Elevator to espresso (Episode 5)

From [a-] to [-zel], third part

The coffee «going big»

flag_fr [disponible en français]

During the XIXth century, the coffee became very popular in France and the coffee houses proliferated, even worrying the government that was for sure secretly wishing that all these people go drink their cup of coffee at home rather than discuss politics at the “café” down the street. Technically, it was the laws of nature more than anything else that were against the production of excellent coffee in large quantities. The necessity to «do the best, as fast as possible, and the most economical way» is a very difficult equation to solve, whatever the product considered. It is however the solution to this problem that participated to the birth of expresso.

The technologies proposed then answered somehow to the «doing the best the most economical way» but these solutions were never fast… and forced the barman to prepare large quantities in advance and keep it warm, which degrades its qualities over time.
– In the case of the Dubelloy type infusion, it is possible to reserve large quantities of hot water but the infusion is very slow.
– In the case of steam pressure coffeemakers (the «Italian» type), the extraction is fast but waiting for the water to boil can be long. Considering the quality of metals and soldering at these times, to keep boiling water aside, in a closed boiler, was exposing yourself to high risks of explosion.

For the third way of extraction (the siphon coffee), the coffee was prepared (supposedly) «in a minute» but only «on the table», for few cups. Waiting for the water to boil was certainly more distracting but rather long and presenting some risks (see the cartoon below). Anyway, it was impossible for coffee houses to use as many coffeemakers as clients…

Le Tintamare 1 Le Tintamare 2
Le Tintamare, March 5th 1852 (source: « Gallica »). “New coffeemakers are much better than the old ones, making you stay two more hours sitting at the table” “At the end of this time the result is often spectacular”

Actually, the development of small domestic coffeemakers certainly influenced the way very large coffeemakers evolved, bringing to the population a reference on how good coffee should taste and making them more demanding. The time when a coffee house could serve any sock juice (literally) or chicory instead of coffee was over… anyway for a part of the population, the national drink being still milky coffee, and adulterated coffee being still widely spread.

L’Eclipse, 1877 (source: « Gallica »). “Waiter, are you sure this is not chicory?” “Of course not, it is a chicory fake as everyone does, sir.”

The Romershaussen and Rabaut coffeemakers could produce large quantities of coffee, but it is not sure that these apparatus were ever used is coffee houses, their configuration seemed to be more adapted for exterior use.


Among the French patents, the first one to specifically worry about the production of large quantities of coffee is Joseph-Patrice DU BOURG (from  Paris living 5, avenue des Champs-Élysées). «Up to this date, no country ever produced caffé (sic) in large quantities and, for small quantities, everyone followed predictable principles». This is how his 1832 patent begins (delivered for ten year, which is quite rare at the time) entitled «Preparation method for large quantities of coffee with the use of steam». His patent does not present any drawing, only a description. The installation uses, «in a laboratory», a remote steam generator that push water through the apparatus holding the grind coffee between two grids and a metallic tile. The coffee drink is collected into a large container covered with porcelain or earthenware inside (in order to avoid the coffee taste to degrade and to maintain it warm without boiling it) and served using a tap. It is mentioned that this giant coffeemaker was able to produce tremendous quantities of coffee in a short period of time: 18 to 20,000 cups in 15 to 21 min using 150 kilos of coffee or 150,000 cups in less than 9h ! The claimed utility being to allow the distribution of coffee in the streets of a whole neighborhood, with trolleys, as it was done at the beginning of the XXth century.

Vendeuse de café 1Coffee seller in the streets of Paris in 1810

Vendeuse de café 2Coffee seller in Paris around 1900

It was also a matter of economy: « With the use of this invention the sugared milky coffee cup, of first quality, that sells today 60 cents will be delivered to the public at 15 cents. The double Moka coffee cup (1/4 of a liter) without milk, with fine sugar included will be at 13 cents ½ ». Here it is, the democratization of coffee.
The author takes the opportunity to criticize the « huge importation taxes on sugar and coffee », but knowing that this could plead against his request a precision is added as a note, mentioning that considering the collected tax, «this invention and its propagation will increase by few millions the State annual income».

Du Bourg ¹


Pierre-Médard GAUDICHON, in its 1838 patent entitled «way to make coffee, without ebullition or evaporation, and to obtain from this bean all the aroma that it contains» presents the very first «capsule-in» machine (it is the term used in the patent). Capsules for large quantities of coffee? Well, not any type of capsule, it is rechargeable and has a impressive size. It is in fact a Morize coffeemaker type (made on the principle of the so-called «Napolitan» coffeemaker), that can be flipped over a large porcelain vessel fitted with a tap. In his «essentials observations», at the end of the patent, it is specified that «the apparatus for barmen is the same but on a larger scale». He also adds a system that allows water to pass a second time on the ground coffee in order to prepare larger quantities (yuk). I wonder how it was possible to do this flip over operation without being scalded…

Cafetière Gaudichon
Coffeemaker from Gaudichon, 1838 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Gaudichon ¹


The apparatus proposed by André GIRAUD (liquorist distillator in Paris, 43, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière) in 1847, really starts to look like the first «Express» coffee machines. His system called «condensator, chemical apparatus, for the coffee and tea preparation», is composed by a copper tank of 8 to 9 liters capacity (for the «Half size» model), wood-fire heated, that sends water inside two «cylindrical portafilters 15cm deep and 11cm in diameter with double compartments supplied with three metallic filters» located on each sides of the boiler. The water pushed through these filters containing the grind coffee (or tea) is subsequently passing inside a serpentine in order to condensate the aromatic vapors and collected into two graduated crystal vessels, fitted with taps. These vessels are placed into a hot-water bath to keep them warm before serving. It is specified that the apparatus can produce 50 cups (tea on one side and coffee on the other) within 45 to 50 minutes and only use 4 to 5 cents for the heating source.

Cafetière Giraud
Giant coffeemaker from Giraud, 1847 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Giraud ¹


The Universal Exposition

Expo 1855 ²
Main building of the Paris Universal Eposition, 1855

1855 is the year of the first French Universal Exposition, held in Paris. An impressive building was constructed close to the Champs-Élysées for the event, that had a very long annexe (a 1.2km long and 17m tall glasshouse along the Seine) hosting the Machines Gallery.³

Plan Expo 1855
Map of the Universal Exposition site in Paris, 1855

It is in this annexe that was standing the new apparatus from Loysel, called «hydrostatic percolator».

Percolateur Loysel ²
Small version of the hydrostatic percolator from Loysel , 1855

Loysel, whose full name is Édouard LOYSEL DE LA LANTAIS, born in 1816 in Vannes, was the son and grandson of engineers. Engineer himself, professor of natural sciences and mechanics he is the author of a large number of publications and few patents. With good business abilities, he started patenting one of the very first advertising panel (1839 and 1842: «advertisement support called universal annunciator panel»), then a modified chess game (1841 and 1843), following his father’s path who invented earlier a board game. Products aimed to touch the general public… as his numerous coffeemaker patents.

The concept of his first coffeemaker was developed over different patents. The first one, from 1843, is described as a «kind of coffeemaker». It relies on the principle of a vacuum coffee pot that heats the milk at the same time using a hot water bath. The end tap is equipped with two pipes such that the coffee and milk are mixed to produced the number one drink in France (or England if tea is used instead of coffee) directly into the cup. It appears in the adds of different journals under the name «Parisian Coffeemaker».

Cafetière Lousel 1843 Loysel 1
First coffeemaker from Loysel, 1843 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Cafetière Parisienne 1

Cafetière Parisienne 2
La Presse, December 30th 1843-January 12th 1844 (source: « Gallica »)

One thing is sure, Loysel couldn’t sit still: he never gives the same address on his patents, surely looking for better business opportunities or the best publicity stunt. He left France for England in 1844, where he obtained nationality in 1849 and continues on its momentum. He makes a first come back in 1853 with a «sophisticated Dubelloy coffeemaker» then… the famous idea to solve the squaring of the circle: to use a new force for the extraction of coffee. Not a mechanical force this time but gravity ! The water being brought up high by the steam pressure is then subject to the Pascal law: it can stay there hot, waiting for extraction, that will be done at a force equivalent to the one that brought up that high. It was only a matter of figuring it out…

The result of this principle was giving coffeemakers of gigantic proportions that were not accessible to a small tinsmith, but typical of the rising industrial area.

Percolateur Loysel 1 Percolateur Loysel 2

Percolateur Loysel 3 Loysel 2
Hydrostatic coffeemaker from Loysel, 1853 (source: « Archives INPI »)

To this striking idea, Loysel adds a great marketing ploy: its «hydrostatic percolator» is presented at the Paris Universal Exposition… exposed there and ready to serve coffee cups to 5 millions visitors impressed by the invention. In the Cosmos magazine (Tome 7, p.127-135, 1855), it is said that the apparatus contains 2000 cups and cost 6000 francs, a fortune at the time. The coffee cup, itself, was sold for 20 cents.
After this successful run and at the end of the Universal Exposition, the percolator was moved at the café Frascati, rue Montmartre where it also encountered a great success. This success continues at the Omnibus palace, place du Palais Royal (where the percolator stayed up to 1860). After establishing the «General company of Percolators from la Seine», more machines are build, including smaller ones, and sold all over France.

Percolateur Loysel Palais Royal
Establishment of the Percolator, Place du Palais-Royal, 1855

Article Percolateur 1 Pub Percolateur 1
La Presse, February 8th and 21th 1856 (source: « Gallica »)

Article Percolateur 2 Pub Percolateur 2
La Presse, July 14th 1856 – Le Figaro, May 28th 1859 (source: « Gallica »)

Apart from that…

The routine continues. The year of the Universal Exposition, Jean Baptiste Antoine COUTANT, merchant in Paris (274, rue Saint-Honoré) present a coffeemaker system called «simplified coffeemaker» that is nothing more that a Dubelloy with boiling water, available at any time on the upper part, ready to pass through a tap. The infused coffee is collected into another compartment in the bottom part and is kept warm there by the boiling water. An ingenious and simple modification to the very first coffeemaker that had many days ahead of it, in “cafés” also.

Cafetière Coutant Coutant
Coffeemaker from Coutant, 1855 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Similarly, Jean-Baptiste DAGAND (living 388, rue Saint Denis à Paris) with his «apparatus-coffeemaker system proper to make coffee infusion by spraying and return of water», did not really invent hot water. Even if he pretends that his «apparatus-coffeemakers avoid all the inconveniences from the old coffeemakers based on other principle than mine. These inconvenient are mainly: a difficult reassembly anytime you want to use it, risks of explosion for the apparatus made of glass, the last ones braking so often, slowness of operation». He is proposing nothing else than a modernized Laurens coffeemaker (with a level indicator). Its target are clearly the vacuum coffee pots, for which the trend was fading away and which started to get bad reputation in the press. The advertising campaigns, that were making new with the old, was on its way… and this also was not about to change.

Cafetière Dagand Dagand
Coffeemaker from Dagand, 1855 (source: « Archives INPI »)

After Loysel

Article Percolateur 3
La Presse, March 18th 1860 (source: « Gallica »)

Loysel died in 1865 and the bad reputation, for him also, will come sooner or later. Some fragments can be found in the press, reporting incidents and explosions involving percolators, certainly caused by the aging of the apparatus.

Accident Percolateur 1La Presse, June 4th 1895 (source: « Gallica »): “Aman burnt by a percolator”

Accident Percolateur 2

Accident Percolateur 3

Accident Percolateur 4

Le Figaro, January 10th 1901- September 1st 1910-December 24th 1913 (source: « Gallica »): Reported percolator explosions.

But a milestone for expresso was set and Loysel left his name in the history as a precursor. He is also, above all, the inventor who attached the name «percolator» to these strange machines, making on demand large quantities of coffee.

To be continued…


¹ Source: « Archives INPI », with their kind authorization.

² Source: Hector Berlioz website.

³ Called a « beef treading a rose bed » by Mirabeau, the building was torn down in 1899 for the construction of the small and great palace of the 1900 Universal Exposition.


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