Station: [7] Room 2: Master Grinders, Biedermeier Period

Each and every coffee mill in our museum reflects the spirit of the period in which it was made. On our journey through the world of coffee grinders, we’ve now arrived at the Biedermeier period, which lasted from the equivilant of the late Regency to the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign in England. The Holy Roman Empire had fallen. Napoleon had defeated the Imperial Army, and the reorganisation of Europe was on the agenda. As the outside world fell apart, the middle classes retreated into private life and prioritised their families. 

Cosy living rooms, expensive, yet unpretentious furniture, decorative objects – all these elements are associated with the romantic Biedermeier period from 1815 to 1848. Probably the most famous piece of furniture from this era is the dresser. The coffee grinders from this period adopted the shape of that popular piece of furniture. Dresser-style coffee mills resemble a miniature dresser, complete with grinding mechanism and drawer for the coffee powder. Most are made of wood and have a brass funnel. Take a look at the display case in the middle, where you can see some of these dresser-style grinders with inlays of walnut, chestnut or mahogany. Anyone who put this type of coffee grinder in their living room wanted to be somebody. Coffee-drinking was part of a cultured lifestyle, and that was something people wanted to display!

Dresser-style grinders made of other materials are much less common. Look out for the brass coffee mill from Austria, which has a noble family’s coat of arms engraved on its crank handle.

Have you already discovered the pillar grinders? They’re the coffee mills with corners shaped like decorative pillars, like the one at the top of the right-hand display case by the entrance. 

All the coffee grinders in this room are valuable one-offs. The German term is Meistermühlen – reflecting the fact that they would have been individually made by master craftsmen. A blacksmith would have forged the grinding mechanism, sheet metal workers, glaziers or cabinet-makers designed the housings. Those artisans would have spent many months working on a single grinder. That in turn led to eye-watering prices. Working-class and lower middle-class families would never have been able to afford them. That changed with the advent of manufactories. Find out more in the next room!

All depictions: © Kaffeemühlenmuseum Wiernsheim