Jan 29, 2011

What? No Starbucks??

I recently sold a beautiful copper and pewter antique coffee pot at Vintage on the Ridge Etsy shop. As I was packing it for shipping, I got to thinking about how much I love coffee and what a hardship it would be to have to prepare and wait for coffee to brew the old-fashioned way.

I stand in my kitchen preparing my coffee maker before my eyes are fully open in the morning. My pot tells me what time it is, how strong I can make my coffee, how long my filter has been in place, and gives me a delay timer option to have my coffee ready when I get up in the morning (though I rarely remember to set it.) My aromatic, delicious brew flows into a thermal carafe that keeps my coffee hot for two hours and then automatically turns the warmer off. Most modern coffee makers (we can't really call them 'pots' anymore, now can we?) do all that and some do even more, like grinding your beans or tying your shoes (okay, I jest. But you know what I mean.)

So as I sat this morning, enjoying my big cup of life-breathing caffeine, I thought it would be fun to look back at all the different coffee pot styles that I remember owning, or seeing in my grandmother and mother's kitchens over the years. Believe me young ones, coffee wasn't always so easy or great tasting. This first example is like a pot that I own and use as a planter on my porch -- cowboy coffee pot - open camp fire and all that. It's a boiler pot - no basket to hold the grounds; you just threw the coffee in the bottom, added water and waited for the grounds to settle as you boiled the heck out of them. After they boiled, you waited for the grounds to settle again and then hoped for the best when you poured out your cup o' sludge. Yuck!
Sold for $45 at Country Joe's Collectible Stuff
What? You don't want to make a campfire to prepare your morning cup of joe? Okay, on to the stove-top models. I remember my Grandma's pot looking a lot like this one. My aunts and my Mom all had variations on the this style, too. Aluminum pot with an inner coffee basket and a long tube thingy that let the water boil up and through the basket of grounds. Put it on the stove and let 'er boil folks. I am not sure how they knew when the coffee was done . . . I supposed they timed it, or watched the ones with the glass knobs on top to see when the coffee looked to be the right color? I just remember seeing these pots on the stove and smelling that coffee aroma, but that was long before I was allowed to drink it - or wanted to.
Foley and Comet brand stove-top percolator

Moving on . . . as it goes with everything, someone always builds a better mousetrap, or in this case, coffee pot. so I guess everyone got tired of finding grounds in the bottom of their cups, so along came this baby!
Pretty high tech for those days -- plug it in and watch your coffee brew. Kinda like the first plug and play device, maybe? The top part held the coffee and the water went in the bottom. The two pieces were connected with a strong rubber gasket that created a vacuum so the grounds couldn't migrate into the water - like I said, high tech stuff. Problem was, the whole dang thing got so hot you could only touch the handle and you really had to pull to break the vacuum and separate the two parts before you could pour your coffee (as I remember it.) We had the chrome version of this one, like this:

Okay, so I guess we are up to about the 1960-70s. I am a (very) young housewife by 1971 and I have the ultimate in new coffee makers . . . it even matched my ovenware! How chic! It really dressed up my kitchen, which could be seen from my living room because it was practically the same room in my two-room, over-the-garage apartment. Watch out, duck your head, the ceilings slope pretty dramatically there on that side by the kitchen table!

So Corning helped us be stylish in the 70s by giving us an electric percolator (you could get a stove-top   version, too) that matched our dinnerware. The basket inside held the coffee grounds, so you would brew the coffee, take off the lid, remove the hot metal basket (pass the metal mesh gloves, please), replace the lid and pour. Simple - all while leaving it plugged into the wall if you wanted it to stay hot. OK, so much for progress, but I loved it!

Although restaurants had drip coffee makers, most home kitchens didn't have them until Mr Coffee came along. There had been pots with paper filters to help with grounds and taste, but they weren't the drip variety that we know and love today. Yippee for Mr Coffee and all those that came, competed, and gave us the myriad of options we have today. Here is an example of an early Mr Coffee brand pot:

The drip system was better for taste, but in this version, you had to have a pot of boiling water to pour into the top and let it drip through to the bottom - no water reservoir yet! I found some great information and history at http://www.jitterbuzz.com/coftrip -- several of their photos appear here. Thanks Jitter Buzz (don't you love that name?) When you are finished reading this post, you might want to visit - they have all scientific scoop about making coffee.
With its removable slide-in coffee basket and nifty color panel (to match your avocado fridge!) On/Off, Brew and Warm switches, too. Yep, I had one of these models, too. Coffee addicts buy coffee pots like fashionistas gather bags and shoes. Joe DiMaggio was Mr Coffee's spokesman for this great new gadget that we all needed and wanted. What's more American than apple pie and baseball? Why, coffee, of course! Now, the only thing you'd still be missing back then would be flavored coffee -- no such animal. But that would soon change, as well.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Throughout the 90s and currently, new models, versions, and fashions of pots line the store shelves. Everyone is their own barrista these days -- so have your morning cup at home, stop at Starbucks and get another on the way to work, drink the sludge at the office, and be sure to stop at your local specialty coffee house after work for a frappe, cappuccino, or whatever is popular these days. Me? I am sticking with good ole Maxwell house and my Mr Coffee pot in my own kitchen - morning, noon, and night!

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