Written by JulieReading time 6 min
A tour of the coffee maker history and coffee machines over time. The second-most consumed drink in the world has been around for more than 10 centuries. From the first concoctions to automated latte macchiatos, our relationship to coffee has certainly changed. Here’s a quick summary of the history of your favourite beverage.
Prehistory : discovering coffee
Legend has it that coffee was discovered in the 800s by Kaldi, an Ethiopian shepherd who noticed the energising effect that the fruit had on his goats. After some genetic studies, it was confirmed that it has been drunk in various forms since prehistoric times! However, the first traces of coffee culture, and the drink, date back to the 15th century. What is the true origin of coffee? Between the two stories, the mystery remains…
17th century : origins of Cappuccino
Repopularised in the 1980s, the cappuccino actually has a much longer history, which dates back to Vienna and the Blue Bottle establishment in the 17th century! It involved an “Eastern” coffee with a touch of honey and cream. Like the Capuchin monks, this brown-coloured drink travelled and evolved before becoming, in the 1900s, the Italian cappuccino that we know, made from the very first espresso machines.
Coffee maker history : its creation in 1880
For a long time coffee was prepared by infusion or decoction. And then one day, some time around 1800, one simple invention changed everything. Imagine: a pot with a carafe on top with a perforated mesh between the two to place the coffee on. Pour the water in the first pot and end up with delicious coffee in the carafe. It was a revolution! This first coffee maker was invented by an Archbishop of Paris: Jean-Baptiste de Belloy. This Frenchman, a true coffee lover, created the first coffee percolation system, which was named the Dubelloire, or the Débelloire, in his honour. This ancient coffee machine was the precursor to modern-day machines. However, we can’t say that he was the first inventor.
Creation of the Italian Coffee Maker in 1895
Another preparation method, another revolution. But what if this time the carafe made the coffee whilst boiling the water? Even though the concept existed at the end of the 1800s, its iconic aluminium octagonal design wasn’t patented until 1933 by an Italian engineer called Alfonso Bialetti. Italy made its mark on the history of the coffee maker.
Creation of the French Press in 1924
After several experiments, it was back to infusion! But this time it was simplified. The filter is directly integrated into the coffee maker. Once the infusion is complete you just need to press down on the plunger. Although there are several patents, the French Press is a French invention! It’s called a “French Press” because it had “Made in France” written on the bottom. Now you know the history of the 1924 coffee maker.
The arrival of Instant Coffee in 1938
In the 1930s in Brazil, people were looking for a solution to quickly sell large quantities of coffee. The idea was simple: offer coffee “cubes” that could be added to boiling water to make coffee. In 1938 a certain company finally managed to freeze-dry coffee that had already been extracted. Its name? Nescafé, one of the Nestlé company’s coffee brands.
Coffee during the war and post-war years 1950
Despite all past inventions, the majority of coffee drinkers continued to make their coffee by infusion. In France in particular, our grandmothers prepared their coffee by putting ground coffee into boiling water. During the war, coffee was reserved for soldiers, so the French consumed chicory to make up for the shortage of coffee.
The evolution of the coffee maker in 1972
Electric coffee makers and automatic machines
It was the great plastic and electronic boom that helped popularise filtered coffee. Along with flares, wallpaper and floral motifs, electric coffee makers invaded homes. Filtered coffee was readily accessible to everyone!
The evolution of the coffee maker in 1985
Even though filtered coffee was in every kitchen, you still had to rely on baristas’ expertise for a good espresso. Luckily, Saeco changed everything in 1985 with their SuperAutomatica. It was the first espresso machine with a built-in grinder, which made the coffee itself. It was a change whose development still continues to this day.
The history of Saeco
Saeco invented the coffee bean machine. It is also one of Philips’ top-of-the-range machines. The brand’s history started in 1981 in Gaggio Montano in Italy. In 1985, Saeco became the first company in the world to design the “bean-to-cup” machine. This entirely automatic and innovative system has a built-in grinder for making Italian coffee. The brand’s strength lies in its artisanal quality and the elegant design of its coffee machines. Additionally, Saeco has shown great innovation over the past 30 years. It has 110 patents.
The evolution of the coffee maker in 2000
In 1986, Nestlé was preparing a new revolution in the coffee world. After instant coffee, the goal was to make the espresso accessible to everyone everywhere, with machines that were more affordable than automatic machines. It wasn’t until 1994 that the first capsule machines were developed and marketed before they inundated the market in the 2000s.
The history of Nespresso®
The Swiss multinational Nestlé came up with a concept: a closed integrated system which required a coffee pod to make an espresso equivalent. That was how the Nespresso® branch was born in 1986. Initially sold to professionals, Nespresso® then became popular with the general public at the end of the 1990s. But how? Thanks to one man: Eric Favre. He developed the capsule which allowed people to make coffee at home. The first Nespresso® capsule was marketed in 1994. However, the aluminium capsules resulted in a lot of wasted coffee. Eric Favre created a new capsule whose filter is made by crushing it under the pressure of the extraction process. The coffee machine pierces the lid before pouring pressurised water through the capsule. The pressure increases the coffee content of one capsule by up to 5 times!
Tomorrow’s coffee machines ?
The evolution of the coffee maker in 2023
Electric grinder, automated grinding, robot baristas, nitro coffee, smart machines… The more time goes on, the more we experiment with coffee and its preparation. Even though it is impossible to know what tomorrow will bring, these innovations can let us dream. What about you? What do you think the coffee of the future will look like?
The history of the coffee maker and coffee machines spans many years. The way in which we make our coffee doesn’t stop evolving. We can expect more innovations in the future. The coffee world will never stop surprising us and offering us the best coffee, one that is like us and that we share.
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