The earliest European coffee grinders were generally made of wood – like the two oldest grinders in the Scheuermann collection, which date from 1720. If you look at the wall on your right, you can see them in the display case on the left. The table grinder on the left has a tall funnel for adding the beans, and a drawer to catch the ground powder. Its neighbour of the same age is a table mount grinder with a shallow funnel.
Some of the older grinders are fairly basic wooden designs, while others were made of sheet iron. They appear quite crude compared to the coffee grinders made soon afterwards for members of the nobility. For a long time, coffee was a luxury due to its high price, and coffee-drinking was confined to the upper classes. From the middle of the 18th century, coffee mills became more sophisticated. What had once been simple wooden grinders were now decorated with carvings, while the brass grinders featured ornate chasing and appliqués. These coffee grinders soon became popular among the upper classes as small hostess gifts. Their status as gifts is reflected in the German term for them: Geschenkmühlen.
Let me give you an example: in the display case to the left of the window, you can see a table or lap mill from the Netherlands. The quality is superb. The inlays with East Asian design motifs are made of porcelain, which had to be sourced in China at the time. This type of chinoiserie was very popular in the late 18th century.
Equally popular were grinders with hunting décor, like the one from Vienna, right next to the chinoiserie model. They’re often made of expensive materials and are known in German as Jägermühlen, hunters’ grinders. They embodied their owners’ rank in society, because for a long time, hunting was the domain of the nobility and the upper middle classes.
All depictions: © Kaffeemühlenmuseum Wiernsheim