August 21, 2014
This combination grinding device emerged had emerged in multiple civilizations in many different forms. The mortar and pestle illustrated above are porcelain and represent the most prevalent geometry today.
Mortars and pestles over two hard surfaces for which to grind or mix. The substance to be ground sits in the mortar while the pestle pounds or grinds in a combination pushing and turning motion. To effective grind repeatedly without failure, the material used must be harder than the substance inside and must not be brittle.
Porous, rough, or absorbent materials may transfer earlier particles, oils, flavors, or microorganism from an earlier grind to a new grind. Rough mortars or pestle heads can produce an extremely fine grind, but may also stain permanently or wear quickly.
Organic materials of construction like wood or bamboo may also easily absorb wet ingredients. Glass mortar and pestle sets are ideal for wet ingredients, but are too fragile for pounding. Smooth glass surfaces grind poorly.
Medicines were often ground in mortars with pestles, and the imagery persists today; the apothecary mortar and pestle with the “℞” prescription symbol indicates the presences of a pharmacy. These days though, a consistent ground is not repeatable for medicine nor in the laboratory, so an automatic mortar grinder is used instead.
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