As the consumption of coffee spread rapidly in the 18th century, there were political consequences. Frederick the Great of Prussia, himself a great coffee drinker, did not allow the common folk to drink coffee. This luxury beverage was to be reserved for the well-to-do. On the 21st of January 1781, he issued a coffee decree that made roasting your own coffee a punishable offence. People who couldn’t afford the expensive government-supplied coffee smuggled in the beans and roasted them in secret – at great risk. There were even agents known as "coffee sniffers" roaming the streets, on the trail of the tell-tale aroma of illegal roasting. It wasn’t until 1787 that Frederick the Great's successor, Frederick William the Second, abolished the state coffee monopoly.
Have you noticed the object that looks like a shovel, next to the large coffee grinder in the middle display case? It’s actually an 18th century coffee roaster and is linked to this story. You filled the beans into the drawer at the front, and then waved the roaster back and forth over an open fire – by hand! It’s easy to visualise people back then using a simple tool like this one to roast their own coffee – in secret.
Incidentally, the coffee grinder next to the roaster wasn’t for personal use. You can find out more about it at the next stop.
All depictions: © Kaffeemühlenmuseum Wiernsheim