mahl 100

100 years is no so small thing, any which way you grind it. But for our friends and partners at Mahlkönig—part of the Hemro Group of grinder brands—the year 2024 has been a very special and unique opportunity to honor the heritage of a century in the coffee grinding game.

The essence of coffee, and the technology that powers coffee, have changed a great deal over the last hundred years, but at the same time there is so much history to draw upon. This is the challenge presented this year to the team at Hemro, who have balanced this rare opportunity to look back at a full century of innovation with a present moment that demands a continued look forward at new technologies and opportunities. After celebrating 100 years of Mahlkönig at events in Shanghai and Chicago, the Hamburg-based brand will cap off the season with a huge party at the World of Coffee conference in Copenhagen.

In advance of that, we sat down with Hemro Group CEO Marcel Lehmann for an exclusive interview. In it, he shares more on what 100 years means to Mahlkönig, and how his team is balancing the moment. Along the way we’re sharing some recent social media collaboration content pursued in partnership with Mahlkönig, featuring the work of two particularly compelling content creators, Bert Choi (@bertofcoffee) and Marissa Childers (@marzachan). Read on, and here’s to the next 100 years.

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Marcel Lehmann at HotelX Shanghai.

Hello Marcel! Congratulations from all of us on your 100 years of Mahlkönig events thus far. Sprudge had a chance to attend the most recent event at the SCA Expo in Chicago—what was your favorite part of the celebration in Chicago?

Marcel Lehmann: Meeting so many of our partners who have worked with us for so many years, and at the same time so many new faces. It’s impressive how dynamic our industry is, and overwhelming to get so much feedback on both our history, vintage products, and our most recent innovations like Grind-by-Sync technology and EK Omni.

It was also wonderful to celebrate with our great team, and feel at home with our US team and colleagues in marketing and sales.

Around the time of the Mahlkönig 100 year party in Chicago, we shared some vintage grinder images from your event gallery on social media, and the response was tremendous! Several people asked us—“Could we ever see these vintage inspired designs make a comeback?”—and this leads to a question for you. How does the design legacy of Mahlkönig inform your work on new products? And is there any chance of producing a special updated edition of some of these classic grinders?

First, thanks to you and your team for sharing these images. The fascination with this legacy is something that we all have in common. After seven years at Hemro, I have seen many of our old products and the wonderful vintage illustrations, product sheets and brochures mainly from the 1950s and 1960s. However, there were also new discoveries for me while preparing this anniversary year and I am proud of this wonderful heritage.

With regards to the design legacy, we have a visible and clear “evolution” in our design language. 100 years of Mahlkönig is a constant source of inspiration for every new product we develop. However, iconic design is just one driver among others: Mahlkönig as part of Hemro Group has always had the strategic aim to be innovation and technology leader. Based on this ambition, we do not limit ourselves to our heritage. Instead, any new solution is far more driven by the learnings, the experience and the continuous feedback from the people who are using our grinders everyday and around the world.

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For example, with the EK Omnia, we have just developed and launched our latest interpretation of the iconic EK series, while still keeping the EK43 and EK43 S in our portfolio. But the idea of merging a genuine vintage Mahlkönig design with the latest technology has always been tempting for me and my team. Currently, we are convinced that technological innovations with advanced and user-friendly design creates the highest value for our community, providing the best customer experience.

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A post shared by B e r t (@bertofcoffee)

I think people love Mahlkönig because they are a trusted brand in the coffee industry and community. For me, I always remembered walking into specialty cafes when I first got into coffee and looking over at their brew bars and seeing what grinders they were using. Almost always, the grinder was one from Mahlkönig. I said to myself many times: “I can only dream of one day having one of their grinders at home.” This is why I was so excited to work with them when David reached out to me. I was floored and in awe that a brand like Mahlkönig would consider partnering with me. And just like that, I was able to bring a brand as iconic as Mahlkönig and the quality and craftsmanship into my home and onto my brew bar! – Bert Choi @bertofcoffee

Do you think the public perception of coffee grinders, and the importance of their role in coffee making, has changed significantly here in the 21st century? And along the way, how has Mahlkönig become more consumer-facing, as opposed to primarily speaking directly to the industry? How do you balance this identity?

Obviously, the role of coffee making itself has changed significantly in the past 20 years and consumers around the world show a much higher involvement in both coffee quality and coffee equipment and technology as well. Driven by this development and maybe supported by the distinctive shape of the EK43, people have developed a different perception of the grinder and the importance of grinding quality, too.

Specifically referring to our Home Solutions with Mahlkönig X54 and to our Social Media activities, I have never seen a challenge in balancing any opposites. On the product side, Mahlkönig was always made for both professionals and consumers. For example, our self-service shop grinders have proven that for more than 70 years now. In terms of marketing and communication, we have developed ourselves in the past six years especially in online content marketing and after Covid, we decided to focus more on exclusive regional events and formats to meet our partners and have more time with our community.

Generally, both professional and home users/consumers have much more in common than one might first expect. This is something unique to the coffee industry, I think. Both share the passion and there are home baristas who have developed a professional expertise while professionals are using Mahlkönig grinders with individual emotions, which is exceptional—it is not a simple “B2B” market, coffee is much more than that.

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The Mahlkonig EK Omnia.

There’s a quote from you where you talk about how over the last 100 years Mahlkönig has become “a catalyst for connections”—and I wanted to ask if you could expand on that a little bit. What exactly does that catalyst role mean for a grinder maker like Mahlkönig?

Mahlkönig as a catalyst for connections means that our grinders have always been in the centre of the coffee value chain and the preparation process. Every coffee bean has to see a grinder before we can fully enjoy the smell, the taste and the aroma that is in it. Technically, there is a strong trend towards machine-grinder-connectivity and Mahlkönig has launched a cloud-based platform together with our partners. With Grind-by-Sync, the grinder can easily connect with the machine and adjust the grind setting according to the information that it gets from the machine. Socially, Mahlkönig connects people around the world. Internally, we have a strong global team with almost 400 colleagues at Hemro Group, then around 300 partners in all regions and then thousands of coffee enthusiasts and almost 200k who are following us on Instagram. You have experienced this broad and diverse community in Chicago and this is our personal understanding of who Mahlkönig creates new connections.


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A post shared by Marissa (mar) Yooree (@marzachan)

Mahlkonig is truly an industry leader and is always so reliable in making products that work. From being in the shop to home and pop up use, I enjoy using their products because I can trust that they will be consistent and high performing. — Marissa Childers @marzachan

The upcoming SCA event in Copenhagen promises more celebration of the 100 years of Mahlkönig—the cities are just a few short hours away by train. Can you share anything about what Mahlkönig has in store for this event?

Indeed, Copenhagen is not far away and I am already excited and looking forward to the WoC and to have our next celebration in this fantastic city. We decided to host not one but three “Mahlkönig – The First 100 Years” events and after our event in Chicago (off SCA), Shanghai (off Hotelex), we are excited to host a final big event for our mainly European audience who visits WoC Copenhagen. You can learn more about this event and all our activities at Copenhagen through our website. 

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Looking back at 100 years of Mahlkönig is fun, and certainly an achievement—but my guess is that in your role as CEO, you’re spending a lot of time even within this moment looking ahead, and trying to understand what the next decade looks like for the brand. Give us a glimpse of this—what’s next for Mahlkönig?

For sure, you are right: Having one century of history and leading a global brand comes with high expectations and responsibility as well. After having launched the Sync System/Grind-by-Sync technology as the new industry benchmark together with the EK Omnia, we are now bundling our forces on the global roll-out of the cloud connectivity. The next step is on continuously expanding connectivity to bring even more quality coffee moments to even more coffee shop consumers around the globe by mastering consistency.

Thank you.

Jordan Michelman is a co-founder at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.

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