- Written by Dr. Lori Verderame Dr. Lori Verderame
Since coffee is an age-old hot drink, coffee grinders date back to the ninth century AD. As coffee served many people from diverse cultures worldwide, grinding coffee beans was essential.
Today, the machines for grinding coffee beans are highly collectible.
In Europe, the coffee grinder was patented by German inventor Friedrich Gottlob Keller in 1842. Based on this German coffee grinder, other coffee grinders followed suit.
American coffee grinders were introduced thanks to Maryland dentist Thomas Bruff, who understood that grinding coffee using different pressure points would have varying results. Like one’s teeth, a good coffee grinder should be able to grind coffee beans coarsely and finely.
For Bruff, numbers on the coffee grinder were used to select a finely or coarsely ground coffee bean. The higher the number set on the coffee grinder, the finer the resulting ground coffee beans. The lower the number, the more coarse the resulting ground coffee. Finely ground or coarsely ground coffee would taste differently from one another.
Bruff’s first coffee grinder was wall mounted. The wall-mounted coffee grinders would drop the ground beans into a storage container beneath the grinding wheel and crank, allowing gravity to aid in the process.
Sought-after antique coffee grinders date from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century and were made by various manufacturers in America and in Europe.
To identify valuable antique and vintage coffee grinders, one needs to know the various types, including single- and double-wheel models, wall-mounted coffee grinders, top hand-crank box models, cast iron pedestal models, and large-scale floor models.
Wall-mounted coffee grinders were known for their convenience. Some were marketed by Charles Parker Company and other Connecticut-based firms of the 19th century. The tabletop coffee grinder models were used in private homes. Large floor-model grinders were typically used in general stores, institutions, and restaurants to grind large amounts of coffee.
Home coffee grinders were introduced in the mid-1890s and were used until circa 1940. The top hand-crank models featured a round metal top cast in metal with decorative elements and a wooden box and drawer at the bottom to catch the grounds.
Antique coffee grinders range in value from $50 to $1,000, depending on factors such as style, condition, type, materials, maker, design, and age. Some coffee grinders are worth more if they are made by a prestigious manufacturing company or are of a special type.
In America, these are the most prominent manufacturers of coffee grinders: Landers, Frary & Clark Coffee Mill, New Britain, Connecticut; Charles Parker Company, Meriden, Connecticut; Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wrightsville Hardware Company, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania; and Arcade Manufacturing Company, Freeport, Illinois.
Top coffee-grinder manufacturers in Europe include: Armin Trosser of Germany; PeDe (Peter Dienes) of Holland, the Netherlands; Kenrick and Sons of England; and Elma and MSF Company, both of Spain.
Collectors look for various styles and types of coffee grinders, and decoration impacts the appraised value. For example, some coffee grinders are decorated with flowers, geometric patterns, advertising information, or kitchen imagery.
Some decorations are reserved to the hoppers or canisters. These decorated holders are colored pressed glass, hand-painted wood boxes, transferware ceramic, and the list goes on. Kitchen motifs and other imagery to be found include flowers, fruits, the sun and moon, coffee cups, the alphabet, etc.
When seeking out antique or vintage coffee grinders, look for good condition, unique styles, working parts, original hardware, decorative motifs, and well-known brand names.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality Dr. Lori appears on The Curse of Oak Island on History channel. She gives appraisal value information at drloriv.com and youtube.com/drloriv or call (888) 431-1010.