Lurking in the Cupboard: Manual Coffee Grinder

August 29, 2012

An occasional post about long-forgotten household gems in my mother’s kitchen

I could feel it doing me good. Core muscles engaged and arms clenching the machine would produce great results. Am I in a gym? Hardly. I’m grinding coffee beans at the kitchen bench on my new obscure object of desire (apologies to filmmaker Luis Buñuel).

I’ve located our long-forgotten hand coffee grinder in my mother’s kitchen cupboard and it’s been getting a good workout at my house. I thought it had been donated to charity, but there it was, over 40 years old and looking at me with a downcast bottom drawer. Last used in 1989 by my dear late dad – and sometimes me  (see older blogpost) it deserved to be rescued after I developed my hankering for a fresh daily grind.

Vintage manual coffee grinderMade in Holland, it’s a wooden “burr” grinder and still works like a dream. I love the soft crunching sound of the beans being crushed between the mechanisms. Much nicer than the  screeching noise of an electric blade grinder that has me imagining a dentist’s weapon. And the aroma of the oils released by the ground beans is nothing short of heady.

I’m guessing my mother found it too much effort to use (my father being chief coffee bean crusher) and stored it away. Interestingly, she planted a coffee tree in the back garden about 15 years ago and it’s making a brave comeback after her indiscriminate pruning festival two years ago. Prior to that, we’d harvested its crimson beans and roasted them as an experiment. Then threw them away. Now, with the hand coffee grinder resurrected, we’re ready for the next stage of the ‘torrefazione’ (such a nice Italian word) process. Illycaffe – watch your back.

I’m liking the idea of calling our future crop Fairtrade coffee: if my mother promises not to go near the tree with any sort of hacking implement, I promise not to call her a terrible gardener. Fair trade.

But back to the workout. It’s quite a job turning the coffee grinder handle and keeping it steady on the bench. Multiply that by four caffeine fixes per day and hello rock-hard biceps. Ta-ta tuckshop arms.

More about manual coffee grinders

And for manual coffee grinder freaks, here’s a museum

Have also just found these many uses for leftover coffee grounds. Brilliant.

♦ I welcome your thoughts or retorts. The Comments button is only a click away…



  1. Lovely find. Looks very well made. I actually won a hand grind coffee maker that we like very much, though it’s difficult to find beans. I’ve thought about a coffee tree or two, but don’t think they’d survive our winters. Maybe once we add a greenhouse!

  2. A greenhouse – what a great idea. Coffee trees definitely like a hot, humid climate, although they can stand some shade. Good luck with your project.

  3. My grandmother had one of those in her walk-in pantry, hanging on the wall. She used it every day! I miss the smell of her warm pantry (the hot water heater was in there too) and freshly ground coffee. Thanks for the memories.

    Your grinder workout sounds like a win-win situation. Great coffee AND great biceps. 🙂

    • If you’re a coffee drinker, I encourage you to get a hand coffee grinder. The aroma – and the new biceps – are a winning combination.

  4. Aha! Finally a post about a piece of farm equipment! So nice to see!
    (I suppose the very fact that we call it a “coffee” grinder is a .. er.. clue.. that it may once have been used for something other than grinding wheat (or whatever is being harvested).
    Just to look at the photo reinvokes the sneeze inducing smell of ground wheat!

    • Thanks. You should see my rice huller!

      • You’ve got me there. Had to google for it! Rice is something I’ve never been anywhere near, not by a thousand miles or so, (and 3 provinces) at the closest. Must be quite a machine to have in the household!

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