History of espresso grinders?

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.

#1: Post by henri »

Many people will have heard of a number of historically important espresso machines: the Faema E61, La Marzocco GS, the lever Gaggias... On the other hand, relatively little information seems to be floating around on historical grinders. This is a bit surprising, considering the almost universally agreed-upon truth that the grinder makes more of a difference in the cup than the machine.

So, what is the history of grinding for espresso? (Here I mean modern espresso, of course, i.e. the 9-bar drink that requires fine control of grind size in order to regulate flow rate, not the early steam-powered stuff.) What sort of grinder would have sat next to a Faema E61 in the 1960s or a La Marzocco GS/2 in the 1980s? Did these utilize conical or flat burrs? Are typical commercial grinders of today a simple continuation of a tradition that was established early on (like the E61 group), or have there been significant technological innovations in between?

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#2: Post by another_jim »

It's a good question. Eureka is celebrating its 100th anniversary and I've seen pictures their grinders from the 1950s that have the same hopper/doser geometry as contemporary grinders. There are some illustrated in this thread.
Jim Schulman

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#3: Post by yakster »

The espresso machines get all the glory, I've had a hard time in the past and today finding much on historical espresso grinders. I get the feeling that once motorized burr grinders were developed that much of the development for espresso has been in burr geometry and coatings. I found two sites, one that talks to the latest developments in espresso grinders after a brief mention of the origins of grinding, but these developments mentioned focus on cafe automation and automation and aren't terribly interesting to me. Another talks about the history of grinding but doesn't get to the point of the development of espresso grinders.

https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/the-evo ... -grinders/


You'll see grinders in espresso museums that are period appropriate for the espresso machines on display, but they don't appear to be the focus.

Here's the ECM Virtual Museum: https://www.ecm.de/en/ecm/museumtradition

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#4: Post by harrisonpatm »

I had the same question, and while it's difficult and expensive to score an old vintage espresso machine that still works, it's even harder to find a grinder that goes with it. In my opinion, while the technology for the espresso machines has changed and evolved somewhat, the technology for rotating burrs to grind beans has not changed much... but their precision does age. Take burr alignment for example. A well-designed set of burrs and it's housing won't stay in alignment forever, so a grinder from the 50's, which may have once been great for grinding espresso, probably doesn't do so well anymore.

From my personal experience, I can attest that if you want to grind for drip or pourover, not espresso, a well-made grinder from 100 years ago can work amazingly well. As long as you don't need it too precise.


#5: Post by harrisonpatm »

An addition that I forgot: the first electric coffee grinder was made by Hobart, the same company that made the KitchenAid in 1918, sometime between 1910 and 1920. Not for espresso though.

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#6: Post by ira »

Hard to imagine how an old grinder would get out of alignment unless it was dropped. Most grinders are built in ways that tend to be inherently aligned. I'm guessing most of the improvements have to do with feed paths, retention, speed and burr improvements, both geometry and materials. Also dramatic improvements in the single dose workflow, both premeasured and automatic weight or volume dosing. Most old grinders look like either a traditional Mazzer grinder or a Bunn or EK-43.


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#7: Post by JB90068 »

Kind of reminds me of an EK43S.

1926 Amercian Duplex Electric Coffee Cutter. It was made by the American Duplex Co. out of Louisville, Kentucky. Some of the patent dates on the parts read 1925.

Old baristas never die. They just become over extracted.


#8: Post by harrisonpatm »

ira wrote:Hard to imagine how an old grinder would get out of alignment unless it was dropped.
I agree, and what I mean is, after 50-100 years, they're gonna get moved around and dropped more so than a 10 year old grinder.
JB90068 wrote:Kind of reminds me of an EK43S.
Indeed, when I first started getting into coffee and modern equipment, I appreciated how the EK's design paid homage to the original electric coffee grinders. A great example of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Pictured below are some of my restorations, all from 1900-1930, including and original Hobart that i mentioned earlier in the thread.