Gimme That Java

Another little find from that Estate sale I attended last week was this little number.

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Mirro Percolator circa 1960s (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Percolators. Those great little inventions that paved the way for my lovely automatic drip machine that turns on by itself, and more importantly, shuts off by itself! Can’t tell you how many times my stomach has flipped on my way to work wondering if I’d turned off my coffeepot. Now I don’t have to worry. But where did the percolator come from? Who designed this little marvel. Follow me down this rabbit hole and let’s find out.

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Berggren Scandinavian Percolator (photo courtesy of No Time Like Yesterday)

Good Housekeeping says that the first coffee bean was found in Ethiopia when a goat herder saw his herd moving with a lot of extra energy. They had been munching on coffee beans! After they figured out what the herd had been eating, they gathered up the beans and took them home. The women would then roast the green beans until they heard them crack. Let’s jump ahead a little.

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Vintage Coffee Maker (photo courtesy of RueDesOiseaux)

Did you know that the original way of making a pot of coffee was to throw the grounds into water and then boil it? Yummy! Nothing like chewing your cup o’ joe in the morning. There had to be a better way. I love retro but let’s face it, I really enjoy the modern amenities.

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GHC Enamelware Finesse Drip Coffeemaker (photo courtesy of Retro Thrift 305)

Fast forward to the French Press in the 1800s. The grounds were still in the water but the press came down and trapped the grounds at the bottom. This works well but leaves some grit and particles in the coffee.

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Bodum French Press (photo courtesy of LEMmONyADEstAND)

Apparently someone else did not like picking grounds out of his teeth after his morning java. According to Serious Eats, the first percolator was patented by “Illinois’ native son and farmer Hanson Goodrich, who took out a patent for the pot in 1889. In his patent application, he describes a contraption that will create “a liquid which will be free of all grounds and impurities.””

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Pyrex Percolator (photo courtesy of Orchard8Retro)

The percolator works on a vacuum principle. The grounds are put into the basket at the top of a long tube. The tube is submerged in the water. As the water heats up, a vacuum is created and that causes the water to get sucked up into the tube which then “perks” or bubbles up and out over the grounds.

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Manning Bowman Electric Percolator (photo courtesy of Antiqueologae)

While the grounds stay in the basket, the water flows through the holes and back down into the pot. This was a definite improvement over the “throw in the grounds and boil” method; but because the water, which now was coffee, continued to circulate through and over the grounds, until the heat source was turned off, the coffee could become very bitter. A barista’s nightmare!

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Pyrexware Percolator circa 1970s (photo courtesy of ExquisitExchange)
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3 thoughts on “Gimme That Java

  1. Some seriously awesome coffee makers you’ve got pictured in your post. I love that one little purchase can send us on an historical adventure. Great post, Rheta–thanks for linking it up with us at Vintage Charm!

    Liked by 1 person

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