History Of Coffee: Origins, Waves, and More

By Shabbir
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The history of coffee is filled with amazing factoids and lots of interesting stories. In this post about the history of coffee, we’ll talk about:

  • How and where coffee was discovered
  • How coffee was enjoyed all over the world
  • The invention of coffee machines
  • The first, second, and third waves of coffee

Interestingly, nobody can really pinpoint how coffee was discovered. This obviously leaves lots of questions where the history of coffee is concerned.

Of course, it does not mean that there aren’t any interesting claims and legends about the history of coffee. So, let’s take a look at some of the stories and legends that surround the current history of coffee.

Is Coffee Of Ethiopian Origin?

Ethiopia seems to have the longest track record where the history of coffee is concerned. The ancient coffee forests of Ethiopia can be traced back for many centuries. There is even a legend that describes the history of coffee in the utmost details.

According to local history, or should we say legend, coffee was discovered by a local goat herder called Kaldi. It is believed that Kaldi’s goats were eating certain berries from a tree. He noticed that the goats seemed to become so energetic from eating the berries, they wouldn’t even sleep at night.

As the legend goes, Kaldi told the abbot of the local monastery about the unusual berries he found. The abbot tried the berries out for himself and turned them into a drink.

As he found the berries-based drink would help him to stay alert during evening prayer, he told the other monks at the monastery about the berries. From there on, the story of the miracle berries that would provide amazing levels of energy began.

Coffee And The Arabian Peninsula

Genuine historical evidence surrounding these miracle berries can only be found in the 15th century. While it is believed that the berries were discovered in Ethiopia were the origin of coffee, it would be a long time until they became the roasted beans we know today.

It is known that coffee was cultivated in the Yemen district of the Arabian Peninsula in the 15th century. After it became popular in Yemen and Saudi Arabia as a whole, coffee started to make its way throughout the world. Coffee became a real hit in Persia, Turkey, Egypt and Syria. However, it would not be discovered in Europe until the 17th century.

Within the history of coffee, it is important to note that the beverage was not consumed in people’s houses. No, that would come centuries later. Instead, the beverage was served in public coffee houses (Turkey is still famous for these). Naturally, the beverage did not remain as a local tradition.

Pilgrims that would visit Mecca would take stories with them about the public houses that served a miracle beverage. Eventually, the news about the named beverage reached Europe and the rest is history.

Where Was Coffee First Discovered And Developed?

Since coffee origins are a little different to track, it is difficult to say who discovered and developed coffee. Ethiopians believe that the coffee origin story can be traced back to Ethiopia, and that the local goat herder was the one to discover the priced coffee berries. Of course, not everyone believes that coffee berries were first found in Ethiopia, since there is no historical record of it. That being said, the story of the coffee berries allegedly dates back to the 9th century.

The recorded history version states that coffee cultivation took place in the Arabian Peninsula. However, it doesn’t state that coffee was actually discovered there for the first time. While it does mention the coffee plantations, there is no particular evidence that coffee was discovered there.

What Was Coffee Originally Used For?

Whether you decide to believe the Ethiopian legends about the goat herder or the historical accounts of coffee cultivation in 15th century Saudi Arabia, it seems that the use of coffee was the same across the board.

When you look back at the goat herder story, coffee was used for energy. However, the first historical record of coffee cultivation and its use can be traced back to Saudi Arabia. Aside from being served in public houses, there are records that drinking coffee was common in Sufi circles. In fact, they would be drinking coffee to stay awake for various religious rituals. So, from the very beginning, coffee was used for its energy-related benefits.

How Was Coffee Introduced in America?

America had its first coffee taste in the middle of the 17th century. The beverage was brought over by the British, but it would take some time before the success story of coffee began.

Coffee started to become more popular starting at the Boston Party in 1773. At the time, there was a revolt against King George III. Part of the revolt involved people switching their beverage from tea to coffee. Since the beverage became extremely popular among the colonists, the Dutch tried to corner the market. They secured various coffee seedlings and started their own coffee plantations in the 17th century.

It did not take long for coffee to become extremely popular in the rest of the world. By the 18th century, coffee was one of the world’s hottest commodities. Several businessmen saw an opportunity and started selling coffee commercially, so people could start making coffee in their own houses.

In Pittsburgh, brothers John and Charles Arbuckle started their sale of pre-roasted coffee. In California, James Folger started selling coffee to miners. Then, there was the rise of the big named coffee brands such as Maxwell House and Hills Brothers. And, after the creation of instant coffee, Starbucks would be created in 1971.

What Are The Three Waves Of Coffee?

As with all things relating to coffee, this is about to get a little complicated! The three waves of coffee can have a different meaning for different people. To keep things as simple as we can, we will explain the three waves of coffee from a historical point of view.

The First Wave Of Coffee

The first wave of coffee took place in the 19th century. During this time, the world started to take notice of coffee and started to purchase it on a regular basis. So, coffee production increased exponentially and so did the number of companies that sold coffee.

During the first wave, coffee production was more focussed on the provision of caffeine and energy. So, the flavor of this beverage was not always on point at this time. Companies such as Nescafé, Folgers and Maxwell House manufactured coffee to distribute to households across the globe. The first wave of coffee was also accompanied by some new inventions; this includes the instant coffee and vacuum packaging.

The Second Wave Of Coffee

The second wave of coffee took place a lot later, more specifically in the 1970’s. Interestingly, this is the time where the Starbucks coffee shops became more prominent. Coffee shops like Starbucks became more popular for one specific reason, more specifically the provision of coffee that did not only provide energy, but a wonderful flavor to boot.

The popularity of a good tasting cup of coffee had influences on the world’s markets as well. It even affected beer and spirit manufacturers in the United States. As an increasingly large number of people chose coffee over alcoholic beverages, spirit and beer manufacturers saw their sales decrease dramatically.

With the increased popularity of coffee as a beverage, the culture of coffee changed as well. In fact, an entire culture started to create itself around coffee, even though the beverage has been around for many centuries. Still, since communication and travel only became a standard after the second World War, and since Starbucks did not arrive until the 1970’s, it is no surprise that the second wave of coffee did not occur until later.

The Third Wave Of Coffee

The term “third wave of coffee” was used for the first time by Trish Rothgeb in 2002. Trish also defined the waves in the Roasters Guild Publication, aimed at true coffee lovers.

So, what is different between the third and second wave of coffee. Well, the third wave focusses on coffee diversity. Instead of providing a single great coffee, the third wave looks at catering to everyone’s individual tastes. Coffee also started to have a culture that is comparable to that of wine.

Coffee connoisseurs are now a thing, leading to new inventions such as specialty coffee. True coffee lovers are also more aware of the brewing processes and the origin of beans. Even baristas have obtained a more celebrated status around the world.

Who Invented The Coffee Machine?

A modern coffee machine dispensing coffee into a light blue mug on a counter.
modern coffee machine

Unsurprisingly, the coffee machine has been around since coffee beans were discovered. In fact, the coffee machine is not a single invention.

What we mean by that is that the way to make a cup of coffee has evolved over the centuries. So, one could argue that humans in general invented it. But, to truly understand what we are talking about, let’s have a look at how the coffee machine came in existence.

Brewing coffee is not something that just happened. No, it took many years to develop brewing techniques as we know them today. In fact, we would not be surprised if the brewing methods for a coffee drink continue to evolve in the years to come.

The Oldest Brewing Methods

As far is known through historical documents, the oldest brewing technique for coffee can be found in Turkey. While the dates are not exactly precise, historians believe the Turkish boiler arrived in the 15th or 16th century.

The first brewing device for a cup of coffee was the Turkish Ibrik; this is still known today as the Turkish coffee pot. It is usually made from valuable materials such as copper and brass, and comes with a long handle on the side.

In the days of the Turkish Ibrik, coffee beans were crushed until coffee grounds were obtained. Then, these coffee grounds were mixed with other things such as sugar, spices, herbs and water. Once everything was mixed, then the Ibrik was heated up until near boiling point.

Then, the coffee was allowed to cool down and then the process would be repeated all over again. By doing so, the Turkish coffee would get some foam on top of it. When done, the drink was poured into a cup and drunk.

As coffee made its way into Europe in the 17th and 18th century, it is no surprise that the coffee machine began to evolve in Europe as well. In the beginning, consumers and small shops would grind down beans by using the old-fashioned mortar and pestle.

In fact, some people still use this method today, believing that the mortar and pestle method creates the finest powder and therefore the most superior coffee.

When coffee made its way to the United States, the parents of Peregrine White brought a mortar and pestle with them to make coffee powder from beans on the Mayflower.

Jean La Roque’s father brought coffee to Marseilles, France in 1644. He also took a roaster plate, cylinder grinder, and the long-handled broiler that would become a foundation for more intricate devices later on.

Of course, in between the electric coffee machines and percolators we know today, there were also traditional coffee pots. The very first, traditional, European coffee pot was a metal pot and appeared on the market in 1650.

About ten years later, the Elford machine appeared on the market. It was a white iron coffee machine that needed to be turned on a spit to roast coffee. While this required a lot more effort than the coffee machines we know today, they were remarkably popular at the time.

The Dutch also came up with an amazing machine to roast beans. Basically, they created a device with a long handle, which would allow consumers to turn and roast their beans over an open fireplace. This machine created by the Dutch would eventually catch on all across Europe and the United States.

As coffee became more popular over the years, France decided to start producing coffee pots with wonderful and intricate design. Some of their first projects were introduced during the St. Germaine Fair in Paris. Silversmiths would arrive with genuine silver coffee pots, which were promptly purchased by the aristocratic families of that time.

France did not stop with the invention of coffee pots for the aristocracy though, they also created the first portable coffee maker in 1691. The portable coffee maker was quite the invention, because it included a grinder, roaster, cups, oil, lamp, saucers, cups, sugar and coffee all in one handy device!

Once coffee started to become more popular in England too, the British started looking for their own coffee machine. One of the first created in England was Bull’s Roasting Machine, which was patented as early as 1704. Unfortunately, this device was only used by businesses, as coal was required to roast beans and the fact that the machine was rather large.

France would have a reply to the English invention of Bull’s Roasting Machine. In 1710, the country came up with a special linen bag, which was used to infuse ground coffee. This was also one of the earliest forms of coffee filtration.

After the invention of the linen bag in France, inventions started to follow one another even quicker. In fact, coffee grinders became so common in Europe in 1720, they were extremely affordable costing a mere $1.20. Of course, this would have been the equivalent of $63.09 for us today.

So, obtainable by some. To keep these grinders marketable and profitable, manufacturers started to include things such as storage drawers for coffee grounds and special embellishments. Now, these coffee grinders are vintage and extremely valuable.

England led the charge with some of the more artistic coffee pots, which ironically also made good tea pots later. Naturally, these antique coffee pots are worth a lot today and owning one could set you up for life.

Interestingly, the English coffee pot would actually turn back to the original form in the 1770’s, this after years of changes. English coffee pots would once again have the Turkish streamlined look. Nevertheless, ten years later, the traditional English teapot look would return.

Coffee businesses in the Industrial age

Businessmen did not start to make money from coffee until the late 18th century. One of the first patents for coffee devices in the 18th century came in 1779, where Richard Dearman obtained a patent to grind coffee at his mill. In 1798, America would follow suit and filed a patent for a wall-mounted coffee grinder. The late 18th century would also be characterised by the introduction of new filtration systems, which began the fuel the idea of different coffee varieties.

After all the patents and inventions, a commercial coffee pot for everyone did not come on the market until 1780. The Mr. Biggin coffee pot was the first commercial coffee maker. The device was quite impressive for the time, because it could make up to four cups of coffee at the time.

It also included a special filter right underneath the lid, which would filter the coffee with ease. However, the beans grind would still be important. If the beans were ground too fine or too coarse, the brew would be less than desirable.

Modern Brewing Methods

Modern brewing methods can be traced back to the early 19th and 20th century. It included the Du Belloy pot, which was released in France at the turn of the 17th to 18th century. Unfortunately, Du Belloy forgot to patent the device, so many businessmen would create their own coffee makers.

Du Belloy Coffee Pot

Another French patent was filed in 1802. It was described as an alchemical coffee maker that could create coffee through infusion. A similar device was patented in England that same year.

In 1806, a big invention first came through that would mark the beginning of modern coffee-making techniques. A man called Hardot filed a patent for a coffee maker described as “filters coffee without boiling and bathed in air”. In other words, Hardot created the first percolator. That being said, Du Belloy’s device could also be described as a percolator, yet he failed to file the patent.

The inventions would continue in the 1930’s, because this marked the beginning of the siphon pots. The siphon pot was a vacuum brewer, which only became available to the public in the 1840’s.

Interestingly, it was a woman called Marie Fanny Amelne Massot who released the vacuum brewer for the public. While released in the 1840’s, it would not be used in America until 1910; this came with the invention of the Silex.

You can recognise some of the oldest siphon pots quite easily, because they actually look like an hourglass. A heat source is attached to the bottom of the hourglass, which in turn causes a certain amount of pressure that allows the water to go through a special siphon. The water then mixes with the coffee grounds.

The evolution of coffee making techniques and their relevant devices went in different directions depending on the area. In the United States, there was a heavy focus on roasting methods for beans. Americans were mainly interested in retaining the flavor of the coffee beans, including preserving the valuable oils that some of the darkest beans had. Contrary to the Americans, the French wanted to make better coffee makers. Over the years, they came up with different types of pots, percolators, and even more intricate devices.

In 1884, the espresso machine was invented. Since we will discuss the espresso in a bit more detail, we will keep it relatively short. All you have to remember for now is that espresso machines are still used around the world today.

Another important invention that would set the tone for modern coffee making was the French Press. Interestingly, a French Press was created by both the French and the Italians. The French Press we know today was patented first in 1852, closely followed by the Italian Press in 1928.

Who Invented The Espresso Machine?

You might be surprised to learn that the espresso machine has been around for quite some time too. In fact, it was invented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884. Despite this early invention, the espresso machine would not become popular until much later. The first espresso machine was used during the Turin General Exposition, but did not become available for commercial sale until later.

Two men called Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni are responsible for bringing the first espresso machine to the world. They acquired the patented machine Moriondo had created many years ago and implemented some changes that would make it suitable for commercial use.

Many of the changes made to this first espresso machine can still be found in modern espresso machines today; this includes accessories such as the brewhead and portafilter.

Bezzerra originally made the changes to the first espresso machine, but it was not finished until Pavoni purchased the patent from Bezzerra several years later. In 1903, he added more things to the design of the espresso machine, including the pressure release valve. While this invention was useful for baristas, you will rarely find it in espresso machines in most people’s houses.

Once he was done with the espresso machine, Pavoni was the one to start to market it. Shortly after his espresso machine hit the market, other Italian manufacturers aimed to bring out cheaper and better espresso machines. This is how the espresso became popular throughout the world.

The History Of The Coffee Shop?

The first coffee houses date back to the late 15th century

Coffee shops have an extensive history, just like coffee plants and the coffee bean itself. The first coffee houses can be traced back to the late 15th century in Mecca. While it is currently impossible to discover which was the very first coffee house, it is believed that the first one may have opened in the late 1400’s.

In the early 16th century, coffee houses were extremely popular throughout Mecca. Despite their popularity, there is some historical evidence that coffee houses as well as coffee were banned between 1512 and 1524. The reason for the ban may surprise you.

A lot of political talk took place in the coffee houses in those days. Evidently, that made the ruling class very nervous, so they decided to ban coffee and coffee houses all together, fearing it may have an influence on their regime.

The ban did not stop the spread of the coffee shop though. In 1529, a coffee house opened in Vienna. Shortly after that, a coffee house also opened in Damascus. Then, one opened in Constantinople in 1555.

In the 17th century, the coffee house started to become popular in England too. The 17 century was quite the time of discovery in England, as new ingredients such as coffee, tea and chocolate were all introduced in the country during this time. This eventually led to the first coffee house opening its doors in England in 1652.

And the number of coffee shops increased dramatically in fifty years, as it is believed the country counted a whopping 8000 shops by the end of the 17th century.

While there is nothing better than roasted coffee, there are some other reasons why these shops were so popular. Since roasted coffee is an alcohol-free beverage, it promoted a sober lifestyle at the time.

Clean water during the 17th century was a real luxury, so most people went to pubs and taverns to drink beer and ale. Coffee was a nice change, as boiling the water killed the bacteria and not leave consumers slightly inebriated.

As these coffee-orientated establishments became more popular among the population, they also became a meeting ground for businessmen. However, women were not allowed in these establishments.

As you may know, women’s rights at the time were pretty much non-existent. Women eventually revolted and started a petition known asThe Women’s Petition Against Coffee.

The History Of Coffee Culture?

From the first coffee to the coffee culture

To truly understand the coffee culture, we need to take you back to a lot of the history we already mentioned in this article. Since the journey of coffee goes through many centuries, we focus on the major world events that impacted the coffee culture.

While the demand for coffee beans obtained by coffee plants increased dramatically with every century going by, the coffee plant only became a valuable commodity with the arrival of instant coffee manufacturers. This, in turn, led to the creation of Starbucks.

As Starbucks rang in a new era of great-tasting coffee, the focus was no longer just on the coffee plant and the coffee plantations where coffee beans came from. No, preparation, techniques, and other related things soon became increasingly more important.

Nowadays, great tasting coffee is almost a requirement. Coffee beans tell a single part of the story, as barista techniques and even machines used for roasted coffee used inside the home are vital for an excellent brew.

The History Of Instant Coffee

Instant coffee has been known under many names, including soluble coffee, coffee crystals and even coffee powder. Like regular percolated coffee, instant coffee is derived from coffee beans. However, the grind does not have to go through a special filtration process. Consumers only need to add some warm water and their preferred amount of sugar or milk.

The first type of instant coffee can be traced back to Civil War America, where an instant coffee was created for the troops under the name “Essence of Coffee”. However, the brew was not as nice and the idea was soon nixed as no soldier would willingly have it. This would all change in 1876, where instant coffee was first created by Paterson & Sons Ltd. in Scotland.

Instant coffee would not get patented until 1881. The new type of coffee was patented by Alphonse Allais in France, which was given patent number 141520. Another instant coffee would obtain a patent in 1890 in New Zealand, which received patent number 3518 and was sold under the name Strang’s coffee.

Strang’s coffee was based on a principle called the Dry Hot-Air process. This process was an invention of a Japanese scientist called Satori Kato. Satori Kato worked in Chicago in 1901 and introduced New York to a unique powdered substance at the Pan-American Exposition.

Many businessmen had an interest in the instant coffee, including a man name George Constant Louis Washington, who sold the instant coffee for the first time in 1910.

There are many advantages to instant coffee. One of the main advantages is that it is extremely quick to prepare, so you don’t need to mess around with a coffee machine or worry about its maintenance. You only need to add the required amount of instant coffee and water to a cup.

Recent studies have also shown that instant coffee has a lower carbon footprint than other types of coffee. Evidently, this could be advantageous for coffee lovers who are also concerned about the environment.

It is also important to mention that instant coffee is also available in espresso form. However, instant espresso is more concentrated, so make sure to follow the instructions to the letter to get the best cup of espresso in your home.

Evidently, instant coffee can create many variations of the standard coffee. With instant coffee, it is possible to create a weaker brew, but also very strong brews depending on the amount of instant coffee you add to the cup. Some cultures even mix instant coffee with milk instead of water; this often happens in Spain, Portugal in India. South Korea uses instant coffee in a different way too, as their instant coffee is automatically mixed with a non-dairy creamer and sugar, which is locally referred to as a coffee mix.

Interestingly, instant coffee is not solely used to make a quick coffee drink these days. Instant coffee is needed to make a compound called Caffenol. Caffenol is actually used as a black and white photo developer and can be made at home.

How Is Instant Coffee Made?

Now that we have covered the background of instant coffee, it is also important to know how instant coffee is made. Basically, manufacturers will start with a green coffee bean and roast it to get premium flavor and aroma.

Once the roasting and grinding process is completed, the manufacturer has to extract both soluble and volatile content of the beans. To obtain these compounds, manufacturers will heat up water to a whopping 347 degrees Fahrenheit and then extract the compounds needed for an instant coffee drink.

One of the interesting byproducts of instant coffee production is spent coffee powder. Spent coffee powder can fortunately be used in other industries, as it functions as a biomass. In other words, spent coffee powder can be used to generated heat during instant coffee manufacturing processes. No wonder why instant coffee can be considered as more environmentally friendly than some other beverages.

The History Of Coffee Is… Amazing

Coffee has a rich and interesting history

Now that you have read our overview with coffee information, we doubt your will ever look at coffee in the same way you did before. This beverage has more history than entire nations, and it looks like it will stand the test of time. With further developments such as decaffeinated coffee, flavored coffee beans and new roasted coffee inventions, coffee just keeps reinventing itself.

As we find ourselves in the third wave of coffee, I doubt the developments in terms of coffee technology are over. After all, an increasingly large number of people is becoming passionate about coffee.

Flavored coffee beans, more intricate coffee and espresso machines, and new techniques are just some of the things we can expect in the years to come.

But let’s not worry to much about the future where coffee is concerned. There is plenty of coffee to enjoy now. So, be sure to enjoy a nice cup of coffee while you read through the extensive historical data we have provided, and maybe try your hand at one of the historical coffee brewing methods?

Or maybe you want to try the mortar and pestle technique? Either way, we are sure you will have lots of fun doing it!

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.