There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee, except, perhaps, a good coffee cup. But for people who really love coffee, cups and mugs are just the tip of the iceberg. Coffee collectibles range from antique grinders and mills to vintage percolators and pots to signs and tins advertising brands such as Chase & Sanborn, Fat Boy, and Luzianne.

Grinders and pots are particularly rich areas. Coffee grinders in the 19th century ranged from box-type grinders designed to grind coffee from one-to-four servings to wall-mounted grinders, some of which could hold a pound or more of beans at a time.

Box grinders usually had brass bowls mounted on top of a hardwood or cast-iron box. The crank perforated the bottom of the bowl and would be turned to grind the beans into a drawer below. Not all box grinders were square, but finding a round one, especially in cast iron, can be a challenge for a collector.

In England, Kenrick & Sons was a major maker of box coffee grinders—the oval brass nameplate on the front of Kenrick box grinders makes them easy to identify. Imperial, Favorite, and None-Such were important U.S. brands. And in France, Peugeot Frères made metal and cast-iron box grinders with wooden handles.

Wall mounted and other larger grinders were generally made out of iron (the most collectible type) or brass, with a hopper for beans up top (sometimes made of clear glass), a big crank handle on the side, and a wooden drawer at the base. A company called Arcade Manufacturing of Illinois made a wall-mounted grinder called The Crystal, which was named for its glass beans hopper and glass grounds cup.

Enterprise Manufacturing of Philadelphia made heavy-duty grinders for grocers, retailers, and wholesalers. Many of these wall or table-mounted machines had side crank handles, but its largest grinders had handles that attached to flywheels, sometimes two.

The most ornate examples of Enterprise grinders from the late 19th and early 20th centuries had eagle finals atop urn-shaped hoppers and a pair of flywheels, all of which would b...

Mounting a coffee grinder firmly in place was important enough that even small box grinders had tabs on their bases so the grinder could be secured to a surface. But Turkish style coffee grinders were held in the hand. Usually made of brass or enameled metal, these slender, cylindrical grinders often featured detailed engraved designs on their sides. Unlike box or grocery grinders, Turkish mills produced a fine grind, which was suited to what was considered after-dinner coffee (we know it today as espresso).

Once you had your grounds, the question was how to brew it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the enamelware, aluminum, or tin pot used for boiling water and brewing coffee was usually one and the same. After setting the pot on a stove and bringing the water inside it to a boil, ground coffee would simply be measured into the pot, where the grounds would swell and mostly sink to the bottom, producing a gritty, unfiltered brew.

Soon, though, a 19th-century invention known as the percolator was widely embraced. The first percolators were designed for stovetops (electric models came a bit later), but their chief benefit was a filter to separate the caffeinated liquid from the soggy grounds.

A variation on the percolator was the moka pot, which was the 1933 brainchild of an Italian engineer named Alfonso Bialetti. Instead of forcing water up through a tube and then over the grounds as in a percolator, a moka pot forced water through the grounds first and then into a separate holding tank. Today these ubiquitous little pots are used primarily for homemade espresso.

While most stovetop percolators were made out of aluminum and other inexpensive metals, some were made of copper. The range of materials used in electric percolators was greater since the heating element was built into the bottom of the pot. Aluminum electric percolators, of course, were widely produced, but so were porcelain and clear-glass percolators, which are collected today by many kitchenware aficionados. Even more prized are postwar percolators made by Corning Ware, which are sought-after for their cheerful, retro look.

Of course many coffee pots were made just for serving, in the same way that teapots are made for brewing tea rather than boiling water. Some early 20th-century coffee pots had a thermos built right into the pot, whereas similarly tall and elegant Fiesta coffee pots from the late 1930s through the early ’40s kept coffee warm only as long as the insulating properties of ceramics would permit.

In fact, Fiesta initially produced two types of coffee pots. Its regular coffee pots featured handles at the back, but a smaller, after-dinner demitasse pot featured a jutting handle on the side. This pot was discontinued in 1944, but small demitasse cups are still produced with jaunty side handles.

Other coffee pots, such as those made by Wagner Ware and Chemex utilized the circa-1800 Biggin method of brewing coffee, which is essentially the drip method most of us use today.

Wagner pots from the 1930s were made of brushed aluminum, with aluminum filters and Bakelite handles. Chemex pots were invented in the 1940s. Made of a single, hourglass-shaped piece of crystal-clear blown glass, Chemex pots featured a wooden handle around the pot’s waist and a round filter that fit perfectly into the top part of the hourglass when folded in quarters.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

17inch Antique Cast Iron Enterprise No. 2 1/2 Coffee Mill Grinder, No ReserveBehmor 1600 Coffee RoasterVintage Antique Large Cast Iron Coffee Grinder MillFine Antique Single Wheel Philadelphia Enterprise Coffee Corn Grinder MillAesthetic Movement Coffee Pot Antique Silver Plate Victorian 19thc Server TeapotFall Leaf Coffee Tin Can Tall Oak Leaves1875 Antique Landers Frary & Clark Fancy Decorated Cast Iron Coffee Mill GrinderAntique National Specialty Coffee Grinder Mill Cast Iron Philadelphia Model #1 Chemex Glass Coffee Maker With Wood Collar, Leather Tie, & LidRare 1920's "riverside Club Coffee" Pics Golf Course - Beauty! First We've Seen!Vtg Antique Cast Iron Brighton 1905 Wall Mount Coffee Grinder Premier Glass JarHarley-davidson Oil Can Coffee Percolator Pot Maker Brand New 99429-96zVintage Graniteware Enamelware Brown Swirl Coffee Pot Large Chuckwagon SizeHoosier Boy Antique Advertising Coffee Tin CanVintage Pyrex Flameware Glass 6 Cup Coffee Pot Percolator Complete 7756Vintage 1960's Revere Ware 5 - 6 Cup Stove Top Percolator Coffee PotVintage Enterprise Coffee Grinder #2 Antique RareAntique Rare " Save All Coffee Can " Country Store Tin Grinder Memorabilia Antique Primitive Ideal Coffee Grinder Mill Dovetailed Wood Ornate Cast Iron VtgLongaberger Coffee Mug Tree Wrought Iron Stand1965 Fire King* Snoopy Coffee Mug Cup * Curse You Red Baron! * 20 U.s.aVintage Anchor Hocking Jadeite Green Coffee Mug Set Cup Glass Old Retro X2Vintage Wigwam Coffee TinAntique Old Judge 3 Lbs. Net Coffee Tin - St. Louis, Mo - Bold And Colorful!!Early American 19th Century Tin Set ~ Coffee Pot ~cream Pitcher ~berry Pail YqzVintage Revere Ware Coffee Pot 8 Cup -82 Copper Clad Stainless Steel UsaAafa Early Primitive Traveling Tin Coffee Mill Antique Coffee Spice Grinder5 Vintage Glass Coffee Creamers Restaurant, Individual Red Pyro Meadow Gold Etc.Revere Ware No. 1518 Coffee Pot 10cup Percolator Vintage W/ Box Copper StainlessVintage Revere Ware Copper Bottom Stainless Steel 14 Cup Coffee Percolator Pot Vintage Kromex Copper Aluminum Canister Set Flour Sugar Coffee Tea Salt & PepperAttic Sale - Spong & Co. Ltd Coffee Mill No.2Vintage General Electric Universal 2-10 Cup Percolator Coffee G3up-8 CompleteHolt Howard Pixieware Instant Coffee 1958Rare Donald Duck Coffee Salesman Sample Tin Greenville MississippiVintage Yusui Porcelain 15 Piece Coffee / Tea SetPyrex Flameware 4 Cup Glass Coffee Pot Percolator Stove Top €Vintage Carriage Trade Advertising Coffee Tin Minneapolis Mn Country Store RareVintage Farberware Superfast Fully Automatic 4 Cup Coffee Pot Percolator - UsaGolden West Coffee Tin 1lb Portland, OreAntique Black Americana Dexterity Bb Game Red Mill Coffee Advertising Toy GermanReddy Kilowatt Syracuse China Advertising Mug Coffee Cup Very Nice Condition Zassenhaus ~ Record - Vintage - Coffee Grinder Set Of Disney Coffee Mugs Antique Porcelain Hills Brothers Coffee Thermometer SignVintage Polar Bear Brand Coffee Tin Advertising Collectible Graphics G-723Robin Tea Not Coffee Or Spice Tin Saint Louis MissouriLarge Tiffany & Co 619 Makers 180 Tea / Coffee Pot Silver Soldered Vintage Lovenest Brand Coffee Tin Advertising Collectible Graphics G-7262 Vintage, Copper Tea-pot, Hammered Copper Coffee Pot W/ Brass HandlesVintage Commodore Coffee Tin. Approx. 2 Lb Size. No Lid. Great Color & GraphicsVintage Hand Painted Chocolate, Tea, Coffee Set, Nippon, Beautiful! 7 Pieces2) Vintage Coffee Grinder With Drawer, Wood And Cast Iron Awesome Early Antique, Primitive Wooden Coffee Grinder!Vintage Coffee Grinder By De Ve Holland3d Ceramic Unicorn Mug Coffee Cup With Rainbow Brand New!Vintage Pyrex Coffee Pot / Stove Top Perculator - CompleteAntique Graniteware Enamelware Coffee Pot W/ Elegant Metalwork (pewter?)Grey Enamel Coffee Pot....nice!!!6 Boxed Antique Sterling Silver Tea Or Coffee Spoons From Sheffield Dated 1918