In This Article
An antique coffee grinder (or coffee mill) as we know it today has existed for hundreds of years. Their purpose (transforming whole coffee beans into a fine powder) is simple and hasn’t changed. Before mechanical grinders, people used their arm strength and a simple mortar and pestle to prepare their coffee beans. As coffee interest exploded worldwide, inventors created several updated coffee mill patents in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
There are generally two reasons people want to buy an antique coffee grinder. First, they want to decorate a rustic or farmhouse-style kitchen. Second, they want to actually use the item. Luckily, antique coffee grinders are well made and have the longevity to be used even a hundred years later with the proper care or restoration.
Even better, some coffee enthusiasts claim that the old hand-grinding models produce a better flavor profile than some newer electric models. This guide will walk you through some basic buying information and provide helpful examples (that you could potentially buy right now).
Types of Coffee Grinders
You could potentially get your hands on a small wall-mounted grinder, or you might be more interested in an industrial-sized commercial coffee grinder. The coffee grinder types are self-explanatory, but you can see some examples below. Once you know the style, research some common manufacturers and learn to identify them through a maker’s mark or a patent number. Some common types include:
- Box or lap
Electric Coffee Mills in a Product Catalog
Albert Pick & Co., c. 1926
Mechanical Coffee Grinders in a Product Catalog
John H. Graham & Co., c. 1891
- Arcade, United States
- Armin Trosser, Germany
- DeVe, Holland
- Elma, Spain
- Enterprise, United States
- Kenrick, England
- Landers Frary and Clark, United States
- Lane Brothers, United States
- Logan and Stonebridge, United States
- MSF Company, Patentado, Spain
- Parker, United States
- PeDe (Peter Dienes), Germany and Holland
- Spong, England
- Steinfeld, United States
- Wilmot Castle, United States
- Wrightsville Hardware Company, United States
Coffee Grinder Marriages
Experts consider a marriage a coffee grinder with different parts, likely from other manufacturers and different periods. For example, a wall mount coffee mill might have an original Arcade base with a substitute catch cup. Purchasing a marriage isn’t a big deal if you want to use an antique coffee grinder. Also, if you want to use the coffee grinder, look for materials like cast iron, which tends to be more functional than wood, which will lose its strength over time.
If you’re solely collecting antique coffee grinders and hope for the value to increase over time, it’s important to seek out grinders that are all original, if possible. To find a valuable coffee grinder, consider these factors:
- Originality. Again, original grinders (not a marriage) will be worth more than a grinder that someone pieced together.
- Functionality. For some collectors, functionality is more important than things like an original finish, even if they don’t intend to use the device.
- Condition. An antique coffee grinder in excellent condition will be worth more than a coffee mill that someone restored. Generally, the original owners didn’t use these grinders much.
Is Restoration OK?
Sometimes, restoration can devalue an antique, and collectors prefer an original finish. However, in the case of coffee grinders, most buyers want a functional unit. In this case, restoration is recommended.
Before you use any old coffee mill (even if it’s been restored), make sure you:
- First, thoroughly clean the unit by taking the grinder completely apart (so long as you can put it back together).
- Ensure the unit’s interior is free of rust or a surface coating that might be toxic.
- Test the unit to make sure it works correctly.