My Grandfather's coffee grinder.

My grandfather’s coffee grinder.

I love coffee, and I love the machines that help me make coffee. My wife is envious of the time I spend with our Rancilio Ms. Silvia espresso machine. Well, she shouldn’t have introduced us.

I like maintaining my coffee machines, and I like the satisfaction I get from that first cup of joe following a complete cleaning. So when I got my hands on my grandfather’s old hand crank coffee grinder, I was really intrigued. My mom tells me her father (now long passed) had it for as long as she can remember. She has no idea where he got it, and there are no markings on it to hint about its age or place of manufacture.

My son was perhaps even more curious than I, and took it apart while I was away to see how it worked. It sat for a little while, but recently I took the time to give it a thorough cleaning and reassemble it.

Since I wasn’t the one who took it apart, I had to do a little guessing. Placement of one of the washers took a few tries to get right, but in the end it only all fit together one way. A small knurled nut at the top of the crank shaft lets you adjust how fine the grind will be.

Once it was back together, I had to try it out. I grabbed a fresh bag of Kona coffee beans, and dropped them into the hopper. Grinding your coffee by hand is definitely more time consuming that with my electric grinder. You can’t wander away and let it do all the work.

On the other hand, you can feel the movement of the mechanism, and the resistance of the beans. You can see the beans slowly getting ground, dropping lower as the grinding wheels chew them into a fine powder. You can smell the aroma of the beans as you toil over the crank. I don’t know if I’d want to do it every day, but I enjoyed it plenty this time.

I had the grinder adjusted to provide a fine grind for my espresso machine. The coffee came out both fine and evenly ground. I had to wait until day to make my coffee, as I didn’t want to be up all night.

I savored that cup of coffee in the morning. It was really, truly, delicious.

Page through the pictures below for some detailed shots of the parts as they are assembled.

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Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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  • Briefcase Mitch

    I’ve long thought about buying one of those little guys at an antique store, but the thought of moldy wood and iron oxide in my grinds scares me. Am I just over-reacting?

    • Psyd


    • Andrew Terranova

      It never killed my grandpa…

  • k

    Would you please, please, please consider doing a 3d scan of the parts?
    (so we can print our own!)

    • Enriquee

      what kind of printer would you use?

      • k

        Just any old 3d printer. Should be fine for decoration or even light herb/salt grinding.

        For a “real” version the grinder surfaces might have to be cast from ceramic or metal. But even that seems pretty doable.

    • Andrew Terranova

      I don’t have a 3D scanner, so that would be most inconvenient. Plus I don’t think most 3D printed plastic would be strong or hard enough to make a grinder.

  • Candi

    What a real treasure! I’m glad you could put it back in working order, I love old machinery, especially when it still works!

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  • evabatesuhh

    I just love this Hamilton Beach single serving coffee maker – Cheaper than Keurig plus you no need to buy the expensive k-cups. The coffee tastes perfect every time. Perfect sipping temperature every time as well.