"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at EspressoMyEspresso@gmail.com
If I have any sense of the future in home coffee appliances at all, it would seem that the next change we will be seeing is the addition of affordable conical burr grinders for home use. Interestingly enough, these are available now (for example, the Baratza Virtuoso has conical burrs, and is probably the most affordable, quality grinder with conical burrs currently available), but for the most part, the grinders that are meant specifically for espresso which have conical burrs are quite expensive. But as with all things, what was old will be new- or more appropriately in this case, what is new was old already.
We are always on the lookout for affordable coffee "collectibles." My wife comes home once in a while with a $1 to $3 percolator from the 50's or 60's, and while they are not all that desirable for the coffee they make they certainly can be interesting for their visual design and retro look. I was perusing the Internet last week on one of these quests when I found a cordless, conical burr grinder:
Elma made grinders in Spain for some time, and from what I can gather these home grinders were made in the 1920's and 1930's. They are designed much like the larger store grinders. These are supplied with two counter-sunk holes on the base, evidently made to be screwed down to the wood counter tops of the day.
I found this one on Craig's List and I suppose I got lucky because it was for local pickup only and being a college town with graduation just having taken place I got first choice on it. It was only about 30 miles away, so I went to give it a look. My intention was that if the casting was not cracked and the burrs were not rusty that I would pay the asking price which was about 1/4 what is normally asked for these on the Internet at antique dealers, and that is exactly what happened! I had planned on stopping by a hardware store to get some spray paint, but the condition is so good that repainting was not necessary, although some of the gold leaf (or gold paint) is gone.
The seller told me that his mom had used it for a while (she was not the original owner) and that it had spent some time in her breakfront on display. It appears larger than it actually is, being that the flywheel is just a bit under 8" across.
The entire grinder can be disassembled in about two or three minutes for cleaning when necessary. One screw holds the flywheel onto the main shaft. Then remove the three screws holding one side plate on and the entire burr assembly can be removed intact as see here:
Disassembled, the outer casting in the background holds the fixed burr (the ring-shaped burr). This burr is held in place with a single screw which threads into the hole seen in the outer casting. The shaft runs through the inner burr which floats on the shaft, held in place and driven by the two through-pins. Both end plates of the housing feature oil holes to keep the shaft running smoothly in the cast iron.
The only problem is that one of the four pieces of the wood trim that makes up the base is missing. If you have a broken base or one of these sitting in a parts bin, I would appreciate it if you would contact me. I just need one side of the base (the front if I have a choice). Otherwise I will just mount it on maple or other light-colored hardwood.