Coffee Break
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Written by Bryce Ringwood   


Time for a break after all that hard work. Put your feet up and turn on the radioA Cup of Coffee


 Now for some coffee.

Kaldi was a shepherd living in Ethiopa several centuries ago. Legend has it that he noticedhis sheep got very lively after munching on some red berries. So, Kaldi did what you and I would do - he tried them himself and thus a whole industry was born. Of course, like many true discoverers, it was someone else who got rich.

In my teens, life partly consisted of looking for a decent brew. The best plan was to use a saucepan and place grounds in the bottom. These would be covered with water and brought to the boil. Immediately it boiled, the pan was removed from the heat and the grounds were allowed to settle.Coffee Percolator

In the1950s coffee percolators were very popular (right). These were an aluminium "pot" containing a device consisting of a central tube with a perforated container at the top. The container had a perforated lid, and the percolator itself often had a glass lid so you could amuse yorself watching the brew develop. Water was placed in the bottom of the pot and gounds were placed in the perforated container The whole assembly was then placed on the stove. The water would boil through the central stem and flow over the coffee and back down again. The coffee did not taste all that great.

Around the same time "CONA" coffee was popular. This was a vacuum system - the water would boil in the bottom flask, forcing it into an upper flask with the coffee. When heat was removed, the coffee would be drawn into the bottom flask with the vacuum. It was OK, if you got the hang of it. CONA are still in business - so if you want a retro coffee maker to match your valve radio - pay them a visit.

Eventually, everyone became a fan of espresso coffee and cappuccino in particular. (Does "espresso" mean "squeezed" or does it mean "express" - quick. ? )Although espresso in the  UK was popular in the 1950s, the process had been invented in 1884 by Italian Angelo Moriondo.

An espresso maker wasn't something you could put in your kitchen, so gadgets like the "Moka Express" were made available. These also forced superheated water under pressure through a section of the machine containing the coffee.

The favourite coffee maker for the home is undoubtedly the filter coffee machine. Everybody has one or two (or three) of these. The hot water (not boiling) soaks coffee in a filter, and a grounds free coffee results in a lower glass container (or mug).

Moer Koffie Jug

Then there is the method used at CSIR where I worked. This was simply to put a coffee and chicory mixture in a cloth bag in a large coffee pot and simmer for the rest of the day. It was referred to as "Moer Koffie" and was fairly revolting,( I thought). Maybe its an acquired taste like hashish. But, I'm a "coffee man" so when they stopped making it to "cut costs", I still missed it.

Only a year or two (1901) after Angelo was inventing espresso, Mr David Strang of New Zealand was busy inventing Instant Coffee. It was sold as "Strangs Coffee" and advertised as being produced by the dry hot-air process. Nowadays, freeze drying is used. I don't think a decent quality instant coffee is too bad at all (that's British English for "I like it"). Provided that you don't use boiling water to reconstitute it, and you use a decent amount of the stuff, then you get a decent coffee.

In the 1950s, people had an odd idea about what "home-computers" would be like. They thought that they would be "large" and that the main application would be "for recipes" - or at least in the kitchen to sort out the housekeeping. Presumably, after you had bought one of these, there wouldn't be much left for housekeeping anyway.


Home Computer as seen from 1950s

This is how people in 1950 thought a 21st century home computer would be...


Computers eventually did end up in the kitchen-lots and lots of them, although the 1950s person wouldn't recognise them - do you?

Breville Bean to Cup

Maybe those futurologists of the'50s were quite near the mark

Yes they are in our coffee makers. They control the grind time for the beans, the water temperature, the pressure through the filter and, of course, whether its time to clean the thing. They are also there in the dishwasher, the breadmaker, the stove, the microwave .. and just about every gadget. This is all possible because the computer processors are, er, cheap as chips. (Had to get that in).

So however you enjoy it, remember "boiled coffee is spoiled coffee" and enjoy your coffee break.

1950s Computer Dream Image is taken from EXtreme Tech Website. 

Percolator is from Wikimedia commons.

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