The «Pharmaco-chemical» Coffeemaker (1802)
[disponible en français]
The table has been set with De Belloy… who attached his name to the coffeemaker from his (fictitious ?) nephew who heard about it from a tinsmith from Rouen, who went to Paris to make fortune with an idea coming from a chemist (Descroizilles). The trickster tinsmith whom history forgot the name.
The story continues along the same lines, with written proof this time, since 1800 marks the end of the Enlightenment period, which first sign is the appearance of the patents office…
Hence, under the title «Pharmaco-chemical infusion coffeemaker» («Cafetière pharmaco-chimique à infusion»), we found in 1802 the very first patent (certainly in the world) for a coffeemaker.
It is registered under three names: Denohe, Henrion and Rouch (respectively Owner at the Charenton carriers – Dpt of the Seine, Lamp maker, and Doctor at the Montpellier University).
The 1802 patent document (source: « Archives INPI »).
We don’t learn much on this coffeemaker from the original patent, the official document being only half a page with no detailed description or drawings (it is said that a coffeemaker model was left as a proof at the Arts and Crafts “Arts et Métiers” office)… but an interesting document can be found within the same folder.
Sir Rouch actually wrote a request for an additional patent in 1810 in which he pretends being the only inventor. He claims that Henrion, manufacturer of the said coffeemaker, abused him and was the only one to benefit from the invention in Paris. Does it remind you something ?
He asks the office « to consider authorizing [him] to have the said coffeemakers made (by whoever [he] will choose) and they will be, for sure, much simpler and practical than the first one made by Sir Henrion, who furthermore very badly realize them. »
In short, he was bitter… and certainly more after that extension request was refused to him (as the patent was expired).
Trickster tinsmith… or lunatic doctor ?
Almost nothing can be found about Pierre-Joseph Denohe (sometimes spelled Desroches), who was certainly the proxyholder for the patent request.
Joseph-François Henrion « the young », for his part, was living at the number 19 of Law Street (rue de la Loi, today rue Richelieu), and appears after 1800 in the business Almanac from Paris as a tinsmith/lamp maker. He patented, one year earlier, a model for a «Lamp with tubes and airstream». He was familiar, then, with the very new patent bureaucracy.
Concerning Rouch, it seems to be Pierre Rouch/Rauch mentioned by the Academy of Sciences in 1803 as the author of a memoir (a bit poor, as judged by the evaluation committee) entitled «Observations on the failing of common method for the preparation of coffee and means to rectify it».²
Fortunately, the description of the pharmaco-chemical coffeemaker can be found in another document, « The new dictionary of natural history applied to arts» («Le nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle appliquée aux arts»), vol. 4 (1803), p. 78… where it is attributed to Henrion :
« This coffeemaker has, in its interior, a cylindrical box with holes, which contain a grid with three perpendicular plans, between which is placed, by proportion, the coffee, in order to avoid to much tamping. We roast it as usual, and instead of grinding it, which decrease its quality, we only crush it. The coffeemaker has a double bottom; around it are placed two holes or the ends of two tubes. In both, and when we put the coffee in the internal grid and well covered, we put boiling water, first by the tube that ends in the compartment where the coffee is placed, then in the one that ends in the interval between the outer and inner body of the urn. We then plug the inlets to prevent evaporation. After twenty to thirty minutes of infusion, we extract the liquor by a tap, placed at the bottom of the coffeemaker. The coffee, made like this, offers a beautiful golden color; it keeps the taste of the fruit, and present more aromas and “teeth” than the ordinary coffee.»
To what the pharmaco-chemical coffeemaker looked like referring to the description.
Henrion being a lamp maker, there was certainly a”spirit lamp” below the urn in order to keep the water-bath warm.
Did Rouch saw the Descroizilles coffeemaker at Chaptal’s house (who was also a scientist from Montpellier) and only partially understood its principle ? Or did he really invented something new ? The De Belloy and Henrion coffeemakers are anyhow different in the way they are working (both coffeemakers are even compared in the «Coffee amateur manual» («Manuel de l’amateur de café, ou l’Art de cultiver le cafier, de le multiplier etc…») from Louis Clerc in 1828).
Finally, was the tinsmith Henrion the trickster from Rouen ?
In the french archives, we can find his trace back in Paris around 1800 and, in 1804, he his registered as the first (or at least one of the very first) manufacturer of coffeemakers in the repertory (under «Quinquets – Distillatoire à café»)…
Now, you can elaborate your own scenario: you have the choice between the different characters Descroizilles, De Belloy, Chaptal,³ Henrion and Rouch and as the murder weapon the choices are the alembic, the quinquet, the thurible, the coffeemaker or the salmon.
To be continued…
¹ Source: « Archives INPI », with their kind authorization.
² In is memoir from 1803 (resumed in the Procès-verbaux des séances de l’Académie des sciences T II, p. 408), Rouch recommends to not push the roast, to crush rather than pulverize (grind) the beans and is pleading for infusion rather than decoction. These three principal elements can be found in the description of the invention… in which the principle is laying between the De Belloy (if the coffee compartment was really above the infusion) and a kind of Bodum, with an integrated water-bath.
³ In 1793 he participated to the creation of the Arts and Crafts (Arts et Métiers) and, from 1801 to 1804, he is minister of the interior… it is hence him who delivered the patents.