The History of Coffee Grinders

The History of Coffee Grinders
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Coffee grinders are a great tool to have in your kitchen. Not only do they let you have freshly ground coffee every day, but they can grind spices, wheat, and other grains.

That handy dandy coffee grinder that sits on your kitchen counter didn’t appear out of thin air; someone had the idea to create something that made grinding coffee beans so much easier. But who had this genius idea, and when did the coffee grinder we know currently come to be?

Who Invented the Coffee Grinder?

By now, you probably know that coffee has been around since at least 850 A.D. That’s a really long time. The evolution of how we prepare coffee has changed drastically throughout the years. Previously, people would use manual coffee grinders to grind their coffee beans.

If you’re wondering where the more modern coffee grinders came from, you can attribute this wonderful invention to a certain Nicholas Book. What is commonly known as the coffee grinder was invented by Nicholas Book in the 17th century.

History of Coffee Grinders

People had to have a way to grind down coffee beans to make coffee way before coffee grinders came into existence.

The original coffee grinder that is not commonly called a coffee grinder was a simple mortar and pestle. This device is still used today for a variety of things, but most people don’t use it for coffee beans anymore.

People in Ethiopia, the Middle East, and other early coffee drinking societies would use the mortar and pestle to ensure they could have a delicious cup of coffee every morning or whenever they wanted.

It wasn’t until the 15th century that the use of mortar and pestle for coffee began to fade. The reason mortar and pestles began to become less popular for coffee grinding is that in the 15th century, the first spice grinders were invented.

Once people were able to get their hands on spice grinders and could see the difference when grinding coffee beans with this versus the mortar and pestle, many people didn’t look back. Many people used their grain mills for coffee beans if they didn’t want to use a spice grinder.

At this point in history, Nicholas Book steps in to create the first mill used solely to grind coffee beans.

Meet Nicholas Book

Nicholas Book was an Englishman who lived in London during the 17th century. While there were several grinders that had been made throughout history, Nicholas Book is who everyone knows as the creator of the coffee grinder.

There’s not a lot of information surrounding Nicholas Book and what urged him to invent the coffee grinder. But based on research and what historians believe, Nicholas Book created the coffee mill/grinder because people in England were grinding coffee with stones before this.

Throughout history, there were inventions that people used to grind spices and other ingredients, but there wasn’t one specific tool designed for coffee. In the 17th century, coffee was booming in England.

Grinding coffee by hand with stones was effective, but Nicholas Book sought another way to grind coffee beans more efficiently and somewhat quicker. While Nicholas Book was creating this invention in England and sharing it with people, someone named Jean-Pierre Peugeot is making waves in France.

If the name Peugeot sounds familiar, it’s probably because you may have heard of Peugeot coffee mills. It wasn’t until much later that Peugeot created their first coffee mills and grinders, but to this day, the Peugeot name is much more popular than Nicholas Book. 

It’s safe to say that the public felt great about Nicholas’ new coffee grinder. People were thrilled to have a better way to grind their coffee beans in the morning, and local shops were ecstatic to not have to grind them by hand.

The invention of the coffee grinder was so popular that the idea carried over into the 18th century. Several companies in the 18th century began producing their own versions of Nicholas Book’s coffee grinder, and more and more people were using these tools in their kitchens.

Coffee Grinders in the United States

While Nicholas Book is the inventor of the first coffee grinder, when looking at American history, Nicholas Book isn’t always mentioned. Before the United States was the United States, they were under English rule.

The United States remained under English rule until 1776. During the 18th century, after they gained their independence, a different inventor was given the patent to create a coffee grinder in the United States.

Only 22 years after the United States gained independence from England, in 1798, they issued a patent to Thomas Bruff to create the coffee grinder there. Thomas Bruff was actually Thomas Jefferson’s dental assistant.

Thomas Bruff’s creation used metal nuts that had fine teeth to grind coffee beans into the more delicate powder they desired for making coffee. Some say that he would leave it hanging on his wall to show off to people.

What About the First Electric Coffee Grinder?

You can find electric and manual coffee grinders on the market even today. But Nicholas Book is credited with creating the first coffee mill that was designed specifically for coffee, but what about the electric coffee grinders?

Throughout the 18th century, coffee grinders based on Nicholas Book’s design were very popular. Towards the end of the 18th century, companies began toying with the idea of an electric coffee grinder.

The American-made company Hobart was the first company to design and sell electric coffee grinders. Their first electric coffee grinder hit the marker in 1898. This device was so popular that the Hobart company decided they needed to make another, but with some improvements. The Hobart company’s new and improved electric coffee grinder was introduced in 1913, and then they released another not long later in 1924. All three of their electric coffee grinder inventions were granted a patent.