Grinding roasted coffee beans is hard work when doing it by hand. So let’s call it a manly job! I like to share some information here on the art of coffee grinding for a great cup of coffee….vintage style.
History on the Coffee grinder
The first coffee grinders were probably generic grinders for all kinds of herbs, dating back to the 15th century and perhaps earlier…being downsides mills an all. The “first real coffee grinders” date back to 1600-something in England/Holland which was a direct link with the world wide overseas trading they did. Spreading from these countries to the rest of the world. These by now higly antique grinders are not much use in the every day proces of slow-coffee brewing.
The grinders that saw the light before 1920 were aimed at making the process of grinding the hard roasted coffee beans more easy. The early models were mostly made with harsh irony cast parts for durablity, rather then aiming at the quality of the grind.
To make grinding a little easier it was important that a grinder had a heavy base as well as and large handles to easily turn it over and over. Early machines were also equipted with large wheels to make turning easier. An examaple is showing here on the left side.
The less bulky machinesspecially for the smaler homes were models that could be mounted to the wall for extra stability. An example shown on the right. If you need to have a less coarse grind you needed to regrind your coffee a few times over to get the quality you were aiming for. Resulting in more heavy work, not very different from pounding your beans to a pulp by hand using 2 stones.
Vintage Coffee grinders for use today
After the 1920’s with all the new inventions, cast iron was no longer the only source of quality parts that could be used to producing a nice mini mill. What we see is that vintage coffee grinder that were made after 1920 and well into the 1960’s are very usable today. The introduction of the small electric blade grinder (a.k.a. been killer) in the 1960’s pauzed the evolution of the coffee grinder for quite some years.
In the above picture you find some vintage grinders from 1930 untill now, get more modern from left to right. The First is a Wood large grinder. It already has a setting knob to set between coarser and finer grinds. After the all wood, there was metal added to to the grinders, mostly in the collection basked and the top opening. A great example would be the one below ( read more about it here). After that in the 1950’s more tin and bakelite was used as shown in the blue mill. Bakelite opening on top and the blue is all tin. Then there is the 1970’s all plastic Electric blade grinder (which my wife uses today) and finaly a modern, 2010, plastic grinder from Japan.
An other important part in the evolution of the hand grinder is the materials used for the burrs. The vintage one untill the 1950’s used cast iron / steel burs were later on stainless steel was used (as in the electric grinders) and in the modern days ceramic is used to create ever lasting burrs that can grind how ever fine you like. I tried to show this in the picture below. On the left the Japanese modern grinder with ceramic burs, then the stainless steel blades of the electric grinder and on the right the iron bur from a 1940’s model.
The beauty of vintage Coffee grinders
Grinders come in various shapes and forms. Being from Europe myself I find that the most interesting vintage coffee grinders were made by a handfull of makers from Germnay and France. They go by the brands of Peugeot, PeDe (PeVe) (Dienes) and Sazzenhaus. Materials used in different combinations vary from steel, iron and wood to tin and backelite.
Above you find my vintage set up with 1950’s tin-wood-bakelite French made Peugeot grinder with my Zanzibar Mokka pot from 1968. Below you find a large overview of vintage models.
For a good overview of many of the models made by the Dienes , Zassenhaus, BeHa, Peugeot, KyM and many more, please check out this great website: www.old-vintage-grinders.com.
How to use your grinder?
The answer to this question is simpel. Put beans in the compartment that leads to the burr and start turning the knob. The bean grind should end up in another part of the Mill construction. Get it out and make coffee. Most machines also have a turn screw to make the grind more coarse or finer. That is about the basics. There is a whole world of information however on the perfect grind, the best machines, trouble shooting, maintenance etc. There is plenty to find about it on the internet. I did select you a small youtube video…for your viewing pleasure:
A vintage coffee grinder is easy to use and a real manly tool. So vintage Man Stuff in it’s essence! There is a world to pick from, besides different materials you find different colors and shapes. A feast for the eyes and mostly leading to better coffee also! So choose your manly Coffee tool asap and enjoy!