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Collecting and using old manual grinders

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  • Collecting and using old manual grinders

    Hi, first post so please be kind!

    I was wondering how many people here collect - and use - old manual coffee grinders?

    I have a few, none less than 40 years old and all working. One is at least 100 years old. I have a few Zassenhaus, a Pe De and a couple of others. I still use two of my Zass grinders regularly. One is a low-end Zassenhaus Record 134 which is fine for stovetop brews and the other is a Zassenhaus 191 which will do espresso without even breaking into a sweat.

    For anyone considering a manual grinder, there are plenty of top quality grinders out there an it's just a matter of knowing them. You can end up with a really good grinder for not a lot of outlay. They make interesting kitchen ornaments too.

    All the well-known ones out there use tool-grade steel in their burrs so that, even after 50-70 years, they can still do a pretty good grind but adjustment is the key. Orphan Espresso has a pretty good article on how to tart one up but I'm not allowed to post the link yet.

    A lot of online sellers will tell you in good faith that what they're offering is rare. 99 times out of 100, it isn't. Whatever you do, don't get seduced into paying too much money for them unless you are sure it really is rare.

    So, anyone else here share my interest in doing it the old fashioned way?

  • #2
    I'm interested in this thread. It sure does need photos though

    I recently decided to get a manual hand grinder, not a vintage one. Just a Hario Mini Slim, I must admit, I'm not happy with it. I'm on my second one, both have failed me, and the grind consistency is shockingly bad and just not suitable for good filter coffee brewing. I've just ordered a porlex so hopefully this is an improvement.

    Always looking at vintage grinders, so quite interested to see some examples. There's something cool about hand-cranking to grind


    • #3
      I still can't post a lot of things because I don't have enough posts yet. However, there are a couple of sites which are worth searching for on Google.

      Just type in "my collection of coffee grinder" and take the first link. It is a site run by a collector of Dienes, PeDe and DeVe grinders. They were all basically made by the same company although DeVe was made in Holland.

      Another one to search for is "vintage hand grinder restoration" and go to the Orphan Espresso link. There are some excellent tips there, including the basics of alignment for the conical burr.

      "500 grinders - orphan espresso" will also lead you to some interesting information and pictures.

      I will post some pics of my own grinders in a few weeks. I'm not really able to use my camera at the moment, having just had shoulder surgery.

      If you are interested in buying an old grinder and setting it up, make sure you know what you're getting. Some people are paying too much based on what I've seen recently.



      • #4
        cool, checked out those sites, interesting!


        • #5
          Originally posted by JamesM View Post
          I'm on my second one, both have failed me, and the grind consistency is shockingly bad and just not suitable for good filter coffee brewing. I've just ordered a porlex so hopefully this is an improvement.
          I should have mentioned that hand grinding is a different kettle of fish from what a lot of people are used to.

          Because the design of most grinders is to have a crank handle on top, the lever effect on the burr means that the alignment is probably never truly perfect as it would be on an electric conical burr grinder. Due to eccentric loads on it, the size of the grounds will be more variable with a manual grinder and this is what gives most people trouble. On the other hand, I'm not about to measure the size of my grinds with a micrometer to see what the variation is! If you are used to, say, Illy or Lavazza, with your grinder set to 3.75 or whatever, hand grinders will seem hopeless. As you have probably already noted, no manual grinders can truly do all grades of coffee perfectly. You wouldn't, for example, use a brass Turkish grinder for plunger coffee. You probably wouldn't even use it for stovetop either but it's not really a matter of technology.

          Lavazza, for example, doesn't taste good the way I do it. That's because I haven't got the grind right yet. It's a matter of experimentation until you get something you like. I'm drinking this Cuban stuff I got from the South Melbourne Market and it's brilliant. A lot depends on the bean.

          I can't get the consistency of a coffee shop brew but they do it by numbers. I do it by experimentation. Sometimes I get it wrong but when I get it right...well, that's what makes me want to keep trying.


          • #6
            Hi Boris. I don't actually collect manual coffee grinders, but have recently found an old one at the family home. It's great. It's a De Ve, made in Holland and over 40 years old. I've just written my latest blogpost about it on my blog 'The Good, the Bad and the Italian' (post is 'Lurking in the Cupboard...')cheers


            • #7
              Well I have my porlex, and it works very well, but still produces inconsistent grinds. Not to worry, it's great for travel, etc.