Peugeot coffee mills: Years before they made the first car, the company was famous for their coffee grinders

Milica Sterjova
Metal and wood mill, from the 1940s. Clément Bucco-Lechat. CC BY-SA 3.0

Coffee is definitely one of the most popular drinks in the world and in the growing home barista scene, manual coffee mills are making a comeback.

Centuries ago, coffee beans were ground using stones, a method that turned out a much coarser product than we are accustomed to today. In the 15th century, spice grinders came into existence, and these were also used for grinding coffee.

The first burr mill used exclusively for grinding coffee was invented in 1665 by an Englishman called Nicholas Book.

Beginning from there, a lot more appeared in the next decades. Burr coffee mill design improved throughout the 18th century, and by the 19th century they were present in homes across the United States and Europe.

In France, coffee was introduced in the 17th century. The process of grinding at the time was usually performed in grain mills. There were small manual coffee mills imported from Turkey, but they were extremely rare.

One of the more famous manufacturers of coffee grinders in the country was Peugeot.

Peugeot coffee mills

Usually when we hear the name Peugeot the first thing that comes to mind are the cars. Yet years before the famous French family began manufacturing automobiles, they produced tools, pepper, salt and coffee mills.

The man who founded the company was Jean-Pierre Peugeot. He left his grain mill in Montbéliard to two of his sons, Jean-Pierre II and Jean-Frédéric.

In 1810 they turned the mill into a steel foundry and began production of several different items under the name Peugeot Frères.

Owning a steel factory helped the brothers produce, among other items, the grinding burrs for their mills. The brothers developed their own technique of processing steel, which made their creations more durable.

Cast iron coffee grinder. Alf van Beem. CC0 1.0

The first coffee mills produced by Peugeot came in 1840. They were wooden cube-shaped grinders with a mechanism made of steel.

The handle was on the top and there was a small drawer on the front where the ground coffee was collected.

Metal and wood mill, from the 1940s. Clément Bucco-Lechat. CC BY-SA 3.0

The wooden models have always been the most popular. These early models are still found to be perfectly functional today thanks to the quality of the steel and the design of the mechanism.

The first one was called the “R” model, also known as the Ordinary model. The first grinders produced didn’t concentrate on design as functionality was far more important.

Wall-mounted coffee grinder. Alf van Beem. CC0 1.0

Later models changed and evolved together with current fashion trends, appearing in a variety of shapes and colors.

The famous Peugeot lion logo was introduced in 1847 and trademarked in 1858. The lion was the symbol of the region in France where Peugeot was founded, and also referred to the strength and quality of the Peugeot products.

Similar coffee grinders have been produced under other names and with different logos. There was usually a small metal plate on the box, bearing the name of the company.

Peugeot coffee mills from the 1930s at the Peugeot Museum in Sochaux.

In 1855 the company started making cast-iron mills, which were meant for grinding larger quantities of coffee beans. They were also used for grinding other things such as different grains or sugar.

In 1904, the first decorated models appeared on the market but they didn’t last for too long and their production ceased in 1915. They either had blue drawings on a white background or multicolored patterns.

The company introduced the first wall-mounted grinder in 1920. In total more than 200 different wall-mounted models were produced throughout history.

Model A coffee grinder. Alf van Beem. CC0 1.0

New models appeared in the 1930s, when the company started selling unbranded mills to other companies which would use their own logo.

This is the year when Peugeot first introduced an electric coffee mill. It had a belt driven motor located outside the grinder. This was a major disadvantage and this model stopped being manufactured two years later.

The crank also evolved with time. It started with a single curve, took an S-shape in the 1930s and a straight form in the 1950s.

Peugeot G model mills

Peugeot produced more than 1000 variations of coffee mill since 1840. The wooden coffee mills were wide spread especially in France.

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Manual coffee mills were produced by Peugeot up until 1960 and the electric until 1975. Their famous coffee mills can be seen in The Peugeot Museum in Sochaux, France.