Coffee-making methods evolved through drip brewing, pressed coffee, vacuum brewing and percolating. Then instant coffee, created in the 1930s, avoided the need to grind and brew. But as Kiwis have embraced coffee culture they have turned their backs on the quick fix, instead using the newest technology to produce their own crema in the kitchen.
1. Coffee pots have been used to brew coffee for hundreds of years and have been evolving since the 17th century. The sharp pour spouts stopped most of the coffee grounds from escaping and a squat bottom allowed for good heat absorption. A lid was added to start the infusion process.
Up until the 20th century people were happy to add ground coffee to hot water in a pot and boil it until it smelled right.
2a & 2b. In 1901 Luigi Bezzera invented the espresso machine. The first machines produced steam from a common boiler piped to four group heads. In 1945 the espresso machine was simplified and the extraction pressure was increased. The design used a lever, pumped by the operator, to pressurise hot water and send it through the coffee grinds.
Pump-driven machines were introduced in 1961 which has led to the sophisticated machines found throughout the New Zealand hospitality industry today and the smaller-scale versions found on home kitchen benches.
The bottom chamber contains the water, the middle chamber is a filter basket and sits within the bottom chamber holding the ground coffee.
When the pot is heated on a stove, the pressure from the steam in the bottom chamber forces the water through a tube into the filter basket, through the ground coffee, the metal filter and is then funnelled into the top chamber.
While the resulting quality is not regarded as good as that produced by espresso machines, because the coffee is brewed at excess heat and under insufficient pressure, they are considerably cheaper and more convenient for home use.
In 1930 an electrically-heated stove was incorporated into the design of the vacuum brewer. Later that decade the famous Sunbeam Coffeemaster line of automated vacuum coffee makers was sold prolifically to American households in the immediate post World War II years.
4. Percolators started to be developed from the mid-19th century and the basic percolator is still used today although it has lost popularity in the past two decades. The percolator was popular in New Zealand home kitchens in the 1970s but was overtaken by the plunger filter and in more recent times the domestic espresso machine.
The percolator involves heating water in a boiling pot with a removable lid until the heated water is forced through a metal tube into a brew basket containing coffee. The extracted liquid drains from the brew basket where it drips back into the pot.
Domestic electrification simplified the operation by providing for a self-contained, electrically powered heating element that removed the need to use a stovetop burner.
The pour-over drip brewer also evolved in the early part of the 19th century. Hot water is slowly dripped into a filter full of coffee grounds. It drains through the grounds and drips into the coffee pot which is kept warm on a heating pad.
The espresso machine has overtaken the café and restaurant trade. But filter coffee can still be found in a Cona coffee jug under a drip machine in some cafes.
It became the preferred method for making plain coffee in most American homes and restaurants. In New Zealand the larger pour-over machine with a water holding tank is used predominantly for large-scale catering operations such as functions and hotels.
Plastics and composite materials started to replace metal in later years particularly with the advent of newer electric drip coffeemakers in the 1970s.
In the 1990s consumer demand for more attractive appliances to complement expensive modern kitchens resulted in a new wave of redesigned coffeemakers in a wider range of colours and styles.
Drip brew coffee makers were less common in New Zealand kitchens. New Zealand’s coffee drinking experience started with coffee and chicory essence mixed with hot water and sweetened condensed milk. Tall square “coffee and chicory essence” bottles were popular throughout New Zealand until the advent of instant coffee in the 1960s.
6. The first modern method for making coffee at home — drip brewing — was developed more than 125 years ago when someone poured hot water through a sock containing ground coffee.
If the coffee was ground too fine, the water would run out the sides of the lid because it couldn’t penetrate the coffee quickly enough. If the coffee was ground too coarsely, the water flowed through it too quickly and the brew was weak.
These days a large part of a professional barista’s reputation depends on correct grinding and tamping to ensure a perfect cup for the same reasons.
7. In 1802 the metal coffee filter was patented in France with spreaders which evenly distributed the coffee grounds and the water.
In 1806 another patent used a metal disk hardened with a rammer to compress the level of coffee grounds.
This was the precurser to the “French press” coffee pot or the plunger filter of today which offers a short brewing time.
Many modern versions of the plunger filter pot are an established part of today’s home kitchens.