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An antique coffee grinder (or coffee mill) as we know it today has been in existence 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. Are you intrigued enough yet to buy an antique coffee grinder for your home?
There are generally two reasons people want to buy an antique or vintage coffee grinder. First, they want to decorate a rustic or farmhouse-style kitchen. Second, they want to use the item in their everyday life. 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 aficionados 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).
Questions to Ask Yourself
What kind of grinder do I want to buy?
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.
Types of Coffee Grinders
- Box or lap
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 how to identify them either through a maker’s mark or a patent number.
- 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
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
Do I want to buy an antique coffee grinder to use?
If you’re buying an antique coffee grinder with the intent to use it, some other factors won’t matter. For example, you’ll be more concerned about functionality vs. how many original parts are intact. 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.
Is the grinder a marriage?
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. If you want to buy an antique coffee grinder for use, purchasing a marriage isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re collecting them as an antique and hope for the value to increase over time, it’s important to seek out grinders that are all original, if possible.
Has anyone restored the coffee grinder?
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, 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.
If you want 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.
Coffee Grinders for Sale
Founded in 1885, this company made coffee grinders until the 1930s. This particular piece is well over 100 years old, with the label showing patent dates of 1888.
This single-wheel coffee grinder was made in Spain of heavy cast iron. It has a wood drawer and the original vibrant red paint. The seller says the grinder is functional and can be attached to a table.
People used Arcade coffee grinders in coffee shops, candy stores, the corner grocery, and the neighbor’s kitchen. In this example, the catch cup is present, which so often they are not.
This grinder was made between 1915 and 1925. The seller includes a vintage 8oz Kerr Mason Jar as a substitute catch cup. A spring-loaded base holds the jar in place. The grinder needs a replacement hopper to function correctly.
These cast iron wall-mount coffee mills were a part of the Journey and settling American Frontier. Early settlers mounted these in the Covered wagons that settled the American West.
This mill is from the early to mid-1930s. The entire grinder has been made out of metal, except for the knob on the crank and the drawer for catching the coffee grinds, which is made of wood. The seller has not tested the grinder, but they claim it feels very solid and smooth, with a clunky whirring sound coming from it when you turn the knob.
This mill came from the beginning of the 1950s, but the design was still from the Art Deco period of the 1930s. Manufacturer: DMR Rostock, VEB Dieselmotorenwerke Rostock.
The body of this mill is made of steel and painted in yellowish-mustard color, and it has a very original filling and discharging design. You can discharge ground coffee from the lid in the front of the grinder by lifting it down. The seller claims that the grinder works as required.
This is a retro coffee grinder from the 1970s that has a time mark on the milk glass container. The grinder is made from Porcelain, wood, metal, cast iron, and glass and appears to be all original.