Monday, January 25, 2021

Inventing Filter Coffee Makers

Silver “à la Belloy” coffee pot, which used the drip method.
Design registered in 1818 (photos from auction site).

The parts of the coffee maker, including a perforated basket for
the boiling water to drip through into the lower serving part.

Jean Baptiste, Count de Belloy (1709-1808) was archbishop of Paris from 1802 to 1808, appointed by Napoleon under an agreement with the Pope. De Belloy's most lasting accomplishment -- for posterity -- was inventing the drip, or filter, coffee maker, which he devised in 1800. Today, as most of us know, drip coffee is most often made using a paper filter rather than the multi-part drip coffee pot with a metal basket.  Before De Belloy's invention, coffee was made by infusing coffee grounds in boiling water (presumably like the current French Press) or by boiling the grounds in water (like today's Turkish coffee). 

Archbishop Belloy's invention is the ancestor of several popular coffee makers in recent use. 

1950s style drip coffee pot (like my mother's).
Same design as the Archbishop's original.

Melitta drip coffee, using a paper filter. Invented in 1908 by Melitta Benz,
who patented the paper filter and founded the Melitta company.
The photo shows my Melitta equipment, which I sometimes still use.


Chemex coffee makers from the Chemex website. The Chemex was invented in 1941
by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. It was very popular in the 1950s and is still made.

Modern electric drip/filter coffee maker.
The very most recent filter coffee? 

The attribution of this invention to Archbishop de Belloy is mentioned in Grimod De La Reynière's  Almanach, as I learned in my recent reading (blog post here). Shortly afterwards, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, the famous and prolific inventor, worked on a drip coffee pot as well as on a percolator, which uses a different method for making coffee. Another inventor, Parisian tinsmith Joseph-Henry-Marie Laurens, also worked on the percolator at around that time. 

An alternate history of the De Belloy drip coffee maker identifies a number of inventors, popularizers, and manufacturers who contributed to this innovation. A nephew of Archbishop De Belloy; the proprietor of a popular coffee shop in the Palais Royal; a pharmacist, chemist and inventor from Rouen named François-Antoine-Henri Descroizilles (1751-1825), and maybe a few more played a role in its invention. See the post "Elevator to Espresso" at The Black Blob Spot for a full exploration of this story. 

I suspect that both the drip coffee pot and the percolator were ideas whose time had come! Increased availability of coffee beans, popularity of coffee shops, developments in metal-working technology, the economic and social aftermath of the French Revolution, and other factors could all have contributed to a flourishing of inventors.

I'm sharing this bit of technological and culinary history with my friends at Elizabeth's weekly blog event celebrating all manner of beverages. 

The text of this post is © 2021 by mae sander, and if you read it elsewhere, it's been stolen!


22 comments:

Eva Taylor said...

What an informative post, love that first coffee maker posted, so elegant.
Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/

DVArtist said...

This is a wonderful post. Great information.

Anne in the kitchen said...

I love reading your posts. They are filled with wonderful and detailed info the I would never have known otherwise.

Divers and Sundry said...

Coffeemakers! I have Mother and Daddy's old percolator, and it still works. They had a GE "dripolator" but never used it. I enjoy the single cup pour-over, which is what I usually use, but we feel fancy when we get out the Chemex :)

Happy T Day!

Jeanie said...

I don't do coffee but I love the way it smells and there is something about a drip pot that extends it! That original was beautiful!

Let's Art Journal said...

How amazing! I loved seeing all the different reincarnations of the coffee maker, they all look so stylish 😀. Happy T Tuesday! Hugs, Jo x

Laurie said...

What a wonderful informative post!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I think I have my Grandmother's glass percolator, the glass stem, and the metal basket. I like how you focused on drip coffee makers, which were a tiny bit different from the percolator. As always, I look forward to your weekly T posts, because, without fail I learn something new. Thanks for this latest entry you shared.

Linda Kunsman said...

great post! I remember seeing that 50's drip coffee maker at my grandmothers' homes;) happy T day!

My name is Erika. said...

I'm not really familiar with drip coffee makers. Except for the small electric on we have for company. I'm not a coffee drinker, and my parents, who drank gallons, liked their electric percolator. Thanks for sharing. An happy T day too.

Kate Yetter said...

Great invention! I don't drink coffee but great information.
Happy Tea Day,
Kate

Carola Bartz said...

I still have a Melitta filter as well, and we actually use it some times when the power is off and we want good coffee in the morning. Camping cooker and Melitta filter is all we need! I like the red filter - unfortunately mine is not red.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime (http://tandysinclair.com) said...

We have one type of nearly every coffee maker around. But we don't use our drip coffee machine any longer. Now I use the filters for oil that I've used for frying.

Valerie-Jael said...

Lots of interesting coffee makers, love the silver one! I use a coffee automat these days, but still have my old drip filter from Melitta! Happy T day, Valerie

Lisca said...

How interesting! Yes, I remember the Melitta filters, that is how my mother made coffee in the 50s. Now she uses an electric filter machine, but it still uses Melitta paper filters. My hubby has a 'bean-to.brew' machine which also has a filter in it.(not a paper one).
I have lived so long in Italy that I am more familiar with the classic espresso machine. But I admit to using a Senseo coffee pad machine at the moment, haha.
Happy T-Day,
Lisca

Karen said...

Very interesting post! It makes me want to pull out my grandmother's percolator from the 50's and give it a try again ~ I remember her saying it makes the best coffee so I've held onto it in the back of the closet...maybe next T day if I have all the parts and it still works?! ~ Enjoy your week!

CJ Kennedy said...

Interesting. I'm not a coffee drinker. My parents had a Pyrex percolator that used the stove top as its heat source. Later a couple of electric coffee pots made their appearance, one by Corning, and a small one, but I forget the brand. My brother gifted them with a Mr. Coffee. As always a fun post. Take care and Happy T Day

LA Paylor said...

interesting!

pearshapedcrafting said...

Aaah! Good old Melitta! We don't use ours any more but haven't let go yet!! We use a pod machine thees days! Happy T Day, Chrisx

Eileen Bergen said...

I had no idea that the paper coffee filters went back that far!

Happy T-day! Eileen

kwarkito said...

Bien que je ne sois pas un grand consommateur de café, j'ai été passionné par ce texte très précis sur l'art de préparer le café et les outils nécessaires pour cela...

kwarkito said...

J'ai fait une photo un jour d'une très belle et très ancienne machine à café dans un bar du Bd St germain
https://kwarkito.blogspot.com/2016/01/aux-vieux-garcons.html