It’s remarkable how often symbols of the three major world religions are found on coffee grinders. Take a look at this display case to see some examples of coffee grinders with Christian, Islamic and Jewish motifs.
There’s no mistaking the reference to religion in a Christian coffee-mill that doesn’t even look like a grinder at first glance. It takes the form of a church, specifically the pilgrimage church of Our Lady of Lourdes. In imitation of the pilgrimage site of Lourdes itself, the church towers above the grotto. Even the statue of Mary inside the grotto has been reproduced. The grinder is made entirely of brass, with a crank in the shape of a cross. The Initials INRI are engraved on it, standing for "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum", "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". The hopper for the coffee beans is in the loft of the church, while the drawer with the "blessed" coffee powder is at the back of the grinder, beneath the church. This no doubt extremely expensive souvenir for well-heeled pilgrims was made in around 1900.
After Christianity, Islam is the world’s second major religion. Coffee is important in Arab countries as part of their cultural heritage. That’s why the Scheuermann collection includes a large number of mocha grinders and coffee-mills with Middle-Eastern decor. For example, on the shelf beneath the pilgrimage church, there is a brass pillar grinder from 1860. If you look at the front, you’ll see that it’s decorated with a recumbent crescent moon and a star. The slender crescent of the new moon is an important symbol in Islam, because the Islamic year is based on the lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan, for instance, begins with the appearance of the crescent moon. On the right-hand side of the grinder, there’s an elaborately carved mosque, the Muslim place of worship.
There are also coffee grinders made of ceramics and wood with Jewish symbols. For instance, a Dutch wooden table mill from 1850 is decorated with the Star of David and the seven-branched candelabrum known as a Menorah. The lap grinder from Budapest, right next to it, features inlaid medallions. On the side facing you, there’s a medallion incorporating the two tablets of the law with the ten commandments. The front displays the six-pointed Star of David, symbol of the people of Israel and Judaism.
All depictions: © Kaffeemühlenmuseum Wiernsheim