Coffee Maker: Grandpa’s Grinder

Food & Beverage
Coffee Maker: Grandpa’s Grinder
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.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

View more articles by Andrew Terranova