Coffee Makers: A Brief History
Stove Top Coffee: Pans & Kettles
Coffee has been used by mankind for over a thousand years. For the majority of that time, it was simply brewed in a kettle or even just a pan filled with ground coffee and water.
The coffee and water would be heated until it boiled, and when the coffee seemed ready the mixture would be poured through a strainer and that would be that. This process did work, but tended to leave grounds in the coffee and the quality of the brew couldn’t be controlled. But it was an easy method that anyone could use, and as a glass carafe was never used, there was never any need for a replacement carafe
Around the middle of the 19th century, the percolator was invented. This device boiled water and forced it through a basket of ground coffee to make the brew. Although allowing more control than a simple kettle or pan, the early stovetop percolators still weren’t exact in the quality of the brew. Percolators were nearly always made of metal and thus the container rarely broke. However, the coffee (coffee is somewhat acidic) would eventually start to wear through the metal. This became less of a problem when better alloys were developed. Later electrical models would occasionally have problems with their heating elements or electrical systems that the stove top percolators avoided (although the electrical percolator’s ease of use made up for this).
Automatic Drip Coffee Makers
In the early 1970s the first automatic drip coffee maker was developed and produced by Mr. Coffee, and this remains the most popular type today. There are many variations, but the basic design consists of a water reservoir that feeds water to metal tube past a heating unit. The water is heated to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then drips through a basket containing the ground coffee. The coffee brew then falls into a carafe. Aside from the convenience, one major benefit of an automatic drip coffee maker is that the coffee never actually touches the main heating element, reducing the chance of “over-cooking” the coffee and delivering a better tasting cup of coffee.
Although there are many benefits of an automatic drip coffee maker, one of the main drawbacks is that they require a carafe. Metal carafes are fairly tough and they are difficult to break, although the more complex thermal carafes can have problems with calcium and mineral buildup in the lid. The majority of less expensive coffee makers use glass carafes which can easily break, especially when one is rushing around half asleep on a Monday morning. Fortunately, it is not necessary to purchase a new coffee maker when this happens. Most major brands of coffee makers, including Krups, Mr. Coffee, and Cuisinart realize that a glass carafe is easy to break and sell replacement carafes for nearly all their models. Most coffee makers require a specific size carafe replacement, so it is important to make sure the one you buy fits your coffee maker.