Searching for the best antique coffee grinder is a dive into coffee grinding history. Despite what appliance manufacturers will have you believe, the most important innovation did not come from them, it came hundreds of years ago; just look at the mechanisms of an antique coffee grinder. The serrated gear-like burr design of an antique coffee grinder is the same mechanism used in all modern high-end grinders.
There is only one mechanical difference worth noting—modern grinders use a motor to rotate the burrs. The fact that, hundreds of years later, we still haven’t figured out a better mechanism for grinding coffee beans is a testament to the ingenuity of old world inventors. It is no surprise, then, that antique coffee grinders maintain a strong user base to this day. They are a time proven method of producing delicious and uniform ground coffee, and they look significantly more elegant than the boxy plastic grinders of the modern day. Old coffee grinders are stylish, reliable, and sturdy.
There are many brands that cater to this niche of antique coffee grinders, reproducing grinder designs from as far back as 200 years ago. Zassenhaus is one such manufacturer, with a marked advantage over the competition; they have been making these hand operated devices since before anyone even considered them to be antiques. Using designs that have remained largely unchanged from the 1800s, Zassenhaus antique coffee grinders are some of the best available.
Using Zassenhaus as a benchmark for authenticity of an antique coffee grinder, this article will outline the best six products in this category. The products will be ranked according to their aesthetics, performance, build quality, and authenticity to original designs.
After going through many existing coffee grinder reviews, we have compiled a list that shows you the best antique coffee grinder.
Based on features, convenience, performance, excellent build quality and great value for your money, we present you:
The Best Antique Grinder of 2017
(Tip: Check the orange buttons for full detailed coffee grinder reviews and 1-on-1 comparisons)
Zassenhaus Santiago - Beech Wood
While identical in both name, specification and grind quality to the #1 Santiago on this list, the Beech Wood Santiago is about $10-$20 cheaper than the mahogany edition due to its beech wood design.
The Zassenhaus 156MA, or Santiago, is perhaps the best-looking old-fashioned coffee grinder on this list. The Art Déco motifs synonymous with Zassenhaus’s 156-line benefit a great deal from the mahogany finish. The Art Déco design, which can be misconstrued as playful and somewhat basic, becomes elegant and rich with the earthy brown tones. Beyond aesthetics, the 156MA delivers the same high fidelity performance of its beech wood counterpart and is just as comfortable to hold.
While this model is one of the cheapest grinders sold under the Zassenhaus brand, it is nearly 20% less expensive than the identical beech wood model. Aesthetics may not justify this price increase for everyone. Like the beech wood version, the Santiago performs poorly as a tabletop grinder.
All things considered, this machine offers a perfect balance between aesthetics, performance, and comfort. While it is slightly pricier than the identical 156BU, the elegance of mahogany may justify the price discrepancy for some. The Zassenhaus 156MA vintage coffee grinder provides the best value for collectors.
The Zassenhaus 156BU is a beautiful antique coffee grinder seemingly inspired by the Art Déco designs of the 1920’s. Abandoning many of the established standards of the Biedermeier era of design, Art Déco designs introduced novel hopper designs, curved surfaces, and a departure from intricate, ornamental trims. The 156BU is a great reproduction of the era, featuring many Art Déco elements that come together in a very elegant design.
Its form is infinitely more ergonomic than the boxy shapes of previous eras, and it is easier to use as a result. As expected from Zassenhaus products, its stainless steel burrs produce very uniform grinds within a customizable range of coarseness.
The main factor preventing it from sitting at the number one spot on this list is aesthetics; as beautiful as this device is, a darker wood lends to a much more premium look. Also, its knee mill design makes it a poor tabletop grinder, but this is a given.
Although not the best looking antique coffee grinder of the bunch, the Zassenhaus 156BU is still quite aesthetically pleasing. This vintage coffee grinder faithfully reproduces the Art Déco style of the 1920s, and it boasts the technical excellence that Zassenhaus is known for.
If you like manual coffee grinding but not the vintage coffee grinder look, feel free to look around.
Turkish coffee grinders are purpose-built for making the finest Turkish coffee grinders, which is quite a treat.
Identical in design to the 151BU, Zassenhaus’s 151DG is also based on the low-rise hopper design of the 1800’s. The only difference between this model and the BU is a new hardwood finish: a rich dark stained beech. This brings new layers of elegance to the design, which looks considerably more handsome in the dark wood. As aforementioned, this device is indeed authentic to the time period, from its aesthetics to its reliable performance.
This hand mill is also lacking the ergonomic shape of Zassenhaus’s knee mills, which can make its tabletop grinding a chore.This authentic antique coffee grinder is a wonderful investment. It works so well, in fact, that it’s likely to survive as a family heirloom for generations.
This is simply one of the best-looking antique coffee grinders available, and it is as functional as it is decorative.
Based on the classic Biedermeier low-rise hopper design, the Zassenhaus 151 mill is a very elegant device. Seeing as Zassenhaus has been producing these types of mills since the 1800s, the historical accuracy of this model is unparalleled. This is an incredible replica of old-fashioned low-hopper hand mills, and it is faithful in both form and performance. It is a technically excellent device with the sort of sturdy construction you would expect from a blacksmith, not a manufacturing plant. On top of that, it boasts fantastic performance, a uniform grind consistency, and high-quality materials that preserve all the subtle aromas of your beans.
If you are looking for old-fashioned coffee grinders, there is really only one big downside to this model. The beech wood low-rise hopper mill is quite pricey, nearly four times as expensive as some of the generic old-fashioned coffee grinders outlined in this article. The other issues are more subjective; this is not the most attractive grinder that Zassenhaus offers, nor is it the most comfortable to use.
Complaining about the price, however, is just nitpicking. Considering its authenticity, excellent build quality, and fantastic performance, the 151BU is a fantastic recreation of an old coffee grinder from the 1800’s. That is, if this vintage coffee grinder design strikes your fancy.
Seemingly based on the full-closed hopper design of the Biedermeier era (1800s to 1920), Hario’s MM-2 is a great grinder independent of its stylish inspiration. Hario is known for their quality mills, and the MM-2 is exemplary of this. It features excellent ceramic burrs, a sturdy build, and a high fidelity finish. The MM-2 will grind any beans to any consistency desired, and it will do so uniformly and with minimal fines.
The main issue with this vintage coffee grinder is its visual simplicity, which impacts perceived authenticity. Antique full-closed hopper Biedermeier grinders feature much more intricate hand carved trims and panels, visual signatures that are missing on the MM-2. Although it has clearly been inspired by the full hopper design, it takes many more liberties, most notable of which is the material used. Plastic does not belong on a Biedermeier era grinder.
Despite its modifications of the inspirational source, the MM-2 fits the bill as an old coffee grinder, and it performs exceptionally well for its price point. It may not be the closest thing to an antique coffee grinder on this list, but it does present a very good value as a product.
Zassenhaus makes the crème de la crème of manual coffee grinders. These grinders will probably last a life-time.
Hario is a Japanese maker of high-quality manual coffee grinders, offering a number of more than decent grinders.
The Melitta MJ00503 is an old fashioned coffee grinder designed for the Japanese market. It is based on an open external hopper design that was popular in Europe from the 1600s to the early 1900s. It stays true to its inspiration, using a wooden body, metallic hopper, and steel burrs. This leads to a pleasant aesthetic, which is the MJ-0503’s best feature. Performance wise, this grinder is more than competent at producing decent grind uniformity at any burr distance, making it a decent companion for your French press and drip machine.
Although Melitta’s MJ-0503 is faithful to the form of its inspired antique external hopper design, its build is subpar. A real vintage grinder of this sort would be a sturdy, handmade contraption built to last a lifetime. The MJ-0503 is a cheap, mass produced replica. The open hopper design can also create some frustration, as beans tend to jump right out while the handle is being cranked.
Despite failing to achieve the greatness of its inspiration, the Melitta MJ-0503 is the cheapest replica vintage coffee grinder on this list. It looks great, and it performs competently. If your budget is small, and you’re itching to get an old fashioned coffee grinder for your kitchen, the MJ-0503 is a decent choice.
Okay, you got us. There are only 6 antique coffee grinders in this list. Why? Well, there are certainly more antique coffee grinders on the market, but they are just not good enough for this list. After all, it is a list for the best antique coffee grinders. There’s no need in filling all 10 spots if number #7 /8 / 9 / 10 aren’t worth your time.
We keep a close eye on every new product though, and if we find a new antique coffee grinder worthy for this list we will certainly add it.