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Coffee Hall of Fame: The Legacy of Melitta Bentz

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Coffee Hall of Fame: The Legacy of Melitta Bentz

Paul Haworth

Many people know that the espresso machine was invented in the early 20th century but did you know that the paper filter pour over was as well? Did you also know that it was invented by a German housewife? This simple step of ingenuity led to a revolution that is still with us in a huge way.

Prototype

Melitta Bentz was simply a coffee lover like you who was frustrated with the level of quality available and believed there was a better way. In 1908, typical options for the home were percolators, pressurized stove-top devices, or linen bag filters which needed to be cleaned regularly. She fashioned the first paper filter device out of a piece of blotting paper (a napkin for excess ink in quill writing) laid over the bottom of a brass vessel she perforated with a nail.

Clean Cup

The resulting brewed coffee was quite different from anything else available at the time. Most coffee drinkers had grown accustomed to over extracted coffee and often a generous portion of undissolved solids. The color was more clear, the taste was less bitter, and there was no hint of grounds in the cup.

Easy Maintenance

Another major advantage to Mrs Bentz's method was in the ease of cleanup. Before paper filtration the only alternative to mechanical devices was a suspended, linen, sock-type filter. It offered a cleaner cup than percolators or stove machines but was rather difficult to maintain. The filter needed regular cleaning which was very time-consuming to do properly.

Legacy

Not only did she create something that enriched the lives of coffee drinkers worldwide, Melitta Bentz was also adamant that the company she would head up be a great place to work. In a time when the 6 day work week was commonplace, she shortened it to 5. She insisted on Christmas bonuses, 15 days vacation, and founded a corporate social fund system for them called 'Melitta Aid.'

Surviving the devastation of two world wars, the company is still around and still family run. Also, the Melitta pour over device is by far the most accessible and most affordable option out there. They are typically located in the coffee aisle at any grocery store and can be purchased for around ten US dollars.

Challenge

If you haven't ever tried brewing your coffee with a pour over style device, the Melitta is recommended as a gateway into that wonderful world. The control you get over water temperature and distribution onto the grounds is difficult to duplicate with a machine, and you will taste the difference.

If you are already aware of the joys of this level of connection with your cup, spend a minute contemplating this ingenious and crafty woman as you watch the coffee drip through whatever filter device you happen to be using. Perhaps you will be the one to make the next advancement in home coffee craft.