Elevator to espresso (Episode 6)

From [a-] to [-zel], last part (1802-1858):
The «unusuals»

flag_fr [disponible en français]

Here we go, you thought it was finished, that we’ve reached the end of the 180 french patents from the INPI… true that we hit the road from [a-] to [-zel] (Hadrot to Loysel, beginning with Denohe/Henrion/Rouch), allowing us some detours across the borders where precursors to french inventions can be found sometimes. This period was the french coffeemaker golden age, France being one bastion for innovations especially because scientists applied to coffee preparation all the techniques developed for pharmacology, chemistry or physics, scientific domains that were rapidly evolving at the time.

Before leaving the «Made in France» for a while, on the road to the «crema di caffè», I did not want to quit this period without mentioning some unusual inventions, more or less crazy that I found along this french patents review.

The automatics

Cafetière Durant Durant ¹
Coffeemaker from Durant, 1827 (source: « Archives INPI »)

First special mention to Nicolas-Félix DURANT (manufacturer from Châlons-sur-Marne), who in 1827, with his «coffeemaker in which the boiling water rise, by expansion of the steam, from the lower to the upper part, and in which, as soon as the water finished rising, the alcohol lamp that we do not use anymore shuts off suddenly» is the designer of the very first automatic machine (well, kind of).

Cafetière Gandais
Coffeemaker from Gandais, 1827 (source: « Archives INPI »).
Mentioned as being from Germany and fabricated in England, it is cited in the Durant patent.

It is a coffeemaker similar to the one from Laurens (or from Jacques-Augustin GANDAIS who’s 1827 patent is mentioned) but this one doesn’t require intervention after it is started. It is fitted with an internal pipe (for the rising of the boiling water) and a complex auto-extinction system for the alcohol lamp as soon as the water finish boiling. This extinction is caused by some water flowing to a counterweight which release a trigger mounted on a spring, that bring (at the same time) the hot water to fall on the grind coffee and a lid to cover the heating source. The timing of these events can be adjusted by turning a key that is graduated with the corresponding number of cups.

Cafetière Capy Capy ¹
Coffeemaker from Capy, 1827 (source: « Archives INPI »)

This principle is reproduced the same year by Louis-François CAPY, tinsmith lampist who was hosting Durant (271, rue Saint-Denis in Paris) and is the transferee of his patent. He proposed an improvement to the previous patent with simpler coffeemakers, the auto-extinction being triggered by the rising of the lower vessel as it is emptying from its water (again caused by the expansion of steam). The coffeemaker upper part is removable and is used to serve the coffee.

Cafetière Napier

Cafetière Bastien Bastien ¹
Coffeemaker from Bastien, 1842 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The auto-extinction of the lamp was also used in the case of a very popular vacuum coffee pot of horizontal configuration. These models are called «rocking coffeemakers» and have a very distinct design. Their configuration is identical to the one from Napier (an English who apparently made his around 1840… but the clear proofs are missing) or the one from Jean-Claude BASTIEN (a crystal carver who’s patent filled in 1842 presents a coffeemaker made of two globes mounted on a vertical axis to easily take if off from the heating lamp, but that was not a siphon).

Cafetière Gabet Gabet ¹
Coffeemaker from Gabet, 1844 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Instead of being linked by a fixed horizontal axis, the two vessels are mounted on a rocking system, such that as the water transfers from the first to the second vessel with the expansion of steam, the rising of the first vessel is releasing a lid that shuts off the lamp. When it cools down, the coffee infusion goes back to the first vessel (following the vacuum pot principle), that goes back to its initial position, indicating the end of the preparation. This type of coffeemaker is called «Gabet coffeemaker» since Adrien Emile François GABET is the one who invented and popularized it, his patent is from 1844.

Cafetière Gabet

This coffeemaker had a great success and a lot of models can still be found today. Other inventors such as VASSIEUX (1846), FIORINI (1847), PHARANT (1848), SUBRA (1850), PENANT (1851), WATEAU (1851 and 1853), DAUDEVILLE (1852), TURMEL (1853), and ROUSSELLE/DANGLES (1855) with their «nonexplosive enameled tin coffeemaker» proposed similar models. Its principle was also used in peculiar coffeemakers taking the form of steam locomotives (Toselli, Italy, 1861 and Demazy, France, 1887).

Cafetière locomotive

Other coffeemakers that can be classified as automatic (at least in the spirit), are the «apparatus proper to the preparation of coffee» from Antoine-Joseph REYDEMORANDE who proposed in 1842 a complete system that goes from roasting to the infusion of coffee in a cup.

Cafetière Reymorande Reymorande ¹
Coffeemaker from Reymorande, 1842 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The peculiar conceptions

Some coffeemakers have a very special style and can be recognize at first sight. It is the case of the «new coffeemaker» designed by Alexandre LEBRUN in 1838. It is also uncommon by its conception because it is a steam coffeemaker (Caseneuve type) but inverted : the hermetic closure system is reminding a pressure cooker, the coffee is tamped by a filter at the bottom and the water is heated from the sides with flames coming from an alcohol bath surrounding the base. When the water boils, the coffee comes out from a long stylized tube, fitted at the bottom of the coffeemaker.

Cafetière Lebrun Lebrun ¹
Coffeemaker from Lebrun, 1838 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Cafetière Lebrun

This style is so peculiar that one can recognize it straight away in the patent for an improvement completed by Armand GOYOT in 1849 (entitled «improvement for steam coffeemakers»).

Cafetière Goyot
Coffeemaker from Goyot, 1849 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Its design also crossed the Atlantic: it appears in the 1875 US patent from Louis C. LOMER («Improvement in coffee-pots», US172462 patent).³

Cafetière LomerLomer
Coffeemaker from Lomer, 1875 (source: « USPTO »)

From another style, the description from Adolphe DARRU in 1839 is not very precise but its coffeemaker patent title is really interesting: «New locomotive coffeemaker». It could be the very first coffeemaker exhibiting the shape of a locomotive (a design that was used much later) and it had what seems to be an level indicator (thus older than the one from Dausse).

Cafetière Darru Darru ¹
Coffeemaker from Darru, 1838 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Römershaussen proposed back in 1816 to use a air pump and the principle of suction to obtain plants extracts such as concentrate of coffee.

Cafetière Whitehead Whitehead ¹
Coffeemaker from Whitehead, 1840 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The English John WHITEHEAD was the first one in June 1840 to fill a patent in France using this principle applied to a coffeemaker under the title «Apparatus or coffeemaker proper to produce instant infusions of coffee, tea, cinchona, herbs and medicinal powders».

Cafetière Tiesset / Moussiet-Fievre

Tiesset Moussiet-Fievre ¹
Coffeemaker from Tiesset/Moussiet-Fievre, 1840 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Cafetière Tiesset
Coffeemaker from Tiesset, 1841 (source: « Archives INPI »)

It was shortly followed by Auguste Alexandre TIESSET and René-Louis MOUSSIER-FIEVRE who patented their «new filtering process by vacuum and at pressure» in September the same year. This patent was completed by another one (by Tiesset alone this time) in 1841 («Application of a filtering process using vacuum and at atmospheric pressure»).

The pistons (French press)

Cafetière Mayer / Delforge Mayer / Delforge ¹
Coffeemaker from Mayer/Delforge, 1852 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The ancestors of the French press (or piston coffeemaker) can be found in 1852 with Henri-Otto MAYER/ Jacques-Victor DELFORGE («Pressure coffeemaker with instantaneous filtration») and 1854 with Jean-Honoré LAVIGNE (hatter in Paris, «Coffeemaker system»). In both cases, the coffee is contained inside a filter that can be immersed into hot water with the use of a piston, which is not strictly identical the actual French press («Bodum» type). This principle seems very simple but it took a number of years before technology could allow the fabrication of a watertight filter, moreover coming down into a transparent vessel (the danish «Bodum» only appeared in the 1970s).

Cafetière Lavigne Lavigne ¹
Coffeemaker from Lavigne, 1854 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The technical improvements

Apart from the great technological advancements in the coffeemakers principle itself, there are few findings that are important to note.

Cafetière Doublet / Rouen Doublet / Rouen ¹
Coffeemaker from Doublet/Rouen, 1833 (source: « Archives INPI »)

It is the case of the «sophisticated coffeemaker» proposed in 1833 by Edouard DOUBLET and Pierre-Isidore ROUEN which is the first one to exhibit a safety valve, an addition that will be very useful for all the coffeemakers using steam pressure, considering the metal and soldering quality there were not that good. Its coffeemaker is functioning on the principle invented by Rabaut but with a simpler and safer conception: in addition to the safety valve, the filter is maintained by a spring pushing on the grind coffee. The water is rising between two nested «tumblers» and goes through the powder to produce coffee. It is mentioned that these innovations allows the use of a finer grind, improving the quality of the drink produced.

Cafetière Dausse Dausse ¹
Dausse coffeemaker, 1843 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The «kind of coffeemaker» from Joseph-Barthelémy-André-Amans DAUSSE is also worth to mention. Not necessarily for his drawing skills but because it is a renown pharmacist (we’re thus going full circle with Henrion and Descroizilles from the start) and that in 1843, he is the first one to focus his patent on a level indicator. Its coffeemaker is of the Dubelloy type and his «meter-float» is indicating the quantity of coffee remaining in the pot. His invention was advertized in the papers but also presented to the Arts-and-Crafts (Bulletin de la Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale, 1844. N° 475-486, p. 231) and reported in the Polytechnisches Journal (Band 94, Nr. XXXV. (S. 192–194), 1844).

Publicité DausseDausse coffeemaker, 1844 (source: «Polytechnisches Journal»)

Publicité Dausse

trkPublicité Dausse

Publicité DausseLa Presse, January 12th and February 14th 1844 / 1845 (source: « Gallica »)

dfvakeb.jpgPortrait from Amans Dausse. †

Born in Rodez in 1799, Amans Dausse came to Paris as a pharmacist in 1826 and soon manage the largest pharmaceutic laboratory of France. He had a true passion for coffee, apart from his patent and different coffeemakers models he also obtained a patent for a roaster in 1846 (the «Coffee roaster called counterbalance roaster (pondétorréfacteur)») and published the same year a very interesting small book called «The coffee amateur manual» («Manuel de l’amateur du café»).†

The nuts

L'amateur de café (Daumier)
Cartoon from Honoré Daumier, Monomanes series published in Le charivari, 1841. ²

To conclude, some eccentric inventions…

Cafetière Jossi Jossi ¹
Coffeemaker from Jossi, 1835 (source: « Archives INPI »)

In 1835, Philippe-Antoine-Barthélemy JOSSI report in his «new coffeemaker» patent a very complex system for the water heating: the «Calefactor with double caloric action through inside airstream». This device, used in the upper part of the coffeemaker, was apparently invented by some Dr Quenot. It is in fact a DuBelloy where the water is heated by flames surrounding a vessel with a form of a Kouglof mold (the said calefactor). When the water is hot enough it is sent on the coffee powder though a pipe fitted with a tap. Another vessel can be placed above to heat the milk at the same time. It’s not sure all that was secure or ever a success.

Cafetière Wateau Wateau ¹
Coffeemaker from Wateau, 1853 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Finally, Jules WATEAU who’s invention was so off the wall that it was the subject of an article in «Le Journal pour rire» («The journal for laugh»). Grand-grandnephew of the painter Joseph-Antoine Watteau (he then lost a «t» in his family tree), he offered in 1853 the «application of music boxes, ring tones, alarm clocks, ring bells, to coffeemakers proper to make coffee or tea on the table, called alcohol coffeemakers». For his invention, he uses a “rocking coffeemaker”, real emblem of the middle of this century, and adds to it an automate that is coupled with the lamp auto-extinguisher.

Cafetière à Musique
Le Journal pour Rire, April 21st 1855 (source: « Gallica »)

The light shuts off, the music starts. The coffeemakers, themselves, were not about to fade out…

To be continued…


¹ Source: « Archives INPI », with their kind authorization.
² One can read at the bottom : «The coffee amateur – The haff-cup easily becomes a second nature; we find many people who, as the amateur above, made it an unalterable rule to take a coffee, in order to ease the digestion, even when their revenues does not allow them to eat. It is admitted that life would be too much bitter without chicory.»
³ Thank you to Lucio Del Piccolo who sent me, among hundreds of others, this patent. He his, by the way the happy owner of a Lebrun coffeemaker and published some pictures of a Goyot coffeemaker on his blog (in Italian).
† Thanks to Rémy Bellenger who contacted me about his grand-grand=grand-father (Amans Dausse), to whom he dedicated a website (www.bellenger.fr/Dausse/) containing different archives. In particular, it is possible to find there the «Manuel de l’amateur du café», with reproductions of patents and coffeemaker from Dausse, and some documents about the laboratories he established.


Elevator to espresso (Episode 5)

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

The coffee «going big»

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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.

Elevator to espresso (Episode 4)

flag_fr [disponible en français]

From [a-] to [-zel], second part (1827-1842):
Un siphon fon, fon… les petites cafetières.*

The siphon coffeemaker (vacuum coffee pot), today known as the « Cona » or « Hellem » received all sorts of strange names at its origin: « Atmodepe-infuser », « Coffee-factor », « Myrosostic » or «atmo-pneumatic» coffemaker.

It is generally composed of two superimposed globes, linked by a pipe, and is working following two consecutive sequences. It first uses the steam pressure to transfer the boiling water from the closed vessel at the bottom to the top one, through a rising tube. The infusion takes place in the upper part where was placed the coarsely grind coffee. When the heating source is turned off, the steam pressure falls down. This creates a suction effect making the infused coffee to return into the lower vessel, the ground coffee being retained by a filter. This makes it an hybrid technique between the Dubelloy coffeemaker and the « Italian » coffeemaker (Bialetti type).

By just looking at the patents, one can think that this invention is (again) french and dates from 1835. This is due to the different creation dates for the Patent Offices across the world and certainly because of the destruction of some archive material, but also, as for Descroizilles and Charnacé, surely due to the discretion and humility of its inventor.

His name appears in the Bersten book¹ but it took me a long loop in time, from 1835 to 1842, in order to find a reliable proof in a very peculiar 1827 book. If this coffeemaker look like a laboratory instrument, it is not exactly by chance : its first description appears in a physics and mathematics journal !

But let’s start with the French patents…


Signature Boulanger ²

Under the poorly attractive name of « new vapor coffeemaker », Louis-François-Florimond BOULANGER (living in Paris, 43 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis), an architect born at Douai in 1807, fills the very first french patent for a siphon coffeemaker. Its description is very precise, but no so enthusiastic in regard to the novelty that is supposed to represent this invention to the small coffeemaker world.

Cafetière Boulanger
The Boulanger coffeemaker, 1835 (source: « Archives INPI »)

As a matter of fact, one can wonder how an aspiring socialist, student at the École des Beaux-Arts being busy to draw its « Palace for the exposition of art objects and products from the industry » for which he received the great price of Rome the following year (in 1836) could receive this striking idea. Maybe from the subject of its study ? (we’ll see…)


Signature Beunat ²

His fellow countryman Pierre-Marie-Joseph BEUNAT (from Thann in the Haut-Rhin), chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, was much more eloquent. In his patent, he is bragging his «apparatus to make infusions, named admopede infuser», a coffeemaker very similar to the one of Boulanger, in these words: «The apparatus adjustment is very easy, its look very pleasant, the operation is as well enchanting by itself and in addition a strong source of entertainment for a sick person or for a society» (sic).

Its patent covers large : more than the possibility to make coffee or tea, it is mention the possibility to prepare any drink requiring infusion of plants or herbs, and also the possibility to use it to prepare hot chocolate «but the one of good quality only». It could also be used… to «cook on the table, in front of the guests, many goods such as soft-boiled eggs, asparagus, etc.»… wonderful!

Cafetière Beunat
Coffeemaker from Beunat, 1836 (source: « Archives INPI »)


Signature Capette ²

After a first abandoned patent for an «improved eolipyle coffeemaker», Jean-Louis CAPETTE, maker of bronzes in Paris (43, rue du Temple), obtains not so long after a patent for a «Myrosostic coffeemaker», an apparatus identical to the one of Boulanger, but with the water vessel heat source arriving from the side.

Cafetière Capette
Myrosostic Coffeemaker from Capette, 1837 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Madame Jeanne RICHARD, born PIERRET (55, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin in Paris) often appears in the list of inventors associated with the vacuum coffeemaker (Bramah ¹ p. 81, Bersten ¹ p. 84).

Signature Richard ²

Its patent is a patent for importation and concerns a «Translucent physical coffeemaker with concentration of the vapor» also called Atmodes. In fact, this patents confirms the inventor’s origin and explains why Beunat, living in Alsace, heard about it. It is said that «the Atmodes system is really simple and used for a great number of years in Germany» (first clue).

Cafetière Richard
Atmodes coffeemaker imported by Richard, 1837 (source: « Archives INPI »)

The presented model is very close to the siphon coffeemaker… except that it is hermetically closed and equipped with a security valve on the top globe. This modification, that is not so fortunate, seems to come from Madame Richard herself, that’s what she is mentioning later :
«One of the improvements to the coffeepot that I am importing in France (see the model that I brought last august 21st) consist in the total isolation of the liquid from the atmosphere.»

This modification is rapidly abandoned: only few months later, in an additional patent, she comes back to a more «classical» way of doing the infusion without boiling. The tube is lengthen up to the summit of the crystal globe and a cork is added with a small tap to control the infusion transfer into the lower part (it is the same principle as the one adopted by the prolific madame Rosa MARTRES, born GALY-CAZALAT; from an inventors family, who produced seven patents on this coffeemaker type).

Madame Richard also adds to its patent another coffeemaker type that she invented and another model from some Van s. Loeff of Berlin (who is maybe the exporter of the Atmodes, but it is not clearly said). This last coffeemaker is functioning by recirculation (not as a siphon) of a very special kind. The one she designed is close to the one from Laurens, in a more compact form (the infusion being saved around the main boiler).

Cafetière Van s. Loeff Nouvelle cafetière Richard
Coffeemaker from Van s. Loeff, imported, and the New coffeemaker from Richard, 1837 (source: « Archives INPI »)

But let’s go back to our siphons…

Tontons Fligueurs Siphon 1 ³

This type of coffeemaker certainly obtained a great success at these times because there are many successive inventors fighting hard to get their name attached to it. Tap in the middle, at the bottom, auto-extinguishing system for the lamp, in metal, in crystal, with a crown on its head… the patents are abundant : more than thirty, which means two third of the coffeemakers from the French patents up to 1844.

Among all these patents we can mention:


James VARDY and the engineer Moritz PLATOW with their patent from 1839, which as no other merit than being the first filled in England for this type of coffeemaker and being, for that matter, only 4 years late on the first one (this really counts for English, great forgotten of this coffeemaker history…).

Cafetière de Vardy et Platow
Coffeemaker from Vardy and Platow, 1839 (source: Polytechnisches Journal)


In 1841, madame Marie-Fanny-Ameline VASSIEUX, born MASSOT from Lyon (living 37, rue de l’Arbre-Sec), obtains a patent for «developments to the crystal coffeemaker called coffee-factor». She gives it an arm maintaining the two globes together by the middle and puts its signature on top of it: a crown.

Cafetière café-facteur de Vassieux
Coffee-factor coffeemaker from Vassieux, 1841 (source: « Archives INPI »)

Signature Vassieux ²

The term coffee-factor was certainly a reference to the famous “caléfacteur” (ancestor of the pressure cooker) invented by Pierre-Alexandre Lemare (who also invented a coffeemaker in the 1820s). Madame Vassieux finally called it the Lyonnaise coffeemaker and used lots of advertising material especially in the papers, even sending a member of her family promote it in the Netherlands, at the risk of seeing him condemned for disobedience by a war council…

Publicité Vassieux 1 Publicité Vassieux 2
Echo de la fabrique, 1842. La Presse, 1842.

Tribunal militaire VassieuxArticle from La Presse, december 10th 1845, relating the trial of madame Vassieux’s relative accused of disobedience  after leaving France for the Netherlands to promote her coffeemaker.

Sure that the competition was hard, everything was a already a matter of few months for this two globes design, the other one being from Louis-Octave MALEPEYRE (maker of coffeemakers in Paris 14, rue Saint-Claude): its patent entitled «improvements to the coffeemaker called hydropneumatic» was filled before Vassieux but obtained after.

Cafetière Malepeyre Signature Malepeyre ²
Coffeemaker from Malepeyre, 1841 (source: « Archives INPI »)

In 1842 also appeared the advertising campaign for the “Smith coffeemaker” (its reading is a pure delight), patent filled in France by François-Auguste GOSSE, the first one to use the term «Siphon coffeemaker» (which was the 1842 patent’s title). It is reported to be from John-Willam (sic) Smith, but Gosse in its patent also mention being its inventor. Another press article from July 1842 talks about importation (by Gosse and Pochet-Deroche), but I didn’t find any trace of this Smith guy in the English patent system (which, if it exist, could be anterior to the ones of Vassieux and Malpeyre, and will please the English)…

Publicité Cafetière Smith/Gosse
La Presse, September 1842 (Smith/Gosse coffeemaker)

Signature Gosse ²


To conclude, in 1842, Jean-Baptiste-Auguste FORTANT (tinsmith lampist 21, rue du Petit-Thouars, in Paris) propose a clever auto-extinction system for the oil lamp, thanks to a float placed in the upper vessel.

Cafetière Fortant
Hydropneumatic  coffeemaker from Fortant (source: « Archives INPI »)

Signature Fortant ²

And now, who is this mysterious inventor at the origin of the siphon coffeemaker ?

Tontons Flingueurs Siphon 2 ³

In 1842 again (April 7th), M. Herpin makes a report in the name of the “arts économiques de la Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie nationale” committee, about an « atmo-pneumatic » coffeemaker that M. Soleil, optician 35, rue de l’Odéon, brought them (as reported in the Bulletin de la Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale, N° CCCCXLII, p.124). A description of the said coffeemaker follows with the corresponding drawings (N° CCCCXLVIII, Oct. 1841, p. 414 et p. 842).

Cafetière Soleil 1 Cafetière Soleil 2
Coffeemaker from Soleil, 1836/1842 (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

That’s where stands the crossroads of this story.

We learn in this report that the scientific committee took its time… in order to «subject the coffeemaker to a crucial an prolonged test», here goes science.

The coffeemaker, only slightly modified by M. Soleil, was put in their hands around 1836, the goal of Soleil being to popularize the invention from a distinguish physicist named « Noremberg », professor at Darmstadt (second clue).

The M. Soleil in question is nobody else than Jean-Baptiste François Soleil (1798-1878), a really fascinating french optician-engineer, from whom the abbot François Moigno praise the merits in the introduction of his 1869 book entitled «Saccharimétrie optique, chimique et mélassimétrique». Self-taught man, Soleil acquired such a knowledge in optics that he was known from all the great physicists of the time, pioneers in the field of the modern optics  (Babinet, Fresnel, Arago, Silbermann). All of them, owe a part of their reputation to his talent in making optical apparatus.

Very early in his life, Soleil met Johann Gottlieb Christian NÖRRENBERG (1787-1862), a German physicist, self-taught man also, who came to Paris from 1829 to 1832 to achieve his education. He was a brilliant and discreet man, living very simply: it is told in its biography that he could live for months restricting himself to coffee, milk, sugar and bread. He was keeping his money for some pastries, and rarely to buy a seat at the opera… but above all, he spent it on pieces of optics. That’s how he met Soleil and became his friend, teaching him his knowledge in physics… and drinking some coffee, I guess.

Portrait NÖRRENBERGJohann Gottlieb Christian NÖRRENBERG (1787-1862)

Before coming to Paris, he was a beloved teacher in mathematics, physics and chemistry at the Darmstadt military school («Die Hof-und Universitätsmechaniker in Württemberg im frühen 19. Jahrhundert», Andor Trierenberg, 2013, p.465). It is in the context of his lessons that he developed the vacuum coffeemaker, as it is reported in his paper from 1827 entitled «Beschreibung einer Kaffehmaschine» (Zeitschrift f. Physik u. Mathematik, Bd. 3, S. 269-271, 1927).

The coffeemaker and the way it is functioning are described in details in the scientific paper where it is also mentioned that its conception and its use are so simple that it was rapidly adopted by number of his friends and students. He simply never thought of patenting the invention preferring to explain its principle and sharing it.

At the end of the paper, the liquid going up and down inside the rising tube is compared to the blood stream of a fish observed under a microscope (which makes him the very first ‘coffee geek’ of the history).

The irony of this is that the Soleil coffeemaker is mentioned in the Polytechnisches Journal («Soleil’s atmopneumatische Kaffee-maschine», Volume 84, Nr. L., p. 268–269 de 1842), a German journal very keen on innovations related to coffee machines, but there are no mention of Nörrenberg. It is intriguing how the journal missed his article at the time it was published…

Nörrenberg Coffeemaker, 1827 (source: Zeitschrift f. Physik u. Mathematik)

After going back to Germany, he became professor at the University of Tübingen and stayed in close relation with Soleil. He left his name in the history of Sciences for the invention of a scientific instrument called the «polariscope» and for being the author of the first German daguerréotype (the direct predecessor to photography), taken only two weeks after the patent obtained in France by Louis Daguerre  (1839). It his certainly his faithful friend Soleil who provided him the equipment, being the one who published a book about the technique in 1840 («Guide de l’amateur de photographie, ou Exposé de la marche à suivre dans l’emploi du daguerréotype et des papiers photographiques»).

Now, concerning Boulanger, it is not impossible that as he was conducting his thematic research about the “Palais pour l’exposition d’objets d’art et des produits de l’industrie” (his architectural project) he came to visit the Paris Arts et Métiers warehouse where the coffemaker invented by Nörrenberg was standing for a long period of time (you know what I mean). Something that could transform his striking idea into a sunburn (coup de Soleil in French)…

To be continued…


* Play on words with the French song «Ainsi font, font font, les petites marionettes».
¹ «Coffee floats, tea sinks : through history and technology to a complete understanding», from Ian Bersten, 1993
«Coffee makers : 300 years of art & design», from Edward and Joan Bramah, 1989.
Source: « Archives INPI », with their kind authorization.
³ «Les tontons flingueurs», Georges Lautner / Marcel Audiard, 1963.

Elevator to espresso (Episode 3)

Up to now, we just spoke about «filtering» coffeemakers… that mark the beginning of a long story. The pace will accelerate from now on, since we enter into a very prolific period in the story of coffeemakers, and the main action takes place in France.

Under the impulsion of institutions like the Academy of Sciences,¹ the Arts and Crafts and the birth of the patent office, but also thanks to the influence of great gourmets (as Grimod de la Reynière and his « Almanach des Gourmands ») or influential figures, great inventors from the beginning of this century in search for the best and/or the most economical way to prepare coffee… the technology will rapidly evolve.

Between 1806 and 1855 (which means between Hadrot, with a revisited Dubelloy, and Loysel, with his monster percolator exhibited at the universal exposition), no less than 178 patents or improvement applications for coffeemakers were delivered in France. I will not review all these inventions (well, especially the last ones), but I will try to cover most of the important evolutions or crazy ideas that defines this journey, « from [a-] to [-zel] » (from Hadrot to Loysel).

From [a-] to [-zel], first part
the «italian» coffeemaker… really ?

flag_fr [disponible en français]

Everybody knows that it is a French (Denis Papin) who invented the steam engine in 1690 and that his idea was used later by an English who took ownership of the invention… well, maybe not. It goes almost the same with the use of steam for the preparation of coffee.


The century starts slowly with Hadrot, followed by Sené, both being tinsmiths in Paris, who present in 1806 and 1815,² two coffeemaker models that are nothing more than two revisited Dubelloy.

Cafetière de Hadrot
Coffeemaker from Hadrot (source: « Archives INPI »)

– The first one, the « filtering coffeemaker without boiling water and air bath » from HADROT (tinsmith in 43, rue Saint-Sauveur) brings a small improvement to the Dubelloy with the use of material that are more resistant to corrosion than the tin plate used so far (by substituting it with toughen tin called « étain de Bismute ») and a conception that use a double wall (the said « air bath ») in order to obtain a better preservation of heat.

Hadrot ³


– The « coffeemaker able to prepare coffee without boiling water, called Sené-coffeemaker » from Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Marie SENÉ (tinsmith in 31 & 32, passage du Saumon… well, well) is a kind of Dubelloy in kit, made of 5 pieces and three parts (the boiler, the filter and the coffee pot upside down) maintained together with bayonet closures and copper clips, in order to (if I understood it correctly because it is not clearly explained) flip the assembly when to water is hot and collect the filtered coffee in the coffee pot.

Sené ³


It is the same principle that is proposed and improved few years later (in 1819 and 1820) by Jean-Louis MORIZE (tinsmith and lamp maker in 10, rue Boucher in Paris).

Cafetière Morize
Morize Coffeemaker (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

Morize ³

This type of coffeemaker, for is simplicity, seems to gained a great success, since we find some similar up to the XXth century, as in this Henri Matisse painting from the end of the XIXth :

« Fruits et Cafetière » d'Henri Matisse
« Fruits et Cafetière » from Henri Matisse, ca. 1898

It is also the principle of the « Napolitan » coffeemaker, that is still used nowadays, especially in Italy.


Cafetière Laurens
Laurens coffeemaker (source: « Description des machines et procédés spécifiés dans les brevets d’invention », 1820)

Things get more interesting with the invention coming from Joseph-Henry-Marie LAURENS (tinsmith in 31, passage du Saumon… really) with « a fabrication process for a filtering coffeemaker without evaporation » dated from 1819. He is the very first to use the steam force to push the boiling water into the upper part of the coffeemaker through a pipe. The proposed apparatus is sophisticated but still works with ‘soft’ filtration: the rising water is poured hot on the coffee powder, that is maintained between two grids. The coffee produced goes back into the a vessel and the end of the water passage is indicated by a whistle.

Laurens ³

The transition between this new type of coffeemaker and the one of the said «Italian» coffee maker (of Bialetti or Bacchi type), where the steam pressure force the water through the coffee grind, is gradual :


In 1820, Jean-Ambroise GAUDET (manufacturer tinsmith in 19, rue de la Croix, Paris) propose « a fabrication process for a coffeemaker with double filters, proper to make coffee with ebullition, without evaporation » that is a kind of hybrid between the Dubelloy and the Italian coffeemaker, called « Cilinder coffeemaker » (sic) :
a tube with a funnel shape effectively directs the rising water through the grind, but the extracted coffee returns into the container and can follow many cycles like that, through the coffee. This is presented as an advantage of the invention (and makes it the first « recirculating coffeemaker »). The coffee powder is kept within a box with grids and a cloth to avoid having the coffee grounds going through.

Cafetière Gaudet
Gaudet Coffeemaker (source: « Nouveau manuel complet du ferblantier et du lampiste », 1849)

Gaudet ³


Cafetière de Caseneuve
Coffeemaker from Caseneuve (source: « Archives INPI »)

This conception is similar to the one proposed by André CASENEUVE (tinsmith in 6, place de Vannes, marché neuf Saint-Martin, Paris) in 1824, except that, in his case, the coffee goes into a second vessel, around the main boiler which present an hermetical closure and can be served through a tap (« coffeemaker called economical, preserving without evaporation the coffee aromatic principle »).

Caseneuve ³


The tinsmith and lamp maker were ahead of everybody up to this point, isn’t it strange? What were the engineers doing at this time ?

In order to find the true inventor of the Italian coffeemaker principle, we need to travel to England where Louis Bernard RABAUT (from Skinner Street, Snowhill, London) applied for a patent in 1822 entituled « Improved Apparatus for the preparation of Coffee or Tea ».

Cafetière de Rabaut
Coffeemaker from Rabaut (source: The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures and Agriculture, 1822)

What we have here is the first coffee pot of the « Biacchi » type, where the water pass through the grind pushed by the steam pressure inside the boiler and goes outside through a tube.

The honor is safe for France since Rabaut is a french expatriate… But since we are in search for the inventor of the application of steam force to the passage of water through coffee powder, we have to bow down before a German… and for that make another step back in time.

The shadow man


Elard RÖMERSHAUSEN is a theologian, philosopher, preacher and German inventor from the beginning of the XIXth century, having in his bag many inventions related to the application of steam.

He describes in his book « Dr. Römershausen’s Luftpresse eine in den Königlich-Preußischen Staaten patentirte Maschine zum Extrahiren, Filtriren und Destilliren », published in 1818, the very first coffee machine using the force of the steam pressure to push water through coffee powder. His invention is mentioned in two papers from the 1821 Polytechnisches Journal (Volume 4, No. LI, p. 420–425 and Volume 5, No. LXIV, p. 385–415) and look very much to the other invention patented a year later in Great-Britain. In all likelihood, Rabaut red this paper before submitting his “invention”:

Presse à vapeur de Römershausen
The steam press from Römershausen (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

In the second paper from 1821 (more general), is also presented a more secure model (because it avoid the unattended boiler to explode) including a piston operated with a crank. I did not manage to understand if this modification was also Römershausen’s idea or from somebody else (maybe the Professor Marechaux, the paper’s author ?) but, carefully looking at it, it is a lever machine way before the time with the water going up:

Presse à vapeur de Römershausen
The steam press from Römershausen (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

More compact models are also proposed, designed for the domestic preparation of coffee (the two at the right are using stream pressure whereas the two at the left are using press or air pressure):

Presse compactes à air et à vapeur de Römershausen
Compact steam and air press from Römershausen (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

As it is reported in another later paper from the Polytechnisches Journal, « Die Benutzung des Luft- und Dampfdrucks zur Extraction organischer Substanzen » (Volume 105, No. XLIX., p. 176–183 de 1847), another of his invention present similarities with a rudimentary portafilter (… but fixed) and s close to an expresso machine in this sense.

Presse à vapeur domestique de Römershausen
Steam press from Römershausen (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

In this invention, the coffee is placed into a circular vessel between a grid and a kind of filtering paper, placed at the output of the apparatus (and not between two reservoirs as on the other coffeemakers). The water being put to boil with this output oriented upward, the whole coffee maker was flipped as soon as steam started to come out. Water was hence force through the grind and coffee was pouring outside from the ‘portafilter’.

It is sure that, compared to espresso, the water was warmer and the extraction pressure was only slightly higher than 1 or 2 bars… but this principle is very similar to the first Express coffee machines, and well ahead of his time. It will take about half a century to find another invention as close as this one from the expresso machine.

Presse à air domestique Römershausen

His other invention (I’m talking about the « Luftpresse zu kalten wässerigen und geistigen Extracten », a liquor extractor for domestic use) was also ahead of his time and we can imagine that used with a very fine grind and a nearly boiling water, it could produce an elixir very close to the ristretto. This extractor use vacuum created inside a vessel with a manual pump and use this suction to extract essences from vegetal substances in solution. The extracts pass through a filter before falling into the vessel A.

Air press from Römershausen (source: Polytechnisches Journal)

In the particular cas of coffee, it was advertised as being able to produce a coffee extract for traveling, to which it was only necessary to add some warm water to obtain a «real» coffee.

To be continued…


¹ Between 1806 and 1854, many scientists were interested by coffee and the best way to prepare it:
> Alexis Cadet-de-Veaux, « Dissertation sur le Café », 1806
> Charles-Louis Cadet (nephew of the previous one), « Mémoire sur le Café », 1806
> M. Parmentier, « Extrait d’un mémoire manuscrit de M. Payssé, sur le café », 1806
> M. Parmentier, « Second Extrait d’un mémoire manuscrit de M. Payssé, sur le café », 1806
> Armand Séguin, « Mémoire sur le Café », 1814
> M. Payen « Mémoire sur le Café », 1849
> A. Penilleau, « Étude sur le café au point de vue historique, physiologique, hygiénique et alimentaire », 1864
There is also a large scientific documentation on chicory, « coffee substitute », studied and used during the continental embargo imposed by Napoléon.
² The technical evolution of ways to prepare coffee was also influenced first by the taxation on colonial goods from 1806, then by the continental embargo up to 1814. During this period, the importation of coffee in France were completely stopped. Which may explain the blank gap in the inventions between 1806 and 1815, and their acceleration just after.
³ Source: « Archives INPI », with their kind authorization.

Elevator to espresso (Episode 2)

The «Pharmaco-chemical» Coffeemaker
flag_fr[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).

Brevet Henrion Rouch de 1802
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 ?

Caffea Arabica

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.

Henrion ¹

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

Rouch ¹

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.»

Schéma cafetière pharmaco-chimique
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.

Elevator to espresso (Episode 1)

The « de Belloy » coffeemaker  flag_fr [disponible en français]
(or Debelloy or Dubelloy)

We find everywhere that Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, who was the Paris archbishop at the time, invented around 1800 the coffeemaker without boiling water (also known as “French drip”).

Jean-Baptiste de Belloy de Morangles
Jean-Baptiste de Belloy de Morangles (1709-1808) – Painting from Laurent Dabos 1806

It is effectively just after the French Revolution that appeared this way to prepare coffee (known as percolation, also revolutionary and french). Up to that date, the coffee was prepared by infusion (as tea, using a cotton sock) or in decoction, boiled as the Turkish way or prepared the Greek way… different methods imported from the first countries to export coffee. But according to the french gourmets and gourmands of that time, these old methods were leading to coffee with an awful taste. This didn’t prevent it from spreading all over France, Europe and being drunk in large quantities.

Cafetière Dubelloy
DeBelloy or DuBelloy coffeemaker

This coffeemaker, called «without boiling water» (as opposed to infusion and decoction), is simply the first percolator (by leaching). It is composed by two parts with a filter in the middle, this filter being made of a perforated metal cover where the coffee powder was placed and tamped (fouled). The hot water was then poured on top of the coffee powder, passed through it and fell down into the bottom part which could be kept warm with a bath of hot water. Many improvement were made to this first invention over the years, contributions of different inventors, but this coffeemaker kept its general form and remained very popular up the middle of the XXth century.

This first «DuBelloy» was not patented, even if at this time many other patents for coffeemakers were delivered in France… the very first one (which will be the subject of the next episode) being dated from 1802.

In search for more precise dates, I came up to Jean-Baptiste de Belloy and ask myself how a prelate that was occupied to reorganize the clergy as the Paris archbishop under the Concordat (a gift from Bonaparte who appreciated is devotion), being more than 80 years old at the time, could have invented a coffeemaker… I had doubts, especially because as we go back in time close to the invention date there are not much mentions of the archbishop himself.

It is how I found one of the first mention (if not the first one) of the de Belloy coffeemaker in the «Almanach des Gourmands» from Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de La Reynière («Almanach des Gourmands», 2d year, 2d edition, a pleasure to read, I really recommend it), published in 1805, that I found not the exact year but the real inventor !

It is clearly mention, by a contemporary man, a great gastronome and a relative of De Belloy, that the inventor of the coffeemaker of the same name is not the archbishop, but his nephew…

It is said in this book that the invention is «recent», which means that it couldn’t be more than few years earlier, hence around 1802-1803.

La Reynière’s friends and particularly Joseph Gastaldy (another colorful character) greatly participated to the promotion of this inventions who end up (after few improvements) in many homes and ‘cafés’ of Paris. Foulquier, then owner of the ‘Café des étrangers’ at the Palais Royal, appeared to be the first one to believe in this technological advancement and had one made for him with the help of De Belloy. It is said that this new coffeemaker and the quality of the coffee he served made the reputation of his establishment.

Another de Belloy then… Wikipedia and even some reference coffee books (added to the dozens of websites that repeat this information about an archbishop inventor) are completely wrong.

Concerning its real name, it is not mentioned, but I only found three archbishop’s nephews at this period, two of which being named «de Belloy» :
– François-Rose count de Belloy (born in Nevers, august 16th 1782, died in Marseille, junuary the 4th 1830).
– Antoine-Bernard Ducla de Belloy, we only know that he married in 1813.

For the anecdote, the doctor Gastaldy, who was president of the de La Reynière taster jury, lover of good food, great promoter of coffee for its taste and health benefits, died in 1806 as a result of a meal at Jean-Baptiste de Belloy (then promoted Cardinal). He couldn’t resist refills twice of a salmon dish that was in front of him and the plate was removed… but too late. He died shortly after sighing « Ah le bon saumon ! Ah le bon saumon !» (« Ah the good salmon ! Ah the good salmon !», «A century of anecdote from 1760 to 1860» from R. Bentley, 1864).

The other inventor…

Descroizilles ¹

In fact this invention may have been stolen from the pharmacist, chemist and inventor from Rouen named François-Antoine-Henri Descroizilles (1751-1825) creator of the « caféolette » in 1802.²

Portrait Descroizilles
François-Antoine-Henri Descroizilles (1751-1825)

It would be the tinsmith who built the coffeemaker for him who stole the idea (this is what reports Louis Simon in «Le chimiste Descroizilles (François-Antoine-Henri) 1751-1825: sa vie, son oeuvre», 1921).

This story can be found in different books:

« This is how, doing research on liquids distillation, he built a small portable apparatus, that, lightly modified, is still known today as the Gay-Lussac alembic. It is him who, as a great coffee lover, had a tinsmith from Rouen make for him a model of a metallic filter, that Fourcroy and Chaptal already had in hands as the tinsmith decided to exploit the scientist discovery and went to Paris. The filter presented to the Du Belloy abbot, was promoted by its new protector and made the fortune of the merchant, who, in gratitude, sold it under the name of Du Belloy coffeemaker. »
(Dictionnaire encyclopédique et biographique de l’industrie et des arts industriels, tome IV, 1884)

« Descroizilles was receiving at his table Fourcroy, Chaptal and some other friends. These guests, pleasantly surprised by the aroma of coffee that their host served them, asked him the explanation, Descroizilles showed them the first filter coffee machine that any house from the smallest of our towns uses today. This coffee was popularized by a large coffee lover, the abbot du Belloy, and the apparatus long carried the name of the du Belloy alembic. »
(Dieppe : station marine balnéaire et climatique, André Cussac, 1926 – extract mentioned in the Bulletin de la Société d’histoire de la pharmacie, Vol. 15 No 56 pp. 473-474, 1927)

F.-A.-H. Descroizilles, 1. “Description and usage of the Berthollimetre,” Journal des Arts et Manufactures, 1795, I, 256-276

F.-A.-H. Descroizilles, 2. “Notices on the alcali-metre and others chimico-metric tubes, or on the chemical-polymetre and on small alembic for the testing of wines”, Paris, 1824

Between 1788 and 1803, the brilliant chemist was occupied working on filtration (he is although, with the Berthollimetre invention, at the origin of the alcalimetres), and his father (who was also chemist) worked many years on alembics. Descroizille son worked with Fourcroy and Chaptal on saltpetre and was present with them at the french Academy of Sciences from 1795, it is else around these dates that he had the idea to apply is alembic principle to the coffee preparation.

After these revelations and to conclude, I will end with another version of the story that I like as much as the others: this invention was stolen from another man coming from the french noblesse named Guy-Joseph de GIRARD de CHARNACÉ (1760-1847). This story can be found in the memoirs of the bonapartist historian Jacques Marquet de Norvins (baron of Montbreton). In the tome II of his «Souvenirs from a Napoléon historian: Memorial of J. de Norvins» written in 1827, he speaks about his friend and roommate at the la Force jail (we can’t really call it a cell, considering the relative luxury in which they lived) where they were jailed between the 18 fructidor putsch and the one from the 18 brumaire (hence between September 4th 1797 and November 9th 1799). Charnacé is described as «the most harmless and most gastronome of the emigrants».

 The day of the Napoléon coup d’Etat, knowing that they will be free soon, they celebrate by taking a meal in good company and end it up with a delicious coffee…

Annecdote de Charnacé

Extract from «Souvenirs from a Napoléon historian: Memorial of J. de Norvins», 1827. ³

This historian, yet contemporary of De Belloy, is mistaking too on the identity of the supposed Du Belloy inventor (mentioning the cardinal) but his memories are sharp and he says that the coffeemaker that Charnacé had in 1797 was identical to a Dubelloy… at least five years before the invention.

To be continued…


¹ Source : «Archives INPI», with their kind authorization.
The “cafeolette” from the normand Descroizilles, Passion Généalogie Normande [in french].
³ Part of it reads: «Charnacé, whom grastronomy knowledge was way greater than mine, was in charge of the meal that was excellent and joyful. I always thought he was the inventor of the coffeemaker that took the beautiful name of the de Belloy cardinal: because the one that he was using at the la Force jail, that he had made for him and in which he was distilling with such ability the best coffee I ever had, had with that one a total similitude.»