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Oct 27, 2012 06:31 PM

Vic Firth Peppermill (Early Review)

I have received my 8 inch Federal Vic Firth Peppermill (Mahogany color).

I had it in my shopping cart for almost two years and finally bought it. It is beautiful and nicely finished. Many peppermills do not work well, and my previous one did not -- the grinding size changes as it was being used. Several CHOWHOUND posters have given excellent reviews for the Vic Firth Peppermills (thanks John E, mcf, meadandale and others for their informative posts).

These peppermills also received nice reviews on other sites as well. I can now verify that the Vic Firth “Lock and Grind” mechanism works well. There were some discussions about the proper way to fill the peppermill, so I thought I can illustrate this with a few photos and also talk about its performance results.

In photo 1, the grinding mechanism (male grinder unit/grinder bolt) is shown to pop out due to the spring loaded system.

To load a peppermill (especially new), there are two methods. You can press the grinder unit in (photo 2) while filling the peppermill on its top (photo 3). Alternatively, you can fill the peppermill, close it, and then flip the peppermill upside down. Now, you can push the grinder unit in (photo 2), and then further tighten up the top knob. I find the second method works just as well.

As mentioned, I find the “Lock and Grind” mechanism works as advertised. Here, I set the grinder male unit nearly level with the grinder female unit (photo 4). I then ground for about two minutes, and produced fine and even size pepper (photo 5 and 6). Afterward, the two grinder units remained leveled (photo 7), which means the grinding mechanism was consistent.

I will update this post when I find out additional positive or negative aspects of this peppermill. As it stands now, I recommend this peppermill. It is about $40.

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  1. Nice report, Chemicalkinestics...thanks for the photos!

    I am very happy with my new Cole and Mason, but time will tell.

    Please report back on your Vic Firth after you have used it for a few months.

    25 Replies
    1. re: liu

      That's a nice peppermill. Yep, I will report in a few months. I wanted to write something down or else I will forget. Thanks.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        So glad you like it; would I lie to you (in any verifiable way????) ever? ;-) Enjoy, great report!

        1. re: mcf

          Thanks for the recommendation. By the way, my peppermill did come with an instrument on the little card tie to the peppermill. Although I didn't notice the instrument after I wrote the early review.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            That's great; all I got was the little funnel for adding pepper. I note they've added a video to the site, too. I wrote many times about how much trouble it was, everywhere online, and they must have had returns from folks who thought it just didn't work, too.

            1. re: mcf

              <all I got was the little funnel>

              Mine doesn't come with a funnel.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                It's sort of a little pink version of a veterinary clown collar that fits right in the top of the mill and avoids any peppercorn spillage. I can't find it online now.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I use a silicone pinch bowl to fill our VF pepper mill. I had four of them, but I gave one to my brother. I think the tricky refilling with the spring loaded mechanism is why I have found them in thrift stores. All of them were cross thread but took little effort to get them going again.


                  1. re: John E.

                    <All of them were cross thread but took little effort to get them going again. >

                    I remember you saying this. This sounds kind of bad. Of course, that depends on the extend of the damage.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      None of them were actually damaged. The cross threading went only so far as to jam the top nut and the grinding mechanism was sort of sticking out of the bottom. I last found a VF like this in a thrift store last February while visiting my father in Arizona. Life has been somewhat busy since the summer and I have not recently stopped in at the usual thrift shops.

        2. re: liu

          That Cole and Mason pepper mill is really stylish, the reviews on Amazon are all glowing, and the price is right. What's your experience with this mill? How long have you had it? Does the grind stay consistent? Last year I bought a pricey Peugeot that really didn't work at all, they said I was using the wrong size peppercorns! Never had to consider the size of the peppercorn when buying them!

            1. re: janniecooks

              Hi, janniecooks!
              There are multiple posts on pepper mills at the moment; Chemicalkinetics has offered the link to a parallel conversation, so be sure to check it out for more specific details.

              However, since you directed your questions to me, I will answer you here. My Cole & Mason pepper mill is rather new, but there are other posters who have been using them for a year or more and continue to be very happy.

              There are six different grind settings that are clearly marked at the outside of the mill at the lower part of the body. With a simple 1/8" twist of the base ring, you can change the setting. There is a distinct difference between each of the six various ground sizes, unlike any other pepper mill I have used. With other pepper mills I can tell the difference between the most coarse and the finest, but the ones in between are often either coarse or fine. With this Cole & Mason, you can see SIX different sizes of consistent pepper grounds!

              I have had no issues with the settings not engaging properly or easily, and I have not experienced any problems with the setting mechanism switching mid-grind -- with a mind of its own! -- into another setting.

              1. re: liu

                Thank you CK, for the pointer to Joyfull's comment re: C&M mill, and liu for the additional information. The C&M is now on my amazon wishlist, maybe Santa will get the hint.

                1. re: janniecooks

                  <maybe Santa will get the hint.>

                  :) But have you been a good girl this year? :D

              2. re: janniecooks

                I have had my Vic Firth for years, and it's the best I've owned so far. Grinds a huge amount quickly, the locking mechanism has six grind settings and it never slips out of them. Comes in great colors. Family loved mine so much that I gave each of them one in their decor colors for Xmas one year. Haven't used a C and M, but for my money, VF is a great mill.

                1. re: mcf

                  WOW, mcf! I have heard such fervent passion from others as well for their Vic Firths! This must be a great pepper mill...and once again, I think that there are a few good ones that lead the pack -- rather than just one single "best" pepper mill!

                  I would love to hear from someone who has both a Vic Firth and a C & M for comparison...anyone? (I am so tempted to do this "for the team," but I do not need yet another pepper mill!)

                  1. re: liu

                    There are SO MANY threads that discuss both of them already; check out the links on the upper right side of this page, for starters. I'm pretty sure it's all been said before. The only additional one I may buy is the Peppermate, for the container on the bottom for easier measuring while cooking.

                    I don't think anyone has every argued that there's a single best pepper mill. We each have different priorities and preferences when using them, from aesthetics to functionality and price.

                    1. re: liu

                      <I would love to hear from someone who has both a Vic Firth and a C & M for comparison>

                      Problem is that (as you may expect), two persons owning both peppermills may have different conclusions. The important point is that Vic Firth makes good peppermills and I assume the same for C&M. Which would be the very best is difficult to answer.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Oh, we're so crazy...all of us Hounds with a passion for extraordinary wares!

                        1. re: liu

                          I think you may have to take the initiative and purchase a VF to compare with your C and M and report back to us! :-)

                          1. re: mcf

                            I saw a lot of different Vic Firth pepper mill models on Amazon...3 or 4 pages of them.
                            Do you think they all perform similarly?

                            I am particularly drawn to the stainless Pump & Grind, but I am afraid that this one does not have as much output as I would like:

                            _ _ _

                            I also like the smaller Mario 4-inch like this; this one comes in a variety of colors as well. I like the size for the table, but perhaps this one does not hold many peppercorns.


                            1. re: liu

                              I'm fairly certain that all of the Vic Firth pepper mills use the same grinding mechanism.

                              1. re: liu

                                All the Vic Firths have the same mechanism. But IM limited E, they perform differently. I have the lighthouse and a MB 7". The latter is much easier to twist and produces more ground pepper per turn. I love the lighthouse shape. But I'd trade it for a light-colored MB salt mill.

                                I'm sorry VF sold the kitchen tool business. I hope the grinders continue to perform well.

                                1. re: daisymiller

                                  <I'm sorry VF sold the kitchen tool business. I hope the grinders continue to perform well.>

                                  Well said. Sometime, the tools continue to perform well under new management. Sometime, not.

                  2. re: liu

                    So how is yours holding up? My Vic Firth is fine. Unfortunately, I still have some bad habit from the last peppermill. My last peppermill always tighten up as I grind, so I always loosen it first and grind, loosen it and grind. Well, I don't NEED to do this anymore, but I reflective still do it from time to time. Bad habit.

                  3. Some Vic Firth news: I was looking for pepper grinders and wanted to go to manufacturers' home pages to see if they all used the same mechanism, which ones were steel and which ceramic, etc.

                    Vic Firth has been sold. Happily, they weren't sold to some faceless conglomerate but to another Maine-based wood products manufacturer. But it appears that the Vic Firth name will disappear (for kitchenware, the drumstick business will keep that name) and be replaced by Fletcher's Mill sometime early this year. They say they intend to keep making "most" of the old Vic Firth products.


                    2 Replies
                      1. re: nokitchen

                        Thanks for this information, nokitchen. It will be helpful to those of us who continue our quest for the next great pepper mill!

                      2. Based on your review, I just today received what may be one of the very last Vic Firth-branded pepper mills. I got the 8-inch Camden. I'm less happy with the look than I thought I'd be -- the finish seems a little low end, and the shape was more like a bowling pin than it looked like in the picture.

                        That said, I bought this as a kitchen utility, not a tabletop server. And on that point so far I'm really happy. It took a few times to get it filled for the first time, even with the instructions, but once filled it performed very nicely. The most coarse setting was quite coarse and the fine setting was so fine that I wonder if I need white pepper for white dishes. The twist and lock mechanism is a little counter-intuitive but works perfectly. No variable grind.

                        If it proves to be durable, working as well down the road as it does on day one, I'll be very pleased with this purchase.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: nokitchen

                          < I got the 8-inch Camden. I'm less happy with the look than I thought I'd be>

                          I took a look. Yeah, I don't like the look too much either.


                          <If it proves to be durable, working as well down the road as it does on day one, I'll be very pleased with this purchase.>

                          I had mine for 6 months and it is fine. Many others who bought theirs seem to be doing fine as well. So I hope yours (and mine) will also last very long. Thanks for your review and feedback.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I got the Batali one, beautiful shape and the finish is hard, glossy, wipes clean and looks brand new after years of use.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I actually like Batali design. I really do.


                              However, I intentionally got the Federal design because (1) it also look good, and (2) it is not associated with a celebrity. I have nothing against Batali as a chef or as a person, but I just wanted to get something without a celebrity endorsement. :P

                              As for my Federal design, I actually like its finish. It does not look cheap to me.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I totally agree, I hate celebrity labels, but I wanted this shape in this color and if the name is on it, it must be small, because I can't picture it on there as I type. :-)

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  The first Vic Firth I bought must have been made before the Batali endorsement because it is the same shape but with a natural wood finish. We also have a Batali peppermill that is orange (yuck).

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    I would think so. This seems like such a "standard" shape too. I would be surprised that Batali designed this. Probably the company just picked one of the most popular design and asked Batali to put his name/endorsement on it. Just a guess.

                                    Great looking design regardless.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      Hey, I LOVE that reddish orange, that's why I bought it.! ;-P

                                  2. re: mcf

                                    Funny you mention wiping clean. I got the Camden precisely because the top is flush with the barrel and I figured that would make it super-easy to clean, even if I had a flour explosion or dropped the thing in batter or whatever. I think I was correct on that point, but my girlfriend still threatened to buy me nine more and a bowling ball. As for the finish, it may turn out to be super-hard, which would be great, but it doesn't allow any of the grain to show through the way it appears to on the pictures of the federal and the Batali.

                                    Oh well. My immersion blender is kind of ugly too. Blends like a champ, though, and that's what I was shootin' for.

                                    1. re: nokitchen

                                      <but my girlfriend still threatened to buy me nine more and a bowling ball.>

                                      Nine more peppermills?!

                                      1. re: nokitchen

                                        Mine is a high shine color. My experience with natural wood mills in the kitchen is that the finishes soften. The one I have in orange is like a very hard enamel.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Okay, I just checked my mill; it's not orange so much as chili pepper orangey red. Mario's name is not on it; it says "Vic Firth Gourmet" discreetly near the bottom.