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    

Death Wish Coffee Mug St. Patrick's Day 2017 Rare! St. Patty's Paddy'sAntique Enterprise 1873 Cast Iron Coffee GrinderDeath Wish Coffee Adk/osb Collaboration Ipa Mug 2015 RareVintage Metal Sign,sunny Brook Coffee Sign Rare Coffee Sign Non Porcelain SignAntique Arcade Crystal Coffee Grinder No. 4 Coffee MillDeath Wish Coffee 2014 Valhalla Java MugAntique Cowboy Size Cast Iron Coffee Grinder Mill Flywheel Mjf SpainGriswold Antique Coffee Grinder - Griswold Mfg. Co. Erie Pa Cast Iron Mill As IsNice Arcade Antique Wall Mount Coffee Grinder No 40 Enterprise Mfg Company No. 2 Coffee Grinder Mill Antique Vintage Circa 1873Rare 1873 Cast Iron Enterprise Counter Top - 2 Wheel Coffee Grinder #2 #3Antique Early 1900's Arcade Crystal No. 3 Wall Mount Coffee GrinderAntique Celluloid Pocket Mirror Vintage White House Coffee Box Country Store OldAntique Cast Iron Swift Mill Lane Brothers Coffee Grinder 14 Inches TallAntique Crystal Arcade Coffee Grinder Jar No 3Antique Golden Wedding Mustard Spice Tin Litho Can Kansas City Vintage Coffee CoR2-d2 Coffee Press French Press By Thinkgeek Nib, Rare Sold Out. Star WarsBattle Creek, Mich. Senate Brand Coffee Tin W State Capitol BuildingArcade Golden Rule ~ Antique Wall Mount Coffee Grinder W/ Glass Etched CupVintage Hawaiian Lefton Coffee Pixie Jar Very CoolDeath Wish Coffee Co. 2015 Uncle Sam 4th Of July Tankard #1538 - Deneen PotteryDeath Wish Coffee MugDeath Wish Coffee MugCrystal Glass Coffee Grinder Jar No.4 With Arcade CoverAntique Festival Black Pepper Spice Tin Litho Can Mcfadden Coffee Dubuque Iowa2015 Rare Death Wish Coffee Mug Halloween Sleepy Hollow Tankard SetAntique White House Coffee Celluloid Spinner Toy Top Vintage Advertising N/ TinGreat Civil War Era Camp Tin Coffee Pot With Flat BottomAntique Steinfeld No 11 Wall Mount Coffee Grinder Cast Iron Glass Hopper Red Wolf Coffee Can Early Tin Litho 1 Lb. Coffee Can From Ridenour Baker Co.Vintage Canadian Coffee Vase Magic Trick By Supreme Lot #353 Death Wish Coffee Mug Cup Deneen 1st Edition Halloween Jack 2016 151/200Pilot Knob Coffee Tin Death Wish Coffee Mug Cup Deneen 1st Edition Halloween Jack 2016 161/200Vintage Corning Ware 10 Cup Electric Perculator Coffee Pot Cornflower Blue Death Wish Coffee Valhalla Java Odinforce Shot Glass Deneen Pottery Not Mug" Coffee " Decanter Canister Storage Jar, Rae Dunn MagentaVintage Large Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Tin ~ Tea & Coffee ~ A & PAntique Peugeot Freres Large Size Coffee Grinding Machine Restoration Or PartsDeath Wish Coffee MugDeath Wish Coffee MugDeath Wish Coffee 16 Oz Red Mug & Tee Shirt-large Black Skull & CrossbonesDeath Wish Coffee Mug Day Of The Dead Limited Edition #590/3500 Deneen PotteryRare Baileys Irish Cream Winking Eye Yum Coffee Pot Cream Sugar& Boy & Girl CupsAntique Vintage Wooden Coffee Grinder Death Wish Coffee Mug Cup Deneen 2nd Edition Saratoga Halloween Jack 2016Rare Antique Early Original Landers Frary And Clark Lap Coffee Grinder Cast IronSears Roebuck Coffee Tin Nice Old Sears Tin Great Graphics And Color With BailVintage 1970's Proctor Silex Percolator Coffee Pot Maker #70503 Clean WorkingJadeite Coffee CanisterVintage Antique 1961 Postcard: Coffee Shop, Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Ca Lot Of Mrcoffee Pstx91 Coffee Makers 623302 W452015 Death Wish Coffee Christmas Collaboration Mug. Only 200 Made! Sct DeathwishOld Unopened "sunshine (springfield Grocer Co(mo.) Coffee Tin - Great GraphicsVintage Plantation Blend Coffee Tin Arthur N. Baldauf & Co. Louisville Kentucky Death Wish Coffee Mug Cup Deneen 2016 Day Of The Dead 2758/3500 Vintage 1960s General Electric Percolator Coffee Pot Potbellied 9 Cup 18p40 GeVtg 1940s Farberware Electric Percolator Coffee Pot Maker Chrome Working Euc1906 Antique Arcade Crystal Wall Mount Coffee Grinder No. 3 Glass Jar OnlyAntique Folgers Golden Gate Cloves Spice Tin Litho Can Early Coffee Co Vintage