Whether you are an avid antique collector who has embraced their charming character, or you wish to acquire a single piece for its decorative as well as earth-friendly utilitarian properties for your kitchen, the quest for antique coffee grinders is surging in popularity. Their lasting durability from a time when such items were crafted with pride combined with their old-fashioned straight-from-grandma's appearance adds an aura of history and a touch of whimsy to any kitchen.
Antique coffee grinders are hand powered, as is evidenced by the requisite handle. Coffee beans are loaded either into the mill through an opening on top or into a glass hopper. Then one cranks the handle until the beans have been ground. The most commonly seen coffee grinders are equipped with drawers into which the ground coffee gets deposited. Antique grinders were made from glass, cast iron and wood. Many feature ornate designs painted on them, the style of this artwork indicative of the era during which the grinder was crafted. Manufacturers had their names stamped on the front or on the back of their grinders, accompanied by a serial number. Production of antique coffee grinders ceased during the 1950s as people opted for the ease of electric powered small appliances.
Styles of Antique Coffee Grinders
- Box grinders, also referred to as lap grinders, are designed to be used anywhere in the home; the individual holds the mill while cranking. An extra helper handle allows the user to grasp the grinder firmly while turning the handle. For those wishing to amass a collection of antique coffee grinders, this style offers the convenience of being able to arrange them across a display shelf.
- Upright or post grinder must be mounted to a sturdy fixture, such as a counter or wall. Because the grinder is thus affixed securely, the counterforce of the grinding action provides a more efficient process of grinding the coffee beans. Wall mounted grinders offer a space-saving benefit for those with small kitchens.
Popular European-made Antique Coffee Grinders
- Kenrick Company of England produced a single cast iron model for ninety-eight years, the only variation from one piece to the next being the serial number.
- PeDe, a German manufacturer, produced coffee grinders made of white glass. The only variation in these coffee grinders was in the font used to paint the German word for coffee (koffee) on the front. The font was changed every couple of years.
- DeVe, based in Holland, also produced glass coffee grinders, their pieces artistically painted with intricate designs.
Popular American-made Antique Coffee Grinders
- Arcade, based in the United States in Connecticut and founded in 1885, crafted cast iron and crystal coffee grinders until the 1930s.
- Charles Parker Co., also based in Connecticut, produced coffee grinders for nearly a century, ending in 1950. Models produced between 1900 and 1920 were stamped with the initials C-P-C; those manufactured after 1920 bore the name Parker.
- Logan & Stobridge, based in Pennsylvania, produced cast iron grinders. The high quality cast iron workmanship that dates back as far as 1890 makes these coffee grinders highly sought after pieces.
There are many other manufacturers of highly coveted antique coffee grinders. Before setting out to purchase your first piece, take the time to acquaint yourself with the unique appearance of the different manufacturers, eras and designs to determine which models appeal to your unique taste.
Cleaning Your Antique Coffee Grinder
Remember that these coffee grinders were produced long before dishwashers were invented. Before opening a new bag of coffee beans, remove the drawer and/or hopper of the grinder. Using an air canister, blow off any ground coffee that has begun to cake on the inner workings of the grinder as well as any stray grinds from all crevices. This cleaning method will not be damaging to any material of your coffee grinder.
Once you have familiarized yourself with the varieties of antique coffee grinders, you can seek one out at an experienced and reputable antique dealer. Keep in mind, however, that if you adore the look of an antique coffee grinder but also seek the superior flavour of freshly ground coffee every morning, the two desires may not go hand in hand. Any true antique coffee grinder is going to be more than sixty years old; former wear and tear on a wooden grinder is likely to have rendered it in delicate condition, more suitable for display and perhaps special occasion use. Mounted grinders made of cast iron are better candidates for reprising their role of regular grinding.
From the prized collectible aspect to the charming old-style décor and green benefit, antique coffee grinders have become popular treasures that are finding new homes in today's kitchens.