Another little find from that Estate sale I attended last week was this little number.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.””
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.
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!
In 1908, Melitta Bentz, a German inventor, invents the first coffee filter by poking holes in a tin plate and putting some blotter paper in it. Used in a coffee pot where you pour the hot water over the grounds and wait for them to drip into the container below, this kept the grounds away from the coffee. The Chemex coffee maker is one of this type with a proprietary filter that is thicker than the regular drip ones.
Good Housekeeping says that in 1930 another woman, Inez H. Pierce gets a patent for the first automated vacuum coffee maker. There are two chambers, one of which keeps the grounds away from the finished coffee. Sunbeam created a nice electric version of this.
There were not too many innovations in coffee makers until the 1970s when the first automatic drip coffee maker for the home starts selling. Vincent Marotta, Sr. developed the first Mr. Coffee Auto Drip machine. I can still see Joe DiMaggio drinking that cup of coffee brewed by the Mr. Coffee machine.
So there is a brief history from the percolator to the automated drip machines of today. I hope you learned as much as I did! Check out some of the great pieces featured in this post, you can find them at Etsy. And while you’re there, visit the Vintage Eve’s shop for more vintage treasures.
I’ll be partying this week at Adirondack Girl At Heart.