period.
Check that the handle and burrs are in good working order and are sharp, as these are the ones that will smash the coffee beans. If you see any chipping, you’ll need to replace them, and you should try if you can find an equivalent replacement or have one made.
Wood mills are also a problem due to mold, as are iron mills due to rust. As long as the problems are superficial, there is a solution, but if they compromise its structure, there is not much to do.
If you see that it is not worth investing time and money, it is recommended that you use them as decorative objects in your kitchen or the dining room.
Restoration of an Antique Coffee Grinder
- Everything must be disarmed. Be patient and take it one step at a time. Emphasize the burrs, as they are the grinder’s most important component. Some screws will be concealed in the mill mark on the plate.
- Soak all of the disassembled parts of the grinder in a coffee cleaner for several hours. Remember that there is coffee residue from many years ago, so remove everything. After soaking the parts, clean them one by one to ensure that all contaminants are removed.
- Remember to clear out the grounds drawer. It will very certainly be full of coffee grounds as well. To deep clean, it, mix the cleanser with hot water.
- After that, clean the grinder’s body with a moist cloth or a cleaning brush. Ensure that all coffee residue is removed.
- You can polish the grinder’s metal for a more comprehensive restoration. This will be determined by how much you want to restore it and how you intend to use it.
- Reassemble it once everything is clean and dry, and it’s ready to use or display.
Grind On With These Top Rated Antique Coffee Grinders
And for those who aren’t interested in preserving an antique coffee mill or using it to decorate their home, but still want to be able to have their own coffee grinder to enjoy a wonderful freshly brewed cup of coffee, here are some modern versions that look and feel like vintage grinders. We hope you find them helpful.
- Zassenhaus Santiago Manual Coffee Mill, Black Stained Beech Wood
- Zassenhaus Brasilia Dark Stained Beech Coffee Hand Mill Grinder – 151DG
- Coffee Grinder Foruchoice Vintage Style Coffee Grinder Spice Hand Grinding Machine Hand-crank Roller Drive Grain Burr Mill Coffee Machine
- Hario MM-2 Coffee Grinder, Small
- Norpro 5548 Coffee Grinder
All these models are available in the most popular online stores on the internet.
Remember that if you have a vintage grinder at home that has been buried in the basement, you should dig it out and start bringing it back to life.
If you don’t feel like restoring it and drinking a lovely cup of coffee, it can make an excellent gift for someone who enjoys antiques, or you could conduct some more study on the interesting world of coffee grinders and sell it later for a profit.
Many coffee grinders made in the last 200 years likely will have some sort of make or model number on them, to give you a clue as to their origins. Once you have a make or a model number, this is a great start to finding out how old it is.
These numbers are to be used as a guide. The amount of ground coffee varies quite a bit depending on how coarse or fine you grind and whether you use light, dry beans or dark, oily beans. After grinding a few times, you will find the correct grind amount position for the amount of coffee you want to grind.
The burrs, the rod, any springs or screws—soak them all for a few hours in a dedicated coffee cleaner and hot water. This will break down the rancid oils and old grounds that have been caked on for years… or decades.
There are two different burr grinders, conical or flat plate. Conical Burr Grinders have two cone shaped burrs with ridges that grind/crush the coffee. Flat Plate Burr Grinders have two identical and parallel rings that are serrated on the side that faces the other.
In 1798, the first U.S. patent for a coffee grinder was issued to Thomas Bruff of Maryland, who was Thomas Jefferson's dentist. His wall-mounted device ground beans between metal nuts with coarse and fine teeth.
A very rare, old tin, in mint or near mint condition can fetch thousands, while the same tin in poor condition may only be worth a few dollars. The more elaborate lithographed one pound "Tall Coffee Tins” range in price from $150 to over $1,000, while those with plain lettering will generally sell from $75 to $150.
1 refers to fine and 17 to course.
Cowboy coffee is essentially French press coffee without a filter. Typically, this drink is made over an open flame, out on the trail, or at a campsite, where a coffee maker (or electricity for that matter) isn't readily available.
Simply mix a few tablespoons of white vinegar with a glass of water, and use this as a cleaning mix for your grinder. With a combination of this and a stiff-bristled brush (like a toothbrush), you'll end up with a very clean grinder.
In order to adjust your manual grinder's grind setting, the first thing you need to do is remove the top nut, handle, and locking ring. After you remove the locking ring, hold the central spindle and turn the adjusting ring. Turn the ring clockwise for a finer grind and counter-clockwise for a coarser grind.
- Unplug your grinder.
- Pull apart your burrs.
- Shake And Scrub.
- Wipe It Down.
- Suck It Up.
- Wipe and Replace.
- Grind It Up.
Coffee grinders and spice grinders are designed to perform differently. Spice grinders almost always use spinning blades to grind up the spices by chopping them into smaller pieces. But coffee grinders use burrs, which help achieve a different result due to their grinding process.
Burr grinders use two revolving abrasive surfaces to grind up coffee while blade grinders use a propeller-like blade, similar to a blender. While this may all seem trivial, it's important to understand that poorly ground beans will result in a bad cup of coffee.
This antique coffee grinder is very easy to operate, simply because all you have to do is put the coffee beans inside the hopper, turn the handle and grind the coffee until you have your desired amount waiting inside the drawer.
In the 15th century, people used their manual spice grinders or grain mills to grind coffee. The first coffee mill, made specifically to grind coffee beans, was invented by Englishman Nicholas Book in the late 17th century. Coffee was placed in the top of the lever device and was grinded into a bottom drawer.
Meat grinder was invented by Karl Drais (full name: Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Freiherr Drais von Sauerbron), who lived in Germany in 19th century.
The date of manufacture (printing) may appear on it or sometimes be stamped on thebackside. This can only be determined if you're willing to remove the label from the tin. Numbers on labels such as “553” may indicatethe year made. “553” is May, 1953.
It takes about 32 aluminum cans to make a pound. The weight of a can fluctuates with various brand designs, but they tend to be around a half-ounce per can. At an average of 59 cents per pound, that makes a single can worth about 1.8 cents.
In the sense of caffeination, a finer grind does result in stronger coffee, while a coarser grind will brew a weaker cup.
Coarse grounds will also produce a less concentrated cup of coffee. Fine coffee grounds are made from coffee beans that have been finely ground. These grounds are more dense than coarse grinds, so they require more time to brew. Fine grounds will also produce a more concentrated cup of coffee.
Medium-fine beans have a texture just a little smoother than sand. This grind is the best for cone-shaped pour-overs, vacuum brewers, and AeroPress brewers with two to three minutes of brewing time.
Adding eggshell to the grounds of coffee is said to take away some of the bitter taste that can be associated with cheap or over extracted coffee. The eggshells are typically cleaned after making eggs and allowed to dry, then simply added to the drip coffee filter where the coffee grounds go.
Butter coffee is believed to provide steady, long-lasting energy without a blood sugar crash. In theory, since fat slows digestion, the caffeine in the coffee is absorbed slower and provides longer-lasting energy.
When you put salt in your coffee, it neutralizes the bitterness by blocking the taste buds responsible for it. A pinch of salt will help to enhance the flavor, but more than that may make the coffee undrinkable. It will also add thickness to the beverage by making the water denser.
A good quality grinder that is used regularly should last you for about 5-10 years. A good blade grinder will grind about 500-800 pounds of coffee beans before its blades begin to dull. Burr grinders, on the other hand, will grind up to 1500 pounds of coffee before you have to replace the burrs.
It's best not to freeze or refrigerate coffee beans you're going to use in the next few weeks because that can expose them to dampness and smells from other foods. Instead, store coffee beans in an opaque, airtight container and keep it in a dark, cool location, away from the stove or other heat sources.
As a general rule, clean your coffee grinder every two weeks. However, if you're grinding every day, or using oily beans, you'll want to clean your grinder about once a week. When your coffee grinder is clean and dry, it will stay fresher, longer, and it will keep your coffee tasting delicious.
Isopropyl alcohol can dissolve these grinders, so boiling water is the way to go. You can also choose to use soap and warm water. Boiling Water Method – Place all the pieces in a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. After this, remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Soak the grinder in isopropyl alcohol.
Place the pieces of the grinder in a bath of isopropyl alcohol. You can use a tupperware or a resealable bag. Make sure all pieces are submerged. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to an hour, then remove the grinder pieces.
Cleaning your grinder with acetone (or nail polish remover)
Cleaning a grinder with acetone or nail polish remover is very effective, and also fairly cheap. Just be sure to flush it very well with warm water afterwards, because you don't want to smoke acetone.
After spending time using a manual wooden coffee grinder, our answer is a resounding yes that antique coffee grinders are definitely worthwhile. No electricity is required to operate one, and they are made of durable materials that will last a lifetime.
When the grind is too coarse, the grounds will not pack tightly together, and the water will pass through them too quickly. The extraction will be too fast, and the drinks will be weak. You must make the grind finer. If the extractions take longer than 30 seconds, they will be bitter.
Clean the ground coffee reservoir with a dry cloth to ensure that oils and grinds from previous grindings don't negatively impact freshly ground coffee. With the use the outer surfaces may become tarnished, use a metal polish only on the outside surfaces to bring the grinder back to its original luster.
Put a 1/4 cup of rice in your blade grinder and grind for about a minute (until it's pulverized). Once it's pulverized, oils and dust should cling to the rice. Dump the pulverized rice out of of the grinder. Using a wet paper towel, wipe out the grinder.
- Fill the grinder with rice.
- Run the rice in the grinder. Run the rice in the grinder for about a minute—the rice will collect the oils and remove the excess coffee grounds. Pour the rice out of the grinder.
- Repeat the process.
- Wipe down the grinder.
Since most burr grinders have a large hopper to store coffee beans, cleaning should be done when the hopper is empty. Remove the hopper and wash it, the lid, and any removable sealing gaskets by hand in a sink of hot, soapy water. Rinse well with hot water and dry with a microfiber cloth.
A spice grinder is a must-have for all the nifty home cooks that enjoy fresh ground seasoning in their meals. It's the modern-day mortar and pestle that gives you better control over how you want your favorite spices ground up. And it's not just spices that work for these.
Spice grinders are good at chopping small volumes of soft ingredients, and some can even handle nuts and harder ingredients. At the higher price levels, spice grinders can also grind dry and wet ingredients, which is never acceptable in a coffee grinder.
A spice grinder or spice mill in its most basic form is a tool used to grind spices, nuts and seeds into powders. These powders can be used to season or flavour foods or used in place of wheat flour.
Generally speaking, flat burrs are more consistent and more expensive. Depending on the model, they can also be noisy and, unless there is good ventilation, heat up quickly. In contrast, most conical burrs are quieter, cooler, and cheaper, but less consistent. You need to work out which aspects are important to you.
Our list consists mostly of conical-burr grinders. In a conical grinder, coffee beans are crushed and ground between two rings of burrs. They deliver a finer, much more consistent grind than you'd get with a traditional blade grinder, even the nicest ones.
It's advised not to leave coffee beans in the hopper for longer than 1 to 2 days as they will go stale faster than if stored correctly. One might argue, with newer grinders, the hoppers are almost 'airtight' and are even UV coated.
The answer: Yes, burrs in coffee bean grinders do wear out. But if you own a good quality grinder, the burrs will probably last a long time. As a rule of thumb: steel burrs need replacement after grinding 1000 lbs (or approximately 450 kilograms) of coffee beans.
Breaking in a New Espresso Grinder: Burr Seasoning and More Tips
They grind beans between two burred plates. The plates, or “burrs”, are flat in some models and conical in others. One plate remains stationary, while the other spins around. The chief advantage of a burr coffee grinder is that it grinds beans to a uniform size of particles.
In the sense of caffeination, a finer grind does result in stronger coffee, while a coarser grind will brew a weaker cup.
The best ground beans size for espresso is 0.88 mm or 1.32 of an inch; this is a fine grind. While the precise size can fluctuate slightly with different coffee beans and even different espresso machines, it's essential to keep practicing until you get the grind size right.
In general, if you brew coffee that is ground too coarse, the coffee can be under-extracted (weak), and less flavorful. If your coffee is ground too fine, however, the coffee can be over-extracted and bitter. Small changes in grind size can drastically affect the taste of your final brew.
2. Grind for a Pour Over – Medium-Coarse Grind. For pour over coffee, the best grind to use is a medium-coarse grind. A medium-coarse grind will be similar in size to a French press grind but less chunky and will feel slightly smoother.
You need around 0.38 ounces or 10.6 grams of coffee beans per cup. This translates to about two tablespoons of ground coffee which is more or less the standard amount to make a cup of coffee. You should only use filtered water.
Local roasters tend to sell their coffee in whole bean form to preserve the flavor and overall quality of the joe until you're ready to brew it. It's for that same reason roasters like to ship coffee in whole bean form, too.
Is your coffee too bitter? Make sure your machine uses a coarser grind. You do this by setting a larger grind size. Go from level 5 to 6, for example.
- Use fresh coffee, but not too fresh. Coffee that is about 1-2 weeks from the roast date is ideal to get good crema. ...
- Freshly grind coffee. ...
- Use a good espresso machine using enough pressure. ...
- BARISTA'S TIP: Make espresso in a small clear glass cup when you want to look at crema.
Espresso pucks can be wet because of several reasons. The most common reasons are; The filter basket is not filled enough/too big, The grounds aren't tamped enough, The grind size is too coarse or the grounds aren't distributed properly. A wet puck is an indication that the espresso isn't optimal.
To fill a standard 12-cup coffeemaker, you will need 12-24 tablespoons (or between 3/4 and 1 1/2 cups) of ground coffee. This will yield 12 6-ounce servings, or about 6 standard 12-ounce mugs of coffee. For a smaller pot, simply scale the ratio down. Since water makes up the majority of coffee, quality matters.
Choose a cool, dark, dry place, such as in a pantry or cabinet. Do not store coffee in the refrigerator or freezer; the humidity can cause moisture to infiltrate the packaging. Avoid warm spots, such as above/next to the oven or in cabinets that get hot from exposure to sunlight or cooking equipment.
Under extracted, sour coffee is the result of not getting enough extraction, which doesn't allow sweet or bitter flavors into your coffee to balance out sourness. To fix this, you can make your grind size finer, make your water hotter, brew for longer, or use more water in your recipe.
For a coarse grind, 8-10 seconds, a few seconds at a time should do nicely. For a medium grind, try short bursts that add to 10-15 seconds, and a fine grind would be a few seconds or more longer.
Medium grind is the most common grind size for pre-ground beans, with a texture like smoother sand. This grind is great for drip coffee makers and siphon brewers.
If you like a strong, rich cup of coffee, then you'll want to go with a finer grind. If you prefer a lighter cup of coffee, then a coarser grind will be just right. No matter what grind size you choose, just make sure that it's consistent. Inconsistent grinds can result in coffee that's either too weak or too strong.
A burr grinder is easy to use when grinding pre-ground coffee as all you need is a few clicks to set the burrs to the preferred grind size, throw in the pre-ground coffee small amounts at a time to avoid jamming the grinder. Grind and voila, your grounds are ready.