Features, Profiles

Mahlkönig marks 100 years of innovation

100 years of Mahlkonig

Mahlkönig has a history of producing some of the industry’s most iconic grinders. To mark its centenary, CEO Dr Marcel Lehmann looks back on the brand’s milestone moments and ahead to its bright future.

In 1924, the bustling harbour city of Hamburg, Germany, was one of the world’s busiest commerce hubs, trading luxury goods such as wine, tobacco, carpets, and tea. Among its most popular imports was coffee, which arrived from producers around the globe to be processed and roasted in the city.  It was during this formative moment of the burgeoning European coffee scene that Mahlkönig was born, first as Stawert Mühlenbau GmbH & Co. KG.

On 13 December that year, Mahlkönig was registered officially as a trademark and embarked on its mission ‘to elevate the coffee experience through uncompromising quality and innovation’. Unlike many other grinder manufacturers that were established in the early 20th century, it made grinders for the food industry from day one, quickly becoming a trusted name.

Fast-forward 100 years and the brand is now one of the most recognised in the coffee scene. From Mahlkönig’s first products has followed some of the world’s most iconic grinders, including the EK43, released in 1990, which many believe marked a pivotal moment in coffee grinding history.

Dr Marcel Lehmann, CEO of Hemro Group, of which Mahlkönig is a flagship brand, is extremely proud of how far it has come since its humble origins in Hamburg.

“We are a global team of innovators and coffee lovers, with colleagues coming from all around the world with expertise in research, technology, product development, purchasing, production, marketing, and sales. It’s this diversity that enables us to develop and build the best coffee grinder for every field of application,” says Lehmann.

“Mahlkönig grinders have become epochal, they have their own fanbase. Sometimes it staggers me that almost 200,000 people choose to follow our brand on Instagram to see pictures of grinders. People in this industry are so passionate about their craft.”

This success didn’t happen overnight, of course. Years of innovation and industry-changing products have paved the way for international stardom.

“Mahlkönig has always been about innovation. When its first grinders were launched in the 1920s, the brand was ahead of its time and laid the foundations for the EK 0 W1 BN in the 1950s, and then all the other Mahlkönig grinders that have continued to spearhead advancement in the industry,” he says.

Arguably one of its biggest milestones was the release of the EK43, which is now the world’s most sold professional coffee grinder. While it was celebrated by baristas for its advanced accuracy when preparing filter coffee, it wasn’t until Matt Perger used the grinder in his routine at the 2013 World Barista Championship that its popularity for crafting espresso skyrocketed and it became a must-have item in coffee shops around the world.

According to Lehmann, by this point Mahlkönig was already playing a pivotal role in the specialty coffee scene through its sponsorship of the World Barista Championship (from 2009 to 2021) and its industry-first product launches, including the hands-free K60 ES (2000) and K30 ES (2004).

Mahlkonig 100 years
Image: Hemro Group

As tastes evolved and technology advanced, the company adapted, continuously pushing the boundaries of what was possible in coffee grinding.

“You can see throughout the product launches over the years that our goal has always been on convenience, making it easier for the barista to create the perfect cup of coffee,” he says.

Alongside convenience, Mahlkönig has also focused on precision and reliability. Every grinder goes through rigorous grinding testing and systematic particle-size analyses before it leaves the Mahlkönig factory to ensure every single machine is up to scratch.

Much of the company’s success is attributed to its team of industry experts, who have always strived for innovation in the sector and have built a brand baristas know and trust.

“Mahlkönig stands for reliability and trust, and our team embody this. We have colleagues in our factory in Hamburg celebrating their fortieth anniversary at the company this year,” says Lehmann.

“It is this reliable and dedicated team that we value the most at Mahlkönig. We appreciate this strong commitment of all our colleagues as the most precious source of inspiration and strong basis for continued success.”

Lehmann believes the brand is now firmly in its technological era, in which research and design advances are focused on streamlining workflow, keeping quality consistent, and utilising smart systems.

“We are now transforming our products from being standalone coffee grinders to integrated products, which help baristas ease workflow by connecting the grinder  to the coffee machine. For example, this means if there is something outside of range  on the grinder, the user will now be able to see that on the dashboard,” he says.

Rather than being hindered by its heritage, Mahlkönig leverages its legacy and reputation while embracing modernisation. Many of its workforce at its factories and headquarters in Europe have been with the company for decades, passing down their wisdom to new recruits.

“Mahlkönig may have been around for a century, but we manage Hemro Group like it’s a start up. Alongside our experienced team we welcome young people who are often full of novel ideas, and we love working with baristas who are usually younger. We’re not afraid of trying new things. We are ambitious to change,” say Lehmann.

The EK Omnia, the brand’s new release, encapsulates its innovative outlook. Inspired by the EK43, the new grinder is the company’s latest leap in coffee grinding innovation, combining leading technology with the quality and consistency the EK is known and loved for.

“The EK Omnia really takes grinding to the next level,” he says.

Mahlknoig 100 years
Lehmann at the 100 Year Event in April. Image: Hemro Group

To mark the milestone anniversary, Lehmann and the Mahlkönig team invited industry friends to celebrate at the Mahlkönig 100 Year Event at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Chicago in April. The celebration featured a gallery of images from the company’s 100-year history, as well as live music and drinks.

“As we celebrate our 100th anniversary, we honour the countless individuals who have contributed to our success – from our dedicated employees to our loyal customers, partners, and everyone in the coffee scene and beyond who love our products,” says Lehmann.

“Together, we have built a legacy that already spans 100 years, rooted in a shared passion for exceptional coffee.”

For more information, visit mahlkoenig.com

This article was first published in the May/June 2024 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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