Food Grinder Evolution: From Ancient History to Now

old food grinding equipment For millennia, people have been processing food. For as long as humans have hunted or cultivated crops, we’ve also preserved, dried, milled, and baked raw ingredients. While these tactics began primitively, they’ve steadily become more advanced over the years. Today, commercial food production and processing is a multi-million dollar industry, conservatively, and most of us rely on it in ways we’re not even fully aware of. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the evolution of one crucial piece of food processing equipment – the food grinder – and how it has changed and advanced from ancient times to now. 

The Original Food Grinder: The Mortar & Pestle

Featuring a curved lip, deep bowl, and thick, oblong pestle, the mortar and pestle is a traditional type of food processing equipment that’s been used since about 35000 BCE. Used to crush and grind foods into fine pastes and powders, mortar and pestle sets have always played a critical role in global food processing.  Chemists and pharmacists, for example, have traditionally used the tools to grind chemical compounds, while ancient and modern people in the Middle East used massive versions of the vessels to pound meat into kibbeh. These tools remain mostly unchanged today when compared to the versions used by the Sioux, ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans. 

Stone Mills

After the mortar and pestle came the advent of the stone mill (also commonly called a millstone), which was typically powered by a water wheel or a lone donkey. These mills were popular as a method to grind wheat, spices, and other grains.  Millstones worked in pairs – made of a stationary bedstone and a turning runner stone, which performs the hard work of grinding. These mills were unique in that they crushed the grains fed through them, but kept all parts of the grain, including the germ, bran, and endosperm, intact.  Thanks to their construction, millstones ground materials slowly, which means they produce minimal friction and heat. This, in turn, keeps the germ fat from oxidizing and turning rancid, which can destroy some of the nutrients contained in the grain. Today, some small-batch organizations still use millstones, although they’re much less common now than they used to be. 

Hammer Mills

After the industrial revolution came hammer mills, which were used for grain milling and producing animal feed. More efficient than mill varieties from decades past, hammer mills made it possible to ramp up output without drastically altering the effort or manpower required to make a product.  In terms of construction, a hammer mill is essentially a large, steel drum that houses vertical or horizontal rotating shafts. These shafts provide an anchor point for mounted hammers, which swing freely on the ends of the cross. In some cases, the hammers are secured to a central rotor, which spins rapidly while material filters into the hopper. The hammers pulverize the grains and materials, readying them for the next stage of processing.  Late in the 20th-century food grinding became targeted at human consumption, and sanitation started becoming an issue. As such, new food machinery became made out of stainless steel, which is still the case today.

Modern Mills

Today, food processing relies on a complex and varied system of equipment. Crushers, grinders, slicers, and industrial and commercial mixers all play a role in producing the processed and prepared foods we rely on in our daily lives.  There’s also been an exciting shift in the focus of food production equipment: while it began as something ancient people utilized for their purposes and then became a tool used by companies and production facilities on a widespread basis, it has shifted and become a personal pursuit, again.  Today, personal food grinding equipment is standard in virtually every kitchen. Most people own a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, or personal food processor. This represents the full-circle nature of food processing: what started as a personal pursuit has become personal once more. 

Corenco: Manufacturing Top-Quality Food Grinders for Decades

As food grinding equipment continues to change, Corenco is proud to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Creating top-quality food grinding equipment for use in the commercial sector, our products combine longevity, functionality, and durability into one convenient, accessible package.  Want to take your food processing operation to the next level? We can help. Our team specializes in helping manufacturing operations identify the equipment solutions that will work best for them, their goals, and their customers. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive lineup of commercial food processing equipment and how we continue to drive the industry forward.