Wednesday, 25 January 2017

French Coffee Grinders and Peugeot Freres


Not many people realise that Peugeot Brothers, the famous car makers, started out making coffee mills. Coffee was introduced into France from Turkey in the 18th Century, but the only way to grind it was in the large mills designed for grain. It was not until the early 19th century that the small household mills started to emerge, mainly produced by the Peugeot Freres.


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 A lovely example of a Peugeot Freres Art Deco design

The Peugeot Brothers owned a foundry at Valentigny where they designed and patented the now famous ‘box and drawer’ design in 1840. The box contains a hopper for the raw beans which feeds them into an Archimedean screw. The screw cracks the beans open before the mill wheel grinds them to a fine powder.

 
The factory at Valentigney about 1925

Their invention was an immediate success and by the time of the Great Paris Exhibition in 1889 they were producing half a million grinders a year. It was around this time that the brothers started making car parts for Mercedes. They later manufactured complete cars, but the production of coffee mills continued until 1974 in a variety of designs and sizes based on the same principles.

Vintage and antique coffee grinders are eminently collectible. They add grace and French charm to a kitchen whilst also producing a wonderful cup of coffee. True coffee aficionados will tell you that a cup of coffee you have ground yourself tastes so much better, due to the freshness and the way the beans are cracked open without becoming 'burnt' by the high speed mills. 

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An early design complete with Elephant emblem. This dates it as pre-1930


 

 There were many variations on the original design. This one is in a beautiful lacquered blue that was popular in the early 1930s.

Another fine example from about 1908. This one has a rare and beautiful external hopper and is made from a lovely warm honey coloured wood 

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The Cube type. This grinder from 1940s has a very attractive steel hopper and a straight elegant handle typical of the Art Deco period.

Another very rare Peugeot Freres grinder with a Flemish theme. This one is engraved and enamelled with a scene of two windmills and a boat. It dates from around 1930.

Whilst it’s true that Peugeot Freres were not the only makers of coffee mills they are the most sought after amongst collectors. Since they ceased production in 1974 these coffee grinders are at a premium and becoming increasingly difficult to find. So just think as you enjoy your morning ‘croissant et café’ that your ‘moulin à café is only going up in value!



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