The Bramah Museum of Tea & Coffee
History of Coffee
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History of Coffee | Equipment for Making Coffee| Procedure for Making Coffee

Early tea pickingThe coffee plant was first mentioned by an Arab physician of the ninth century, growing in Abyssinia and Arabia. It was first cultivated in the Yemen (Mocha), and later in the mountains of Mysore in south India.

The roasted and pulverized beans, infused in boiled water, came to be drunk all over the Arab world.

Traded round the Mediterranean, coffee reached the European capitals in the seventeenth century.

Coffee soon spread up from Marseilles to become fashionable in the Paris of the Sun King, Louis XIV. In London's coffee houses after the Restoration of Charles II, coffee accompanied the discussion of all the important issues of the day.

Tea PlantationCoffee came to Vienna in 1683, when the besieging Turkish army was routed and sacks of coffee discovered in its abandoned baggage.

The Dutch first spread the cultivation of the coffee plant - to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1658 and Java in 1696. A Dutch plant was carried via Paris in 1714 to the French Caribbean and to South and Central America and Mexico.

Up until this point coffee was made in a pot by pouring boiling water over the pulverized coffee beans, which were allowed to settle - sometimes a spoonful of cold water was added to precipitate the particles to the bottom. Then, from 1711 in France, the coffee grounds were placed in a muslin bag known as a biggin, but they still formed a sediment.

Early coffee percolatorFilter coffee was introduced in Europe in the late eighteenth century (although the Arabs had long strained their coffee through dried herbs). Various filter devices were invented, of which the most published was Count Romford's of 1809.

In Germany in 1818 Dr Romershausen used steam to push the water through the coffee - a forerunner of the early steam espresso machines.

In England in the first half of the nineteenth century, early machines either pulled or pushed the water through the coffee in a variety of ways.

Early coffee percolatorIn France in 1819 Laurens had devised the first percolator, in which the water when hot rose up a central tube and infused the coffee above. This method became popular in America in the 1860s with the introduction of the Manning-Bowman pump percolator.

In the 1850s in England the engineer James Napier created the vacuum siphon, in which the coffee, once made, was removed from the jug by a vacuum into a globe, from which it was served through a tap.

Numerous other variations and some highly elaborate coffee machines were created by Victorian ingenuity.

There has been no great change in the twentieth century in the method of coffee-making, except by the application of electricity to previously well-tried and tested methods of coffee. The espresso machine appeared in the early 1900s, but was not perfected to the form it is today until the 1950s, when Gaggia in Italy introduced a machine which worked without steam.

Electricity also made possible the automatic filter, which combined the three processes of heating water, filtering the hot water through the coffee, and keeping the coffee warm in a jug on a heated plate. Such machines were designed and patented by Edward Bramah in the 1970's.

Unusual coffee percolatorInstant coffee was introduced in the 1960s, but actually became more a rival to tea (see History of Tea) than to proper coffee.

In the Bramah Museum there is an unrivalled variety of coffee machines on display, with their principles fully explained. There are café sets and coffee equipment of all kinds, both traditional and bizarre. Maps, diagrams, engravings and antiques explain the history of coffee from its origins to the explosion of coffee-bar culture from the 1950s onwards. In the Bramah coffee room roast and ground coffee made by the traditional Bramah jug method can be enjoyed (see Procedure for Making Coffee).