In 1905, a pair of Australian residents were awarded the first US patent for what we now recognize as an “herb grinder.” The invention was designed to be used by tobacco smokers, specifically “to enable plug-tobacco to be disintegrated for pipe-smoking without the use of a common knife.”
Suddenly, instead of rubbing plugs of tobacco between their hands or chopping them up with kitchen knives, smokers could easily grind and store material for later use. Huzzah, the industrial age!
The classic grinder design hasn’t changed much in the 102 years since. The vast majority—including leading brands like Santa Cruz Shredder and Space Case—look pretty much like what’s depicted in Patent #795,746. Although somewhere along the line, manufacturers decided that for mass-produced grinders, aluminum was the material of choice.
If you own a grinder—and it’s not plastic or wood—chances are it’s aluminum.
Whether that should bother you is a matter of considerable debate. There’s a longstanding controversy over the safety of aluminum, with more recent studies indicating there’s at least some reason to believe that ingesting the metal may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (There are conflicting reports, but a 2016 meta-study found that individuals chronically exposed to aluminum were 71% more likely to develop Alzheimers disease.)
I recognize even basic scientific claims these days are polarizing. I’m not trying to incite mass fear of aluminum grinders. But personally, I didn’t like scraping my grinder clean and finding flecks of a potentially dangerous metal mixed in. I figure I’m inhaling enough crap in my spliff as it is. So when my go-to grinder recently went missing, I went searching for something different.
Here’s what I found. (For all the grinders I’ve tried myself, I’ve included pros and cons.)
Aside from glass or ceramic, stainless steel is generally the first choice for…