Restoring a Coffee Mill, Spong No.3




Introduction: Restoring a Coffee Mill, Spong No.3

About: Drinks way too coffee, experiences stints of acute Ablutophobia, lives in a Spartan fashion, likes being exposed to the elements and getting the mitts dirty, has little regard for personal appearance or injury.

I found a old coffee mill in our garage a few years ago, it was quite rusty and grimy so once I initially used it the results were quite unpleasant. The first grind of fresh coffee was gritty and the mill gave a metallic taste to the ground coffee, but with repeated use (due to the onset of caffeine addiction) the coffee became less tainted and  very enjoyable. During the past summer holiday (Dec-Jan, RSA) after I had researched its history, I decided to clean and restore the mill to its former glory. 

According to the links below and some other web pages, the Spong coffee mill I have is one of the early models (1886 onward) as it's makers mark reads "London" possibly making it around 100 years old! The hand crank action and massive cast conical burrs are hard to match! The No.3 mill is quite popular and will fetch a good price, sale prices $100 has been seen online for complete Spong mills in good condition. You could easily pick-up such a mill at a yard sale for $10, restore it for $5 (and use it for a lifetime) and rather than buying some crazily expensive electric grinder that will probably break in 1 year of heavy duty use anyway.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

An old, dusty, dirty, rusty coffee mill with embedded ground coffee, dust, dirt and rust!

Spray Lubricant

Brushes, Various
Scouring Pad+Wool
Soapy Water, 3 basinfuls, at least.

(Super Glue)*
NT cutter
Tasking Tape
Thinners + Rag, cleanish
Spray Paint (Clear)

*see step 4.

Step 2: Disassembly

Using the spray lubricant and screwdrivers, carefully disassemble the mill. The screws were pretty rusty, so I took my time. Remember, old English screws and threads can be difficult to fix replace, so be careful!

The photo's in step 5, Reassembly, gives more details on the mills construction.

Step 3: Cleaning

This step was less fun, about an hours worth of soaking and scrubbing was required, but the results were worth it. The mill was super dirty, I felt quite unwell having ground coffee with it for a year in its previous condition. Clean every nook and cranny, you don't want to do this again soon (or at least for the next decade/century). When your hand cant scrub any more, leave cleaned parts to dry.

Step 4:

Now that all the parts are washed and have dried, carefully reassemble the mill.

Step 5: Prep + Paint

From research  I found the mill was painted in the assembled form and I was happy with old black and gold + white hopper original paint, thus I decided to clear coat the entire assembly. Mask off the internals and treads, hang  the mill (with wire) in a well ventilated area, lightly wipe down the mill with thinners (degreasing agent) and give multiple thin coats of clear paint (no runs!).

I re-glued the one Spong sticker that started to peel off due to the soaking. (Super glue rocks!)

Step 6: Modification

The original mill came with a adjustment handle and locking nut that could change and hold the coarseness of the ground coffee produced. My mill was missing this handle + nut and original nut that catches the ground coffee. I had been using a short screw but this did not provide a fine enough grind, thus I replaced it with a longer threaded hex head bolt (still need to find a locking nut + make a custom lever arm). This allows the burrs to be tightened very strongly, then the mill can even produce  fine ground espresso coffee.

Step 7: Coffee Time!

Now you have a new, (very) old coffee mill that can mill coffee for 100 more years! I hope you can find one of these old mills and restore it, my Spong mill has made a massive impact on my coffee making+drinking experience!

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    4 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i have a spong 3 grinder. just found a cheap and almost identical sized pan for the grounds. it is a ceramic dish on safeway creme broulee. its a frozen bake at home treat. two ceramic dishes for 6$ and you get a couple of tasty desserts.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Though that looked like the one i have been using for the last 15 years picked it up at a flea market for 25 bucks


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Turbobug, thank you for the comment. Your mill looks very nice, the gold and black paint on mine did not age as well. I suspect your mill is of the later models (1920+) because it is marked with "England" on the front shroud. Thank you for posting pictures, I am glad you found yourself such a great mill. Do you have the original cup and handle? if so can you post some photos? Cheers!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The handle is a red plastic material and the cup is missing we need to find someone with a three D printer to make us one.