AT Email: Spong - The Best Coffee Grinder You Don't Know About - 1.28.08

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January 28, 2008

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This is top secret. In fact, I shoudn't even be telling you this because you'll probably go online, bid up the prices and I'll get in trouble with my dear friend who gave me this tip: The best coffee grinders of all time were designed and made in England over a hundred years ago by a fellow named James Osborne Spong.

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Our friend, we will call him Neil (see pics above), is a coffee fanatic as well as a lover of good design who loathes the proliferation of electric appliances, which don't always do a better job. In his search for the perfect cup, he moved from an electric grinder to trying a Spong grinder and was surprised how much better the coffee was. Then he set off to find out more. After a lot of research, Neil has become a big Spong player in the lively online market that eagerly buys and sells Spong's famous machines.

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We had dinner with him just a few weeks ago and had to agree. Grinding the coffee right in front of us, the room filled with the rich odor of the beans and the resulting cup was divine. In short, if your uncompromising with your beans and your maker, the grinder is the missing link.

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James Osborne Spong was an English inventor who pioneered many "labor saving devices" in the 1800's. In fact, he invented a host of machines in the name of efficiency which ranged from the 'Original Sausage and General Mincing Machine’ to an ice cream freezer. During his lifetime, Spong raised patents on over one hundred labour saving and safety devices and "Spong & Co proved to be manufacturing leaders in this field boasting sales of 200,000 mincers by 1882."

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Spong made five Coffee mills, based on his famous spice mincer and numbered them according to size from 0 through 4 (the 0 is the smallest and super cute). Each mill works in the same way: the whole beans enter in the top, are ground by the spindle and blades as the handle turns and the powder falls into the dish below. In the design there is nothing wasted and the dish becomes a lid when not in use.

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Neil has four Spongs, as he calls them, and has a number of Google and eBay alerts working for him so he can complete his set. As design icons they are beautiful objects, but the cup of coffee they contribute to completes the deal. We pulled together a few good links below for you to peruse, and be sure to thank Neil when you finally use one of these.

Best, Maxwell

p.s This is for you, Neil! ;-)


>> Spong History fom

>> Spong Grinder Pics from

>> eBay link to one current Spong sale



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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.