The Grind

June 29, 2011

Very few objects fascinated me as much as the coffee grinder at a friend's summer cottage.  I couldn't have been more than six when I first encountered it. It was screwed into the kitchen door jamb and was nothing more than a cast iron frame that held a jar of whole coffee beans screwed into the grinder mechanism on top, and a drinking glass on the bottom. To grind your coffee you turned the crank. I was much too short to reach the handle at that age, but I never tired of watching my friend's mother grind beans for the morning coffee; a slow, noisy process.

As I grew older, I was allowed to grind the occasional glass of coffee for the morning. And I confess that sometimes, when no one was around, I'd give the handle a half turn just to hear the crunch of beans and see the grounds fall into the measuring glass.I don't know whatever happened to that grinder; I suspect it was sold along with the cottage. I've occasionally seen similar ones in stores or online, but my own experimentation led me in different directions. I've had several electric grinders and to be honest, none of them have been particularly satisfactory. They're messy and noisy in a very different way, a way that's whiny and unpleasant rather than the solidly dependable crunch of the hand-cranked grinder.Maybe it's because I've bought cheap grinders that I've had less-than-stellar results. But to be honest, I can't see spending hundreds of dollars on a coffee bean grinder.

Maybe it's because the first one I ever used was a hand-cranked model that couldn't have cost more than $10 new, but it seems almost wicked to me to spend so much money just to grind coffee beans.Maybe someone can explain the reason why I should consider a coffee grinder that costs as much as my new sofa, maybe there's some sort of magic involved that I'm not getting.

All I know is that if I ever find another hand-cranked model, I might just consider buying it, and screwing it onto my kitchen wall. If nothing else, it might make me feel like a kid again to walk by and give the handle a little turn. Now that's worth something!


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