If you’re a chef or a spice aficionado, there’s a good chance you use a mortar and pestle to crush your spices. But for the rest of us who are happy to buy our spices in the form of pre-ground powders from the grocery store, we’re missing out.
That’s at least according to Thomas Weigele, who is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter to get his invention – an automated mortar and pestle called the SpiceHero – funded. So why would someone want to create a modern version of a tool that has been in use since the Stone Age?
According to Wiegele, the idea came back when he was on the APAC consumer insights team for B/S/H Appliances, where his team would conduct ethnographic studies on markets in Asia. During one study about cooking behaviors across all socioeconomic groups in India, Weigele says one insight came up over and over: “Preparing spices with a mixer-grinder is good, but taste was much better when my mom or grandma prepared it with a Mortar and Pestle.”
He and a colleague soon realized it wasn’t just nostalgia. When they ran tests, it became clear this ancient tool for smashing and grinding spices brought out flavors in ways other methods did not. Electric spice grinder/mixers slice the spices into a uniform dust, while a mortar and pestle would result in a pleasing “mix of coarse and fine particles for dry spices and pastes have more texture and can extract the oil from the seeds, herbs and vegetables.”
Those insights resulted in B/S/H approving a project led by Wiegele to make a prototype for a semi-automated mortar and pestle machine. Unfortunately, the device, which ground the spices by rotating the stone inside the bowl, did not provide the same results as a traditional mortar and pestle. Weigele and others proposed a fully automated (with pounding motion and all) version, but B/S/H management did not give the green light.
When Wiegele left B/S/H and decided to head to school to get his masters degree in 2019, he couldn’t shake the idea of an automated mortar and pestle, so he soon hired a freelance engineer and started working on a prototype. Two iterations later, he was ready to launch his device on Kickstarter.
The SpiceHero looks a bit like a small stand mixer, only instead of beaters or mixing blades, the machine featured a pestle that pounds the contents of the bowl (mortar) at the rate of once a second. Wiegele hopes the machine, which starts at €140 as one of the reward tiers, will be ready to ship to backers in about a year.
First, though, the campaign needs to get funded. Wiegele has capped the amount for industrial design in the campaign at €20 thousand ($23.4 thousand), and after that, the rest will be used for tooling and inventory. With about three weeks to go, the campaign for the Spice Hero stands at about 50% funded around about €10 thousand.
If you’d like to back a project that could up your spice game with this modernized take on an ancient tool, you can check out the SpiceHero Kickstarter page here.