Isn’t it wonderful to have a nice cup of coffee in the morning? It’s quite amazing how these small beans manage to invigorate people for work or school and bring people together during break time.

Despite popular belief, coffee isn’t the world’s second most valuable traded commodity in the world. However, the industry is still worth over $20 billion worldwide and people drink over 500 billion cups of coffee per year. It’s one of the most popular drinks around the globe.

But did you ever wonder how it all started? Who drank the first cup of coffee and why did it spread like wildfire?

Wonder no more as we dive into the exciting history of coffee below. Like many drinks of this level of prestige, the ballad of coffee’s journey in history has many twists and turns. Read on below to discover more:

Spreading Coffee Around the World

Who discovered it and how did it become one of the leading drinks today, sitting on the higher tier of preferred beverages alongside tea, lemonade, and soft drinks?

Whether you look at it from a mythological or historical point of view, it all goes back to Ethiopia, which sits at the north-eastern corner of the continent of Africa. Its position puts it right in the middle of Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia was a center of trading for all these nations, making it quite easy to see how a drink from the region could spread quickly.

Early History of Coffee in Ethiopia and the Middle East

Ethiopian Goat Herder discovers coffee

Legends go that in 700-850 AD, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. The tale goes that his goats began to dance and became restless, refusing to sleep, after they ate berries from an unknown plant. He shared this tale to nearby monks and together they discovered they could roast the beans and infuse them in water to make a remarkable drink: coffee!

However, there is no factual evidence behind this tale. The earliest credible evidence of coffee appearing in historical records dates beyond the story of Kaldi, going as far back as the late 15th century.

Some researchers point out that coffee was likely not immediately taken as a drink. There is the possibility that the earliest enthusiasts either ate coffee or cooked it and this may have led to the discovery of its potential. Brewing it or boiling coffee beans in water may have been a much later finding and could have happened entirely by accident.

Coffee Crosses the Red Sea

Whether the tale of Kaldi is true or not, it’s widely accepted that coffee originated from Ethiopia and then later crossed the Red Sea to make its way into Yemen. Most coffee would first reach Mocha, a port city in Yemen. It didn’t take long for Mocha to get associated with coffee and it’s a term we still use today.

It started by infiltrating Sufi monasteries before it became a nationwide phenomenon.

Records show that Sufi Imam Muhammad Ibn Said Al Dhabhani included coffee in the list of imported goods coming from Ethiopia to Yemen by way of Somalian traders. In 1414, Mecca was already well-acquainted with coffee and by the 1500s its influence had spread to Egypt, Syria, and throughout the Ottoman Empire.


For a while, people referred to it as the “wine of Araby” and coffee’s popularity led to the uncontrolled growth of coffee shops across Arabia. For some, these shops became the schools of the wise because this is where many of the wise men would gather to discuss philosophy, spirituality, and the latest events.

Coffee shops would become the places people could go to for political discussions and gossip. However, it was this open socialization that got coffee in trouble for the next few decades.

History of Coffee Bans

Coffee suffered from bans for a few years in Mecca and Cairo. These bans took place due to the strong stimulating effects of coffee. People in charge showed concern about too much coffee affecting the labor force.

By 1511, Meccan governor Khair Beg banned coffee drinking in the Holy City. He feared that these “schools of the wise” gave the public ample opportunities to openly discuss his political failings. He declared coffee drinking and the socialization that accompanied it in coffee shops as acts of revolution and sedition.

Khair Beg decreed coffee as haraam, which meant sinful.

Coffee banned in Mecca and Cairo

This decree remained in place for more than a decade until 1524, when Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-Imadi and the Ottoman Sultan Selim I rescinded the law and allowed coffee to be freely consumed again. As for Khair Beg, he got executed by decree of the Sultan, the latter of which considered coffee as a sacred drink.

Throughout this period, from the 15th century to the 19th century, there have been multiple instances of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to ban coffee drinking, claiming that it was a drink only for followers of Islam. This ban ended before the turn of the century and continued to spread throughout Ethiopia, largely thanks to Ethiopian Emperor Melenik II. He was an avid fan of coffee and consumed it regularly, which may be the biggest reason why the ban got lifted.

Fortunately, these laws got overturned a few years later. Banning the drink couldn’t slow down its influence and widespread popularity. Riots took place on the streets of Arabia and Ethiopia until rulers eventually lifted the bans.

Spreading to India and Indonesia

For the most part, countries that wanted coffee had to get it from Yemen. Arabian nations stood as the gatekeepers of coffee for many decades, particularly Yemen, because they were the primary trade partners of Ethiopia, which was the world’s only supply of coffee at that point.

That all changed thanks to the arrival of Baba Budan in the late 1600s.

Baba Budan was a Sufi saint from India and by 1670 he was on the road to Mecca. On his way back home, he managed to smuggle fertile coffee beans and bring them all the way to India. This was, of course, illegal at the time because Yemen declared coffee import and export to be under their command.

With the coffee beans in tow, Baba Budan launched India’s first coffee farms and the impact of his work continues to this day. Southern India’s coffee plantations remain as some of the largest producers of coffee in the world.

The Dutch also wanted to cultivate their own coffee farms and aimed to start with small plantations in their home farms in Holland, now referred to as the Netherlands. Like Baba Budan, they managed to get their hands on smuggled fertile beans but the extremely cold climate of the Netherlands killed their plants.

However, the Dutch got a second chance when the Dutch Governor of Java, Indonesia received coffee seedlings from visitors in Ceylon (now modern-day Sri Lanka). They too experienced difficulties and natural calamities almost wiped out their first few attempts of cultivation but the Dutch persevered and by 1704 they managed to grow more coffee in Java.

They soon became one of the world’s leading suppliers of coffee. To this day, people still purchase Java coffee and it’s regarded as one of the best-tasting variations too.

Don’t worry, the Dutch victory doesn’t end with coffee in their colonial territories. We’ll get back to them later down the line.

Coffee Hits Europe

By the 16th century, the drink reached Italy and the rest of Europe. From there, the Dutch introduced coffee to the East Indies and later to the New World. The Dutch even brought coffee saplings to continue growing and marketing them across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Let’s dive deeper into coffee’s trek through Europe and how it dealt with religious persecution and prejudice.

The Devil’s Cup

While Baba Budan and the Dutch colonists were smuggling coffee out of Yemen, traders from Ethiopia and Arabia introduced coffee to Venice by 1570. While it also took off quickly with the drinking public, those in charge — particularly the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church — were not quick to latch onto its popularity.

Suspicion among the clergy grew. Coffee was, after all, an exotic, dark liquor coming from neighbors in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Many members of the church assumed the drink was some form of Muslim antiquity and that drinking it was an offense to Christianity. It was unholy and a rebellious act against the Church to drink coffee. Clergymen referred to it as the “bitter invention of Satan” and others still started calling coffee “Satan’s Drink” or “the Devil’s Cup.”

Others outlawed coffee because its popularity positioned it as a threatening substitute for wine in the Eucharist. No priest at the time wanted to admit they’d allow a drink from Islam used for the Holy Mass of Christ and so it got banned and labeled rebellious.

That all came to an end thanks to Pope Clement VIII. He intervened in 1615, during the height of suspicion surrounding coffee in Rome, and decided to give it a taste. Upon drinking coffee, he declared it was so delicious that it must indeed be a trick of the devil. To combat it, Pope Clement VIII stated the church should baptize coffee and convert it into a drink welcomed by Christianity.

Origins of Coffee in England

By the mid-1600s, coffee spread out of Rome and into its neighboring European countries. The first coffee house in England came into existence by 1650, in Oxford. That location still stands today and is now known as The Grand Café.

London followed suit and opened a café in 1652 at St. Michael’s Alley. The proprietor was a Greek named Pasqua Rosee. Rosee also had a coffee stall in Paris, France, which operated until 1672.

Much like in Arabia, coffee shops in Europe became the go-to hotspots for discussion among the wise and literate. Educated men would socialize in these establishments to talk about world news, research, and gossip.

It didn’t take long for these businesses to spread like wildfire. There were over 3,000 cafes in England alone by 1675.

English Women v English Coffee

Did you know that the popularity of coffee in England led to debate between men and women? By the 1660s, men would spend more time in coffee shops then they would at home or at work.

Writer Mary Astell published an outcry of women against coffee in 1696. In her publication, she stated men would leave to spend hours at a coffee shop to “handle the nation” and discuss topics of national interest but could do little to “handle their families.”

This is an echo of previously published work, such as the 1674 article, Women’s Petition Against Coffee. In this article, women complained that men neglected their duties to spend time discussing matters and drinking coffee. There were also outlines stating that coffee was causing men to lose their sexual appetite and that the black Arabian drink caused impotence.

However, men retorted and claimed that impotence was the result of lesser drinks, such as poor wine or ale. They claimed coffee improved sperm production and enhanced ejaculation. It was the manly drink, they claimed, that helped men grew their chest hair and strengthen their muscles and minds alike.

Despite women’s efforts, the coffee industry had already tightened its grip on England.

Coffee Swoons Over France, Austria, and Germany

When most people mention the word café, they often think of outdoor coffee shops in Paris, France. However, coffee didn’t hit France until the late 17th century. It didn’t even come from Yemen or Ethiopia.

Instead, it was the Turkish Ambassador who brought coffee to Paris.

In 1669, the Ambassador introduced the black drink to the Royal Court of King Louis XIV. Like Pope Clement VIII, the king grew fond of coffee rather quickly and it became the drink of choice in his court. Every noble in the presence of the king drank and praised coffee.

France would quickly fall in love with coffee. Before the end of King Louis XIV’s rule, there were over 300 cafes in Paris alone. In the next few hundred years, France would also become a revolutionary force when it comes to coffee preparation. You have France to thank for many of the coffee-brewing technology we enjoy today!

The café au lait, a popular coffee drink that mixes brewed coffee and milk, comes from France.

Like in most places where coffee struck first, most cafes in France become the hotspots for the savants, columnists, and adult gentlemen. A café in France was the place to go for the latest gossip, political debate, or scientific discussion. As discussed above, it did draw ire from the women of France but this didn’t last long as even the women quickly grew to love coffee.

Although espresso-based drinks draw their history from Italy, one could say that the country most in-love with coffee was and still is France.

During the late 17th century, the Turks attempted to invade Vienna, Austria. They suffered defeat at the Battle of Vienna and in 1683, Austrians began taking advantage of the spoils of war. Among the things left by the Turks was coffee.

Jerzy Franciszek Kulczyck, one of the Polish servicemen in Austria at the time, received bags of coffee and opened the country’s first coffee house. He called it the Blue Bottle and it popularized the mélange, a Viennese drink that mixes coffee with hot water and hot foamed milk.

Coffee didn’t reach Germany until the 1670s.

The northern ports of Bremen and Hamburg became the earliest hotspots for coffee shops. It’s also interesting to note that Germans initially spelled coffee as “coffee” but then later adapted the French spelling, “café.” This later morphed into “kaffee” and this is the spelling that Germany continues to use today.

Popularity of coffee in Germany spread quickly and even music composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was in Leipzig, wrote music with lyrics that reflected the drink’s rising infamy. In his song Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, the lyrics highlight the woes of a young woman as she tries to convince her father to give in and approve of her love for coffee.

Dutch Victory

If Ethiopia was the motherland of coffee and Yemen was the gateway that brought it to their neighbors, it was the Dutch that brought coffee across the Globe. As mentioned, it was the Dutch that brought coffee to Indonesia and they were also responsible for introducing coffee to France.

Bringing coffee to the Royal Court of King Louis XIV led to a few ramifications that changed the history of coffee forever.

For one thing, the Dutch also brought coffee to Japan by the mid to late 1600s. However, Japan remained closed off from the rest of the world and import and exports were strictly supervised. It wasn’t until Japan opened its ports to the world in the Meiji Era that coffee began taking a hold of the country.

By the 1880s, European coffee houses began to spring up in Tokyo. By the 1930s, Japan had over 30,000 coffee houses. There was a brief lull in coffee’s reign during World War II but this ended by the 1950s as Japan re-opened its doors to foreign traders.

Today, Japan is now one of the world’s leading consumers of coffee. Cafes are a big deal in Japan, almost as much as tea, and you’ll even see the cultural impact of coffee in films and anime.

Introducing coffee to Japan and Indonesia was only the beginning of the Dutch victory. For a few centuries, they became the sole supplier of coffee for many of the nations in the east. 

However, the spotlight of world domination in spreading coffee slipped through their fingers.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

The Dutch brought coffee to King Louis XIV but it was a French sailor that brought coffee to the New World.
French naval captain Gabriel de Clieu, stationed at the Caribbean island of Martinique, went back to France and visited Paris right when the Dutch brought their coffee samples to the king. It’s unknown whether the captain stole clippings from the coffee saplings or if King Louis XIV himself commissioned Gabriel to bring them with him on his way back to Martinique.

The journey across the Atlantic was not an easy one. Gabriel de Clieu had to give up his own supply of fresh water to keep the coffee clippings alive. Some versions of the tale state he nearly died of thirst and that he took water meant for the ship’s workers to keep the coffee plants alive long enough to reach the western shores.

Regardless of the validity of these tales, the journey wasn’t easy but, in the end, he managed to start a plantation across the Caribbean in 1720. Coffee plantations became one of the leading industries for the French colonies thought they were significantly slowed down when slave laborers revolted (the Haitian Revolution). 

The slave revolution permanently put a dent in the colonial coffee plantations. This slowdown in production would give way to their neighbors down south to become the largest coffee empire in the world.

The Largest Coffee Empire in the World

Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer of coffee. It dwarfs the production in Southeast Asia, India, and even the French colonies in the Caribbean islands.

During the reign of Portuguese King John V, circa 1727, sent the sailor Francisco de Melo Palheta to French Guyana. Upon reaching there, he had two accomplish two tasks: get coffee for the Portuguese colonies and to negotiate a truce between the Dutch and the French. Tales have it that the French Governor got so frustrated with de Melo that he almost kicked the messenger out.

However, de Melo persisted and managed to gain the trust of the Governor’s wife. Whether it was a platonic or romantic relationship is still up to debate. Regardless, she managed to smuggle fertile beans and clippings for him.
Although he managed to introduce coffee production to Brazil, the industry wouldn’t find success until the early 1820s. In the 1850s, Brazil became the world’s largest producer and supplier of coffee, a title that the country maintains to this date.

How much coffee? Brazil alone provides over a third of the world’s coffee. When paired with Vietnam, they provide more than half of the world’s supply of coffee.

By 1893, Brazilian traders brought coffee to Kenya and Tanzania. Both countries are neighbors to Ethiopia, the original source of the world’s coffee supply. This brought coffee back from its journey across the Atlantic.

North America – Tea to Coffee

To understand the full blast of coffee origins in North America, you’ll have to go back to the 17th century. Captain John Smith and several other British settlers founded the first settlement, Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Simultaneously, John Smith introduced coffee. 

Although many historians consider Jamestown as the first settlement in the United States, it wasn’t the first attempt. A few years back, 1585 to be exact, the British attempted to put up a town in Roanoke Island. However, this first attempt did not last, and many settlers fell sick to new diseases and starvation.

While Jamestown faced similar conditions, the money-making potential of planting crops kept the town alive. During these years, coffee was a mere passing interest and most entrepreneurs focused on growing tobacco.
There simply wasn’t a growing economy for coffee. Coffee houses struggled to find footing in colonial America, where ale, wine, and tea served as the primary choices for consumption.

That all ended after the Boston Tea Party in 1773. By the end of the revolution, drinking tea — which people considered a British tradition — was unpatriotic. One infamous tale tells of patriots dressing up as Native Americans sneaking onboard a British vessel and dumping all of the ship’s tea.

Tea quickly grew out of favor with the public and people substituted it with coffee. In fact, the US is now the world’s number one coffee importer. It’s this dependency on coffee that built economic relationships with many coffee suppliers, such as nations in Central and South America.

Today, the United States continues to be a dominant figure in coffee. They don’t produce as much coffee as the rest of the world, but you cannot deny the one major contribution the US introduced: Starbucks. Yes, the one coffee chain that continues to spread its influence all around the world comes from the US.

We’re going to head back to the US as we dissect the history of coffee around the world and the rise of modern coffee machines and establishments. Before that, however, it’s important to discuss the rise of other coffee empires that sprung up from the initial colonization efforts of countries like France and Spain.

The Vietnamese Coffee Empire

While Indonesia, India, and Japan forged coffee plantations of their own, the true powerhouse on this side of the globe didn’t emerge until Vietnam and the Philippines entered the fray.

Vietnam didn’t get involved in production and world coffee trading until 1857. Like other East Asian nations, it was the French that first brought coffee to the country. Coffee continued to rise as one of the leading industries in the country until it become the second in terms of agricultural products, right behind rice.

Coffee, however, didn’t immediately grab onto the Vietnamese soil and climate. It was difficult to grow and the areas where it could survive were for rice production. To workaround this, the French decided to open new colonization zones in the highlands, such as the ones in the Dak Lak Province.

By the 19th century, coffee production shifted from small, isolated farms to large-scale plantations. The country’s first instant coffee plant, Coronel Coffee Plant, rose in 1969 and could produce a total of 80 tons of coffee in a year.
Production came to a screeching halt during the Vietnam War. Most production centered around a plateau sitting between North and South Vietnam. Although the area didn’t see much conflict during the war, people abandoned it since it was a frequently used crossroad between the warring sides.

Even after the North emerged victories, coffee production didn’t spring back to action. The new government collectivized coffee and thus limited the options for private enterprises. This resulted into a low production rate for years to follow.

It wasn’t until 1986 that Vietnam saw a resurgence in the coffee industry. Government reforms opened the doors for privately owned enterprises and this quickly led to a sudden interest in coffee plantations. That momentum continues to this day and now Vietnam supplies a majority of the world’s coffee, second only to Brazil.
However, Vietnam wasn’t the only Southeast Asian country with a tight hold on coffee.

Origin of Coffee in the Land of the Orient Pearl

A Franciscan monk brought and grew the first coffee sapling to the Philippines in 1740, particularly in Lipa, Batangas. Coffee grew into one of the biggest commodities in the area and other towns in Batangas quickly started growing coffee of their own. In time, Lipa would become the capital of Batangas and Batangas itself would identify itself as the coffee capital of the nation.

From there, coffee production spread nationwide.

The most remarkable thing of note is that the Philippines is one of the few countries where all four coffee varieties can grow. It’s one of the only places where you can grow Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica coffee. Even Vietnam, which overtook the Philippines as the leading Asian exporter of coffee, could only grow Robusta on normal soil.

By the 1860s, the Philippines became the primary exporter of coffee for the United States. Coffee exports entered the US through San Francisco. When the Suez Canal opened, Philippine coffee also made its way into Europe.

Two decades later and the Philippines became the fourth supplier of coffee around the world. For a few years, the country became the sole supplier of coffee worldwide when coffee rust, a type of fungus infection, spread across Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Unfortunately, coffee rust would also hit the Philippines by 1889. Unlike the other countries that managed to recover, the coffee industry in the Philippines remained crippled due to the onslaught from another calamity: an insect infestation right after the wave of coffee rust.

Coffee once again saw time in the spotlight by the 1950s, right after World War II. The Americans introduced newer varieties of coffee and the demand for instant coffee was high.

The Philippines now remains one of the biggest coffee providers and consumers in Southeast Asia, alongside Indonesia and Vietnam. Vacation hotspots like the northern city of Baguio thrive on coffee production and there are now thousands of cafes littered across the country.

By the time coffee made a comeback in the Philippines, the bean and its drink had made its mark on all corners of the Earth. Every nation, from the US to Japan, had cafes and different coffee drinks. It took its place beside wine, ale, and tea as a preferred liquid consumption for the public.

Did you know that the rise and fall of the coffee industry in the Philippines has a lot to do with the country’s economic dominance too? During the 1950s and 1960s, one Philippine Peso was equivalent to one US Dollar. That all changed when the country could no longer hold its place as the dominant supplier of coffee in the late 1960s.

History of Coffee Brewing

The history of coffee covers more than its initial sojourn across the seas. As coffee grew in popularity, newer methods of coffee preparation began to spring up. Many of these methods are still in use today. You may want to experiment with these different procedures to taste coffee in new and exciting ways! Of course, it all starts with the traditional coffee pot, which we’ll discuss in-depth below. Prior this this method, it’s widely believed that the earliest coffee enthusiasts didn’t brew coffee. Before coffee made its way out of Ethiopia, it’s possible people crushed coffee and chewed on it before they discovered they could use the beans for drinking.

Coffee Pots

The oldest method of preparing coffee is with a traditional coffee pot. Prior to the spread of coffee to the Ottoman Empire, the oldest methods didn’t even involve grinding or crushing the coffee beans. To roast the beans, people used to dry them out in the sun. Once ready, the beans would then go into a pot filled with room-temperature water. This would then get placed over an open fire.
Coffee Beans Drying“, by “Fratello“, licensed under CC BY 4.0
You’d have to stay by the fire and keep stirring to ensure the beans wouldn’t burn. Although there is no recorded evidence, it is possible that Ethiopians sweetened their coffee drinks with sugar but not milk or honey. Over time, this method evolved as people learned to crush and grind coffee by hand. The Ethiopian process now involves roasting beans on a pan and then brewing them in a clay pot for hours. Sugar is then introduced to sweeten the final product. Nowadays, Ethiopians practice a celebration called a “coffee ceremony,” which some liken as their version of an English teatime. This ceremony can stretch to 2-3 hours and involves the whole family. It’s a celebration that signifies friendship and respect. During this ceremony, the head of the family must pour more water for a second and third brew, which is why the event can last for hours. Yes, using the same coffee grounds for multiple brewing weakens the flavor of subsequent cups but Ethiopians consider the final drink just as important as the first. Families often perform this ceremony 2-3 times a day. Traditional coffee pots come from clay molding. This allows them to withstand hours of exposure to open flames. If you want to give this method of coffee preparation a try, look for an authentic clay pot. However, look for one with modern design ingenuity, such as coffee pots with a larger, flat bottom to guarantee even brewing and a sharp, tiny spout to keep the coffee grounds from pouring out.
There is one alternative method that some people across the globe do. They start by caramelizing sugar first. This is a process that involves heating sugar until it turns into a thick, dark brown syrup. Once this thick syrup is ready, they then proceed to the brewing process. Simply add coffee to water in a clay pot and brew this for 2-3 hours. It’s important to add the caramelized sugar during the middle of this long brew.

Turkish Coffee Brewing

As mentioned above, coffee became a major part of the Ottoman Empire and their people’s culture. In many ways, Turkish coffee brewing is similar to the traditional method above. However, there is a slight alteration in preparation that makes Turkish coffee taste stronger and creamier.

Here’s a basic step-by-step breakdown of the steps in brewing Turkish coffee:

1. First, you’ll need a Turkish coffee brewer. Many refer to this as a cezve or ibrik. It looks like clay cup with a long handle.

2. You’ll also need ground coffee. Don’t use the traditional grinders because the coffee has so fine it’s almost powder. Look for a grinder with a Turkish coffee setting to get it this fine.

3. Pour water into the cezve and place it on a stove set to medium-high heat. Most prefer to add coffee first before sugar but if you do, don’t stir the coffee yet.

4. Doing so will make it clump. Wait for the water to warm up before you begin stirring.

5. You can then add a teaspoon or two of sugar. Stir the brew and set the heat to low. You can then keep stirring until you see foam begin to form at the surface.

6. Once take the cezve off the stove right before the coffee brew overflows. We’re not done yet, however!

7. Get a spoon and scoop off the foam. Most enthusiasts add the foam to the drinking cup.

8. Once the foam’s removed, put the cezve back to the stove and heat it again. Keep brewing until the coffee once again gets close to overflowing. Now you can pour the drink into the cup.

Some people like to add cinnamon or cardamom to their drink. Before drinking, make sure you wait a minute or two to let the remaining coffee grounds settle to the bottom. It’s also highly recommended to keep a cold cup of water nearby and to drink the coffee in slow sips.

In terms of taste, many argue that Turkish coffee is a tad bit stronger compared to a serving of espresso. That is true but only to a degree. Espresso coffee might taste a bit weaker, but it contains much more caffeine per serving.

Did you know Turkish coffee is also used in tasseography, a form of fortune-telling? Those who utilize this method will have the person who wants their fate read drink a cup of Turkish coffee. When done, they need to overturn the cup and let the coffee grounds spread on the saucer.

The fortune-teller will allow the coffee grounds to cool down and can then foresee the future based on the patterns left behind.

It’s also a popular wedding tradition for the bride-to-be to brew Turkish coffee for her fiancé and his family. As a test to his character, the girl may add salt instead of sugar and will judge the man’s patience and temper with his reaction to the drink. He has to drink the cup without a sign of displeasure.

Biggin Coffee Pot

When we tackled the history of coffee in France, we gave it a quick glance-over. However, the real significance of coffee in France started in the 18th century, when the country began experimenting with different ways to prepare coffee. Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, the Archbishop of Paris, declared that the best way to prepare coffee wasn’t to boil it. He stated that boiling coffee ruined the taste. He instead wanted to focus on coffee preparation that involved fusing coffee grounds with hot water. One such method was with the Biggin coffee pot, which many accept as the world’s very first commercially available coffee maker. A Biggin coffee pot often had 2-3 chambers. The upper most chamber, right below the lid, contained a filter.
During the earliest designs, these coffee pots used socks or cloth filters. Some coffee pots even had another chamber to hold the filter and prevent the coffee grounds from pouring out of them. It wasn’t until a few decades later that metal filters began catching on. The spout was in the middle of the coffee pot. Using a Biggin coffee pot was easy. You simply need to ground coffee to a medium grind, place one spoonful per cup into the filter, and then pour hot water slowly over the coffee. The water would pass through the grounds and into the empty chamber below. If you want to avoid a burnt after-taste, make sure to remove the water from the heat right before it comes to a boil. Does it all sound familiar? It’s like a manual drip-coffee method. However, the Biggin coffee pot did have a major problem back in the day. Coffee grinders in 1780 to the early 1800s couldn’t grind coffee to the level needed for a Biggin coffee pot. Grind them too fine and they’ll go through the filter. If people grinded them too coarsely, the water would wash over them, and the coffee would taste bland. You’ll still find a lot of these coffee pots in French homes and cafes. Most of them feature a porcelain body instead of metal. Modern Biggin coffee pots also feature a few improvements, like a tin container that guarantees even distribution of water over the coffee. A fun little tidbit is that the French used large, wide cups for their drink. The delicate method of the Biggin coffee pot demanded for a cup large enough to take each serving. This created room for French brewers to experiment and this brought the development of café au lait, which means “coffee with milk.” Many people confuse café au lait with the Italian café latte. While sometimes interchangeable, since a latte is still coffee with milk, a latte utilizes shots of espresso instead of brewed coffee. However, many cafes use espressos when serving café au lait, further mingling the meaning of the two drinks.

French Press

With the name “French Press” it’s easy to assume that the device comes from France. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Both the French and the Italians lay claim to the history and origin of the French Press, also known as the cafetiere.
It is possible that the earliest versions came from France. These early prototypes used cheesecloth screens and other metal filters to filter out the coffee grounds, separating them from the drink. In fact, two French designers named Mayer and Delforge patented a prototype in 1852. This sadly did not get them very far. A new patent got filed in 1928 and this was in Italy. Milanese designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta authored the patent. They kept on revising and improving the device but it wasn’t until they brought on Swiss-Italian designer Faliero Bondanini that it developed further. Bondanini added his own patent in 1958 and this features the design most people are aware of. His coffee press featured a thin cylindrical glass. The lid came with a rod and a metal mesh that a person could press down. This became the go-to design for all French Presses even to this day. Bondanini would then begin mass producing his French Press in France, particularly in a clarinet factory. He branded the coffee makers under the Melior label. A British company called Household Articles Ltd. and the Danish company, Bodum, would later manufacture their own French Press and bring it across Europe. Even with their help, the French Press didn’t catch on until a few years later. It got featured in the 1965 movie The Ipcress File, which starred Michael Caine, and this aided in its rise to popularity among the masses. Nowadays, you’ll find a wide variety of French Presses. Hikers tend to get the ones made from reinforced plastic, similar to travel mugs. Others feature an insulated press, which helps keep the coffee inside hot, akin to a thermos. There is also a pull-up variation. Instead of pressing down to keep the coffee grounds separated, these coffee makers require users to pull up, dragging the coffee grounds with the mesh. You may also use French Presses for cold coffee brewing.

The Percolator

A percolator was one of the first brewing machines that kept the coffee grinds out of the finished drink. Inside the percolator is a large chamber with a flat, round bottom. As water boils, hot water shoots up a vertical tube that reaches the top lid. The lid features a spreader plate that allows the hot water to gently go back down.
This hot water then drips over a mesh containing coarse coffee ground. This portion also contains a metal filter to ensure the coffee ground doesn’t fall into the water below. The hot water will continue to seep through the coffee ground until it goes back into the bottom chamber. You’d have to keep this process going, allowing it to cycle through several times, until the percolator stopped making its loud spouting noises. At that point, you can turn off the heat and serve the drink. One early prototype was first designed by Sir Benjamin Thompson, an American-British scientist. However, credits for inventing the first real percolator goes to Joseph Henry Marie Laurens, a tinsmith from Paris, France, in 1819. The percolator didn’t reach the US until 1865, when it got introduced by James Nason of Massachusetts. His percolator different from the one used in France and it didn’t catch on quite as well. He was later trumped by Hanson Goodrich from Illinois, who in 1889 patented the modern US coffee percolator machine. Although you may still find percolators today, most coffee shops no longer rely on them for brewing coffee. This is because modern drip-coffee machines and siphon coffee makers get the same job done but better.

Siphon Coffee Brewing

What’s a siphon coffee maker? It’s a device that utilizes gravity and a vacuum to separate brewed coffee from the coffee grinds. In many ways, it’s like an upgraded version of the old percolator. Vacuum coffee brewing, also known as siphon brewing, goes all the way back to the 1800s. The Biggin coffee pot and other drip coffee methods were beginning to take a hold on Europe, particularly around France and Italy.

Siphon Brewing“, by “LittleCoffeePlace“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Over in Berlin, Germany, another brewing method would quickly make the rounds. Don’t worry, this tale will quickly cycle back to France! Leoff of Berlin was the first to officially file a patent for a vacuum coffee maker. He did so in the 1830s but didn’t push forward with refining his design and neither did he make his coffee maker widely available for the public. That job fell to a woman from Lyons, France: Marie Fanny Amelne Massot, also known as Madame Vassieux on her patent files. She designed and eventually patented the first commercially available vacuum coffee pot in 1840. It was an elegant design and many assume the Madame clearly intended to display her invention in dining rooms, not tucked away in the kitchen. Rumors have it that Madame Vassieux was a courtesan and was a popular face among French nobles. This gave her the freedom and power to continue improving her design. When it was time to market and manufacture, she had the connections in the court to get the job done. She manufactured so many of these that you may find one of them for your collection if you’re lucky enough. Of course, she wasn’t the only one working on a siphon coffee maker. A Scottish inventor by the name of Napier created his own version. It too was for display. Although he never filed an official patent, he did gain recognition by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the year 1856. How did the siphon coffee maker it into the US? It didn’t happen until 1910, when Mrs. Sutton and Mrs. Ann Bridges filed their own patent for a siphon variation called the Silex. It’s still unconfirmed if the two ladies designed the coffee maker themselves but they did file the patent and worked to get it manufactured and distributed in the US. The Silex featured Pyrex glass for the two chambers of the coffee maker. This was a vast improvement over the ones from Napier and Madame Vassieux. It’s been so effective that most siphon coffee makers meant for home use look quite similar to the Silex original. How does a siphon coffee maker work? You start by boiling water in the bottom chamber. Once the water begins to boil, add coffee ground to the top chamber and place it over the bottom chamber. The built-up steam will push the hot water through the stem between the two chambers until it eventually goes into the top chamber and mixes with the coffee grounds. Stir the coffee and let it brew. You can then remove the siphon coffee maker from the stove (or turn off the burner if it uses one). With the source of heat gone, the evaporated water will begin to contract and create a vacuum that will suck the brewed coffee back into the bottom carafe. There are also advanced siphon coffee makers, like the ones you’ll find at Starbucks or other high-end coffee shops. These require more delicate hands because there is a sophisticated process in regards to stirring, timing, and handling the coffee maker.

Modern Drip Coffee

When people talk about brewed coffee, the modern automatic drip coffee maker is often the first thing to come to mind. These wouldn’t enter the picture until the 1970s but the earliest steps to get there started as early as 1908. A German business woman named Amalia Melitta Bentz felt frustrated from the filters used in percolators. Coffee brewed with a percolator wasn’t consistent and it was too easy to over-brew the drink. As an experiment, she took a sheet of blotting paper from her son’s notebook and placed that on the tin mesh in her percolator.
To her surprise, it worked and produced a much more consistent drink. She quickly began the world’s first drip coffee company and got her patent for the filter in 1908. By the end of the same year, she launched the M. Bentz company, which would later become the Melitta Group. Her invention of a proper filter would pave the way for the modern drip-coffee machine. In the 1970s, a company called Mr. Coffee would release the first automatic drip-coffee machine. In many ways, it functioned similar to a percolator, but it ran on electric heat. An automatic coffee brewer has two chambers: one is a reservoir for cold water and the other contains the filter and ground coffee. The reservoir also contains a heating element like a coil. When the machine is on, the heating coils begin to warm the water and bring it to a boil. The steam passes through a tube and then condenses back into hot water, right onto the finely ground coffee. The water infuses with the coffee and eventually drips down into a glass carafe. Over time, the technology improved and now we have coffee makers that get water to the right temperature. Remember: the ideal temperature is 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 to 96 degrees Celsius). Modern drip coffee makers can guarantee a consistent temperature every brew. Nowadays, you’ll even find smart coffee makers. These utilize a WiFi connection and smart programming to brew coffee at specific hours. They even allow you to control the coffee maker using your phone. Say you put coffee grinds in there before you left for work. As you’re driving home, you can get on your phone, access the app, and command the coffee maker to start brewing. This ensures you’ll have a hot cup of coffee the moment you walk through the front doors. Coffee pads and Keurig K Cups might look like vastly different inventions but they follow the same technology as a traditional automatic drip-coffee machine. The only difference is that the coffee is now within a closed pad or cup. K cups, in particular, require a machine that can hold and puncture the cup. K cups require pressurized water, which can make their drinks slightly stronger than a traditional cup of brewed coffee. However, they don’t utilize as much pressure as an espresso machine. You can think of their drinks as an improvement over traditional drip coffee but not as pure as an espresso.

The Long Journey of Espresso Machines

All the brewing methods above take time. It could take as little as five minutes to two hours before someone could enjoy their cup of coffee. For people in the late 19th century, that was too much time wasted but no one wanted to give up drinking coffee. To resolve this issue, many inventors attempted to speed up the process. Steam was a common utility given that this era was amid the rise of steam technology. However, it was until 1884 that someone cracked it.

Steam-Powered Beginnings

Angelo Moriondo, an inventor from Turin, Italy, patented the world’s first instant coffee machine that year. It too ran on steam power. This laid the groundwork for future devices but it was more of a bulk brewer than a proper espresso machine. Unfortunately for Moriondo, he never marketed the machine and neither did he create more for commercial profit.

Angelo Moriondo“, by “Nick Colebatch“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

In 1901, a mechanic from Milan named Luigi Bezzera patented a vastly improved machine. It was his work that gave birth to the portafilter that espresso machines use today. Most importantly, his improved machine featured a boiler that would eventually push hot water and steam through a tightly packed puck of finely ground coffee. Tamping coffee this way is now a part of the process in brewing a shot of espresso. There were a few major hiccups. The water had to sit over an open flame. This meant it was nearly impossible to stay consistent with the water’s temperature and pressure. In the world of espresso, consistency is a must. A good shot of espresso required a lot of pressure — 9-10 bars of atmospheric pressure, to be exact. Even with his improvements, Bezzera’s machine could only pump out 1.5-2 bars of atmospheric pressure. However, the problem wasn’t with his design but with steam technology. There was only so much that they could do with the power they had. One other issue was that the lack of control meant they were pushing boiling water and steam through the coffee grinds. A good shot of espresso utilizes hot water at a consistent 195-205 degree Fahrenheit setting (90-96 degrees Celsius). All of that changed when Desiderio Pavoni and Pier Teresio Arduino entered the picture.

The La Pavoni Period of Espresso

Pavoni purchased Bezzera’s patent in 1903 and kept Bezzera for some time. One of Pavoni’s first innovations was the invention of the pressure release valve. This addition prevented the coffee from splashing out of the device, a common complaint from baristas at the time. He also added the steam wand located within the boiler. This wand collected the heated steam and funneled upwards to the next chamber. Together with Bezzera, they introduced their machine, the Ideale, to the world during the 1906 Milan Fair and became the first to use the term “cafee espresso.” The true meaning of the word “espresso” is double-fold. It refers to “express,” meaning the quick brewing capability of the machine, but it also referred to the technique of applying pressure through a thick puck of coffee.

La Pavoni“, by “Alex“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

If you look at their devices today, they look like they come straight out of a Jules Verne novel. They were steam-powered machines, after all, bulky and built with chrome and brass to withstand the heat. Unfortunately for Bezzera, his time in the spotlight didn’t last long. There are rumors Pavoni bought him out of the company but there’s no tangible evidence to support or deny this claim. Either way, it was Pavoni that kept the Ideale in the market and he would continue to improve the machine as the years passed by. One improvement was the shift from steam to electricity. This enabled Pavoni to make his newer espresso machines smaller and more modern-looking. He eventually introduced his machine to the United States in 1927, bringing a La Pavoni espresso machine to New York. Despite all his efforts, however, Pavoni only managed to circulate the espresso machine within Milan. It wasn’t until Pier Teresio Arduino entered the fray that café espresso reached other parts of Europe. Arduino was a competitor and he was a marketing genius. He hired designer Leonetto Cappiello to create some of the most iconic posters that not only highlighted espresso’s strong taste but also the speed of brewing. Arduino also experimented with pistons and pumps, hoping to break the 2-bar barrier that all espresso machines at that point faced. Unfortunately, he never got around to it.

Birth of the Modern Espresso Machine

The man to invent an espresso machine that could increase water pressure beyond 2 atmospheric pressures was Achille Gaggia, also from Milan. He owned a café and for years kept on refining the technology that Arduino introduced. Right after the end of World War II, Gaggia invented an espresso machine that utilized steam pressure to push boiling water from the boiler into a cylinder. A spring-piston level, manually controlled by the barista, could then add more pressure. The barista could then pull the lever and release the water into the tightly packed puck of coffee and produce a pure shot of espresso.

Automatic Espresso Machine“, by “DarrinsCoffee“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

His machine could reach a standard atmospheric pressure of 8-10 bars. Not only that but the design and use of cylinders removed the need of a large boiler. The lever also became the origin of the term “pulling a shot.” Gaggia’s espresso machines were small and they could only hold one ounce of water. This became the industry standard for a shot of espresso. Pull the lever a little longer and you’ll get a lungo but if you stop short you’ll get a ristretto. Another innovation from his device was the discovery of crema. Early adopters didn’t trust the floating foam they found on their shots but Gaggia turned this around quickly. He stated that his espresso was so pure and properly made that the coffee created its own cream — which turned out to be true! Gaggia’s piston espresso machine wasn’t the end of the revolution, however. By 1961 Ernesto Valente would invent the Faema E61. His machine replaced the need for a barista to manually pump the machine to increase atmospheric pressure. The E61 instead used a motorized pump. It also drew water directly from the tap line and then directed water through a copper wire within the boiler before it would hit the coffee grinds. It also featured a unique heat exchanger to maintain optimal temperature. With Valente’s innovations and further improvements, the modern espresso finally emerged. A good espresso comes from 4 M’s:
  • Macchina – this refers to a reliable espresso machine
  • Macinazione – proper grinding of the coffee beans
  • Miscela – a good roast and blend
  • Mano – the ability of the barista
Get all four right and you’ll end up with a perfect espresso. Most baristas aim to achieve the “perfect pull,” which means getting everything right in one shot. This is easier said than done – it’s easy to make a mistake while tamping the coffee, maintaining temperature, or pulling the lever. Of course, with the perfection of the modern espresso machine comes a bunch of different drinks. You’ll get the standard shot of espresso but when you add varying degrees of froth milk, steamed milk, or water you can create a cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and others.

History of Modern Coffee

When you think about coffee, your mind is likely going to drift to Starbucks. But did you know Starbucks is only a part of the second-wave of coffee houses? Here’s a quick dive into the three waves or generations of coffee houses and how they impacted the industry:

First Wave Coffee Houses

The first wave traces back to the 1800s. Companies like Maxwell House and Folgers began making the rounds. Nobody wanted to purchase coffee unless it was from these trusted brands. Maxwell House even popularized the quote “good to the last drop,” a quote they once stated came from former US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Good to the Last Drop“, by “Stacy Conradt“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Vacuum packaging, the invention of instant coffee, and the introduction of the automatic drip-coffee maker in 1970 by Mr. Coffee marked the rest of the first wave. Coffee houses during this first wave were basic at best. Unlike the cafes of France and Italy, coffee was often reserved for customers at hotels, taverns, and roadside restaurants. There weren’t many dedicated cafes until diners rose in popularity. They only started gaining footing by the 1950s and 1960s, when coffee houses became the center of youth entertainment. Italians were the first ones to open coffee houses but it didn’t take long for others to follow suit. These establishments became the center for people to discuss politics and music. Singers such as Bob Dylan started out playing in these little businesses. Unfortunately, the era of first wave coffee houses suffered from poor-quality coffee. There was a strong demand from the youth to understand where their coffee came from, how manufacturers roasted coffee, and how baristas prepared the drink. This demand for better coffee and an understanding of its origin gave birth to the second wave.

Second Wave Coffee Houses

It was during this period that people began to love coffee not only as a drink but as an experience. People began to understand the meaning of the words latte, cappuccino, and espresso. However, during this period there was a shift from understanding coffee to making it a high-end social experience.

The Early Years“, by “Shiela Farr“, licensed under CC BY 4.0

You can’t discuss the second wave of coffee houses without mentioning Starbucks. The chain started in 1971, in Seattle, Washington, and was the brainchild of Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker. They learned how to roast beans from an entrepreneur named Alfred Peet and the trio decided they’d prioritize high-quality coffee. During their first year, they bought coffee solely from Peet and they only sold roasted beans. They didn’t begin selling coffee drinks, particularly espresso-based drinks, until 1986. By 1987, the trio sold the business and its six locations to manager Howard Schultz and he quickly began work on expanding the Starbucks label. By 1992, there were over 140 Starbucks locations. During the last year under the original owners, Starbucks earned $1.3 million. Under Schultz, the company earned over $73.5 million in 1992. Come 2019, the company’s market value sat at $110.2 billion. However, Starbucks wasn’t the only business to rise during the second wave. Other coffee houses rode on the coattails of the youth’s desire to socialize in cafes. Other businesses recognized that cafes were becoming the go-to joint for intellectuals. Some of the other businesses to emerge from this period include Seattle’s Best Coffee, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Dutch Bros. Coffee.

Third Wave Coffee Houses

The third wave began circa 2002 and marks the shift once again from socializing in coffee houses to prioritizing high-quality coffee roasts and well-made espresso drinks. Many historians see this as a reaction to bad coffee and the commercialization of coffee.
Coffee houses, Starbucks included, began to prioritize other elements of coffee manufacturing. Everything from the quality of the soil to the roasting process got scrutinized and refined. All of these changes aimed to produce better-tasting coffee that people would enjoy. There was now a focus on going to coffee houses to experience excellent coffee. It wasn’t a social event anymore. Most people who went to coffee houses during this wave would bring their laptop or phone to work in silence, enjoying a good cup of coffee along the way.

Enjoy the History of Coffee in Every Cup

From the early days of exporting coffee from Ethiopia to the rise of the modern espresso machine, the history of coffee has a lot to unpack. The next time you brew a cup, take a moment to think and look back at the tumultuous journey the humble coffee bean endured to get this good. Of course, learning the origins of coffee is only the beginning. If you want to fully understand its impact, why not enjoy a cup in the morning? Get in touch with us right here to order!

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Try Bean to Mug today and enjoy the premium taste of our coffee. Don’t hesitate and start your day with a delicious mug of coffee today.

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Marc Abucejo

Marc Abucejo

Bean to Mug Founder

Marc is a Filipino Organic Coffee Lover and Founder of the Bean to Mug Movement. A Registered Nurse living in Los Angeles; he is very passionate and dedicated in sharing the Filipino Culture through all-natural coffee beans from the Philippines.

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