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Birth of Brewing: The Evolution of the Coffee Maker

Automatic coffee makers may present the easiest method of brewing today, but brewers traveled a long road paved with uneven grounds and bitter brew to achieve that. From its humble beginnings of simply throwing some beans into a pot and boiling them, coffee brewing has evolved to the point where there's a method out there likely to suit every taste and technique.

Although it may sound like a paradox, the first cup of coffee was made without a coffee maker. Experts disagree over exactly when and where coffee was first brewed, but Turkey is a major contender for the distinction. The first drink that could be called coffee was made by boiling whole beans in water, a process which could take several hours.

Ground to Perfection 
As technology advanced, presumably aided by a steady drip of caffeine, better methods emerged. Again from Turkey came the aptly named Turkish coffee method. Using a special pot called an ibrik, early brewers found that they able to make better coffee by first grinding the beans as finely as possible, then controlling the temperature of the water they steeped in, according to ABC News. Coffee grounds are still heated in the same pot as the water using the Turkish method, but the water is slowly brought nearly to a boil then removed from the heat source several times rather than boiling continuously. Turkish coffee is also much quicker to make, taking only a few minutes. The brew that this method produces is nearly unique in that it ends up with sediment from the coffee grounds in the cup by design.

Steam Power 
Turkish coffee and similar methods dominated brewing from around the 15th century to the 18th century. By the late 1800s, two-chamber brewers, which separated the coffee grounds from the water to keep sediment from reaching the cup, could be found. One such method, the percolator, is still widely used today. Water is boiled in a chamber beneath the grounds until pressure from the steam generated forces the water through the grounds. Similar methods, such as those using pressure to siphon water from one chamber to another, then became the most popular brewing methods until a German woman named Melitta Bentz had a stroke of genius in the early 1900s.

The Modern Age 
To clean the coffee grounds from their pots, people often had to scrape them out or strain coffee through cloth filters, which could get messy. Bentz found an elegant solution by poking holes in the bottom of a brass pot and lining it with blotting paper. Coffee could then be poured directly from the brewer through this filter to remove the grinds, resulting in smoother taste and easier cleanup.

More than 60 years later, a method was finally found to take advantage of Bentz's innovation and make it even easier. Mr. Coffee® brand coffee machines debuted in 1972, ushering in the age of the automatic coffee maker. From the original models to newer ones like the Mr. Coffee® CGX Series 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, these machines allow water to pass more easily through the grounds at a temperature just below its boiling point, allowing for a quicker, tastier cup of coffee.