How did people make coffee before the coffee maker? What is the oldest coffee method? What’s the first coffee maker in history?

Coffee, a beloved beverage with a rich history, has woven its aromatic threads through cultures and centuries. From the early days of boiling coffee grounds to the invention of sophisticated coffee makers, the journey of coffee is as diverse as the brews it inspired.

In this exploration, we delve into the origins of coffee-making methods, from traditional techniques to the emergence of the first coffee maker. Join us on a journey through time, as we uncover the stories behind how people have savoured the essence of coffee through ingenious means.


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How did people make coffee before the coffee maker?

Before the invention of modern coffee makers, people used various methods to brew coffee. Here are a few historical methods:

  1. Boiling in Water: One of the simplest methods involved boiling ground coffee beans in water. This was common in many cultures, where finely ground coffee was mixed with water and then boiled. The mixture was allowed to settle, and the liquid coffee was separated from the ground.
  2. Turkish Coffee: In Turkish coffee preparation, finely ground coffee, water, and sugar (optional) are combined in a special pot called a cezve. The mixture is heated slowly, and the coffee is allowed to foam without boiling. It’s a distinctive method that results in a strong and concentrated coffee.
  3. Pour-Over Method: This method involves pouring hot water over ground coffee beans placed in a filter. This can be done using various devices, such as a cloth or metal filter, and is similar to the pour-over methods that are still popular today.
  4. Percolators: Before drip coffee makers became widespread, percolators were a popular choice. These devices circulated boiling water through coffee grounds, and the brewed coffee would drip back into the pot. Percolators were common in households during the mid-20th century.
  5. Espresso Machines: The first espresso machine was invented in the late 19th century. This method involves forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee under pressure, producing a strong and concentrated coffee known as espresso. Espresso forms the basis for many other coffee drinks.
  6. French Press: Invented in the 1920s, the French press involves steeping coarsely ground coffee in hot water and then pressing the grounds to separate them from the liquid. It’s a straightforward and manual method that is still popular today.

These methods showcase the diverse ways people have brewed coffee throughout history, adapting to available tools and cultural preferences. While modern coffee makers offer convenience and consistency, some people still appreciate and enjoy the traditional and manual brewing methods.

Turkish turkey for coffee Turkish Coffee on coffee beans background

What is the oldest coffee method?

Two tales recount the introduction of coffee to the Ottoman Empire. In one version, Hukm from Aleppo and Şems from Damascus brought Turkish coffee to Istanbul in 1554. They set up a shop in Tahtakale, marking the world’s first-known coffee shop. This establishment became popular, finding its way into the palace kitchen and homes throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Another story attributes the arrival of coffee in Istanbul to Özdemir Pasha, the Governor of Yemen, in 1517. Özdemir Pasha, captivated by the taste, introduced coffee to the palace.

Turkish coffee, initially confined to Ottoman lands, expanded globally through Venetian merchants in 1615 and Marseillais merchants in 1650, reaching Europe.

The pivotal moment for Turkish coffee’s establishment in Europe occurred during the Siege of Vienna in 1683. As the Ottoman Army retreated, they left behind around 500 sacks of coffee, presumed to be camel feed by the Viennese soldiers. George Kolschitzki, an Austrian familiar with Turkish culture, opened a coffee shop in Vienna using these sacks, rapidly spreading Turkish coffee culture in the West.

In the early days of Turkish coffee preparation, raw coffee beans were roasted, finely ground in mortars, and cooked in coffee tins over coals or wood fires. The current form of Turkish coffee, with specific roasting, cooking, and watering techniques, emerged later. Notably, the brewing process involves boiling the coffee multiple times without the use of any filters.

coffee making and drip coffee in house

What’s the first coffee maker in history?

The first coffee maker in history is a bit challenging to pinpoint precisely, as coffee has been brewed in various ways for centuries. However, one of the earliest coffee brewing devices that resemble the modern concept of a coffee maker is the “drip brew” method, and the invention is often attributed to Melitta Bentz.

In 1908, Melitta Bentz, a German housewife, was looking for a way to make a cleaner cup of coffee without the bitter taste that often resulted from boiling coffee grounds. She came up with the idea of using a paper filter to hold the coffee grounds, allowing hot water to drip through and extract the flavours while leaving behind the sediment.

Melitta Bentz patented her coffee filter invention, and in 1908, she and her husband founded the Melitta Bentz Company. The company began manufacturing and selling the first paper coffee filters and the accompanying filter coffee maker. This marked a significant development in the history of coffee brewing technology and laid the foundation for the design of modern drip coffee makers.

While the concept of a coffee maker has evolved significantly since then, with various innovations like percolators, espresso machines, and pod-based systems, Melitta Bentz’s invention is often credited as one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built device for brewing coffee in a convenient and filtered manner.

The history of coffee machine a.k.a. espresso machine

In 1901, Luigi Bezzera invented the first patented espresso machine. He quickly sold the patent to Desiderio Pavoni, whose name is now associated with Italian-built espresso machines. This pioneering machine became a classic, featuring an open flame under a boiler to heat water, which was then dispensed through coffee in a large “proto-portafilter.” Though it resembled Turkish coffee, it could be produced in less than a minute, allowing for faster coffee production.

While Bezzera’s machine lacked the pressure needed for the characteristic crema of espresso, it provided a quick coffee-making advantage for cafes. The early espresso machines were not rapidly innovated, as they were primarily designed by boilermakers rather than coffee equipment specialists.

Espresso machine pouring coffee in white cups

The first significant innovation in espresso technology occurred in 1946 when Achille Gaggia introduced the spring lever. In these machines, water was brought to a boil, but the lever’s downward pull compressed a spring, opening a valve to allow water into the group. This process cooled the water slightly before brewing, resulting in better extraction. As the lever was released, the spring’s mechanical energy pushed water through the coffee, reaching a pressure of 14 bars.

This increased pressure had two notable effects: it sped up the brewing process, allowing for shots in 30-45 seconds, and it produced the coveted crema, a sign of fresh espresso with an enticing aroma. This innovation, thanks to Achille Gaggia, marked a significant advancement in espresso machine technology.

Final Thought

As we sip our modern brews, it’s fascinating to trace the evolution of coffee-making methods across history. From the simplicity of boiling grounds to the intricacies of patented machines, each chapter in the coffee saga tells a story of innovation and cultural exchange. Whether it’s the first coffee shop in the Ottoman Empire or the pioneering espresso machines, the world’s love affair with coffee continues to evolve.

As we raise our cups to the past, present, and future of coffee culture, let’s savour not just the beverage in our hands but the tales brewed into every aromatic drop. Cheers to the timeless journey of coffee, from humble beginnings to global prominence!

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