Lady Inventors: The Coffee Filter Finagler

Cristen Conger

Courtesy: Pravaka
Courtesy: Pravaka

Brewing a pot of coffee was a messier affair in Melitta Bentz' day. The German housewife (along with her caffeine-addicted contemporaries) often had to contend with a bitter brew, chunky with excess coffee grounds. Back then, Bentz had two options when making coffee: 1) use a cloth filter that added another post-coffee cleanup step or 2) let the coffee grounds settle in the bottom of the pot, yet again, adding another post-coffee cleanup step. Thankfully for all of us, neither of those options would do for Bentz, and instead, she devised what "The World of Caffeine" called "the single greatest technological revolution in the preparation of coffee."

One day in 1908, Bentz ripped out a piece of blotting paper from her son's schoolbook and invented the paper drip brew coffee filter. Nesting the filter inside a perforated brass pot, thus saving herself from having to clean cloth filters and drinking coffee-ground-riddled joe, Bentz patented her idea under the name "filter top device lined with filter paper." The 1908 invention was an immediate hit, and the her namesake coffee company still exists today.

Sometimes, necessity is the mother of invention, and other times, as in Bentz's case, mothers -- and a decent cup of coffee -- are the necessities of invention.

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