Station: [11] Room 6: Wartime Coffee Mills

In case you’re worried – by displaying these coffee grinders, we’re not intending to glorify the First and Second World Wars – and nor are the coffee grinders with the SS runes some kind of homage to the Nazis. The wartime coffee grinders, known as militaria grinders, are contemporary witnesses of terrible conflicts. Many display people’s ingenuity in times of need. That’s because ...

... coffee was a popular beverage, and back in 1868, the Bavarian Ministry of War had decreed that one in ten soldiers in the army had to carry a coffee grinder in his knapsack. The aim was to keep up the troops’ spirits and morale. 

The first display case features a field coffee grinder from 1914, which was used by troops in the First World War. The lavish decoration suggests it belonged to a senior officer. It was made from a projectile casing, and the folding crank could be removed and re-attached. A miniature steel helmet served as a lid. 

Another coffee mill, on the upper shelf of the display case, was made from a shell casing. It’s a hand grinder that also dates to 1914. The grinding mechanism – perhaps from an old wooden grinder destroyed by fire – was inserted into the casing. Again, it had a folding crank that could be stowed in the casing when on the move.

With the same menacing air as Darth Vader from the Star Wars films, three black coffee grinders stand on the wall shelf. They’re surrounded by colourful lap grinders made of wood and glass as well as by table grinders – all from the Nazi period. The three black models from 1930 were manufactured in Rostock, and in Schmalkalden in Thuringia, respectively. They’re made of Bakelite.

Bakelite is pressed and hardened synthetic resin. The material, which is lightweight and heat-resistant, was patented by the Belgian chemist Leo Hendrick Baekeland. Before long, it was being used for the housings of electrical and household appliances. After the First World War, ornate luxury coffee machines fell out of fashion, so this durable material appeared at just the right time for simple, inexpensive coffee grinders to be produced.

All depictions: © Kaffeemühlenmuseum Wiernsheim