Get Thee A Sustainable Coffee Grinder

By Dan Bertolet April 12, 2010

Chances are you or someone in your household ground your own coffee beans this morning. And if you did, chances are you used one of those cheap little white plastic things that produces an ear-splitting shriek to raise the dead. Maybe you've even been through several of them, since they're classic throwaway consumer products not designed to last more than a few years.

Well today, good people, hugeasscity is branching out from our usual deadly boring discussions of sidewalk widths and whatnot to tell you that there is a better way to grind your coffee beans. Feast your eyes on the practical work of art shown in the photo below:

Zassenhaus has been making these all wood and metal beauties since 1867. You put the beans in the top, crank the handle for a while, open the little drawer, et voila. It's basically a big pepper grinder.Under the hood is a conical burr grinder, the best mechanism for grinding coffee beans. There's a knurled nut that adjusts the coarseness of the grind, and if you're doing home espresso, it can produce as fine and uniform a grind as you'll ever need.

This is a coffee grinder that Wendell Berry would be proud to own. I got a used one  on ebay for $50. And it will outlast me, no doubt.

Special note to our readers with a survivalist bent: Not only does this type of grinder require no electricity, but it could also come in handy for making food under conditions of societal collapse. In Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter, Ma and Pa were lucky that a rugged coffee grinder just like the one in the photo above was one of their few possessions. Cut off from all outside contact for months on end by relentless blizzards during the winter of 1880 in South Dakota, the family of five survived on little brown bread patties made from raw grain ground in the coffee grinder.
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