Coffee History / 1900-1950


1900 – The demise of local coffee roaster and coffee milling operations begins due to the availability of roasted and ground Hills Brothers coffee that is packaged in vacuum tins.

Innovator R.W. Hills had developed the process to remove the air from the packages thus preserving a fresher coffee product. This technique would spread widely and is still used today.

1900s – Early in the 1900s in Germany it was common to have coffee in the afternoon and the term Kaffee Klatsch became popularized, inferring that many women would gossip during this time.

Later the term became widely used to refer to the casual conversations that would occur at these relaxed afternoon get-togethers.

1901 – Satori Kato, a Japanese American chemist in Chicago, invents the first soluble coffee, also known as instant coffee. Kato introduces the product at the Pan-American Exposition. See History of Instant Coffee.

1901 – A patent application is filed by Luigi Bezzera for a new type of espresso machine – the first commercial espresso machine.

Bezzera’s large espresso machine is known as the Tipo Gigante and is driven by steam and used a water/steam combination forced under high pressure through the ground coffee.

The espresso machine has a boiler as well as four groups, each of which accepts more than one coffee filter size. The patent is sold to Desiderio Pavoni in 1903.

1901 – The Picayune Creole Cook Book states, “The morning cup of Cafe Noir is an integral part of the life of a Creole household.”

The cook book goes on to say that, “The Creoles hold as a physiological fact that this custom contributes to longevity, and point, day after day, to examples of old men and women of fourscore, and over, who attest to the powerful aid they have received through life from a good, fragrant cup of coffee in the early morning.”

1902 – In Practical Cooking and Serving, Janet McKenzie Hill states that, “In most households a cup of coffee is considered the one thing needful at the breakfast hour. But how often this exhilarating beverage, that ‘comforteth the brain and heateth and helpeth digestion’ is made muddy and ill-flavoured!”

The book goes on to state that, “You may roast the berries ‘to the queen’s taste’ and grind them fresh every morning and yet, if the golden liquid be not prepared in the most immaculate of coffee-pots, with each return of morning, a new disappointment awaits you.”

1903 – Ludwig Roselius, who imports German coffee discovers that a batch of Nicaraguan coffee beans that had been soaked in water during shipment had lost most of their caffeine but not their taste.

Roselius’ German scientist assistant Karl Wimmer then figured out how to remove the coffee beans’ caffeine without ruining the brewed coffee’s taste by using steam and chemical solvents (later a water-only process was developed), and thus the first decaffeinated coffee was produced. Roselius then markets the coffee under the brand name Sanka which comes from the French phrase “Sans Caffeine.”

1903 – About ninety percent of the world’s coffee is grown in Brazil.

1903 – After the Thousand Days War, Columbians enjoy a time of peace and coffee becomes a major economic product.

The Tolima and Cundinamarca areas are the sites of large haciendas (coffee plantations), and peasants begin growing coffee in the western mountain regions of Caldas and Antioquia. New railroads are built increasing the country’s ability to export coffee.

1905 – The world’s first commercial espresso machine is produced and manufactured in Italy.

The company of Desiderio Pavoni starts manufacturing espresso machines based on the design filed in Luigi Bezzera’s patent which was purchased by Pavoni. Realizing that using steam released too much bitterness from the ground coffee, Pavoni’s machine brewed the espresso at 195 degrees Fahrenheit and at nine BAR of pressure, creating a much higher quality espresso.

1905 - Columbia exports 500,000 bags of coffee. This number will double by 1915.

1906 – American Jabez Burns invents a coffee roasting machine that begins the era of modern coffee roaster using motors as well as electric fans.

1906 – English chemist George Constant Washington, an English chemist who resides in Guatemala, notices a powdery condensation forming on his silver coffee carafe spout.

Washington begins to experiment and soon creates a process that is used to create the first mass-produced soluble coffee (instant coffee). Washington calls the new coffee Red-E Coffee and begins selling it in 1909. By the 1970s annual sales of instant coffee in the United States would exceed 200 million pounds.

Also see History of Instant Coffee.

1907 – Ninety-seven percent of the coffee harvested on the planet comes from Brazil.

1907 – Significant commercial coffee production begins in Ethiopia due to the opening of an inland port at Gambela and the following year 100,000 kilograms of coffee are exported.

1908 – The first drip coffee maker is produced by Melitta Bentz using a filter of blotting paper. A housewife in Germany, Bentz wanted to prevent the bitterness in the coffee that results from over-brewing the coffee so she decided to pour the hot water over the ground coffee through a filter, thus removing the ground coffee.

As Bentz searched to find a proper filter she noticed that her son had some blotting paper and so she cut out a round piece of the blotting paper and then placed in in a metal cup.

Bentz’s filter paper and coffee filter received a patent in 1908, and later the same year she founded the Melitta Bentz company along with her husband Hugo. The following year at the Leipziger Fair in Germany the sold about 12,000 of their coffee filters.


1910 – Merck & Co. begins offering the German decaffeinated coffee Dekafa in the United States.

1912 – Prague’s Cafe Obecni Dum opens near Prague’s Powder Tower in the basement of the Obecni Dum, or House of Representatives. This classic Art Deco cafe is near the renowned Smetana Hall, the site of a proclamation of independence in 1918.

1914 - The Panama Canal opens to the benefit of Columbia coffee exports. The port of Buenaventura becomes very important.

1914 – Brazil provides 75% of United States coffee imports totaling 5.6 million bags.

This decreases to 4.3 million five years later while Central America’s coffee exports to the U.S. rose from 302,000 to 1.2 million bags and Columbia’s share of U.S. coffee imports increased from 687,000 bags to 915,000 bags.

1914 – Coffee prices rise due to World War I.


1920 – With the enactment of Prohibition in America, coffee consumption increases rapidly.

1920 - Coffee sales in the United States increase rapidly due to Prohibition.

1922 – More than 2.2 million kilograms are exported from Ethiopia on the Addis Ababa Djibouti Railway, and three years later these exports exceeded the Ethiopian Harrar coffees being exported through the port of Gambela.

1923 - The Boston Transcript states, “In a sad world, and especially in a country like ours, recently and constitutionally deprived of wine…the function of coffee in bringing serene delight is an important one.”

1923 - Sanka decaffeinated coffee becomes available in the United States.

1926 – A trademark registration is issued for “Maxwell House Good to the Last Drop,” a slogan that has persisted until the present day.

1927 – Cafe Reggio in Greenwich Village, New York installs a La Pavoni espresso machine. First built in 1902, this La Pavoni was the first to be used in the United States.

The Italian La Pavoni espresso machine remains there today on display and is a marvel of history blending design and engineering with an ornate bronze and chrome exterior. Italian style espresso was served to many notable people over the years at Cafe Reggio including the poet Joseph Brodsky and Bob Dylan.

1927/1928 - More than 4 million kilograms of coffee pass through the port of Gambela in Ethiopia. Coffee from the country is also produced in the Arsi Province and exported on the Addis Ababa Djibouti Railway.

1929 – Coffee prices decline significantly due to the Great Depression.


1932 – In the Kona Coffee growing region on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii, the public school schedule is altered so that the children can participate in the Kona coffee harvest which takes place from August until November.

This time period becomes know as the Kona Coffee Vacation, as it differs from the usual June until September school vacation in the rest of the State of Hawaii as well as other states. This Kona school schedule won’t change back to the regular schedule until nearly four decades later. (See 1969.)

1932 - Irving Berlin sings “Just around the corner, there’s a rainbow in the sky, so let’s have another cup o’ coffee, and let’s have another piece o’ pie.”

1933 – The world’s first automatic espresso machine is invented by Italian Dr. Ernest Illy. The machine is called the Illetta and uses compressed air to push the steam through the ground coffee. Previous espresso machines only used steam to create pressure and this sometimes resulted in explosions.

1936 – More than nine million kilograms of coffee are exported from Ethiopia on the Addis Ababa Djibouti Railway.

1937 – A coffee filter bag is patented by the Melitta Bentz company.

1938 - The Nestle Company develops the freeze dried Nescafe instant coffee at the request of the Brazilian government which was looking for ways to deal with its coffee surplus. The coffee is first introduced to the public in Switzerland. Also see History of Instant Coffee.

1938 – The Pavoni espresso machine is improved when M. Cremonesi develops a piston pump that forces extremely hot (but not boiling) water through the coffee grounds. The use of the piston pump prevents the espresso from acquiring a burnt flavor, as was common in the Pavoni espresso machine. Due to World War II no further development of the design occurred for some time.

1939 – In the South American Cook Book, Bob, Cora, and Rose Brown wrote that, “Coffee in Brazil is always made fresh and, except at breakfast time, drunk jet black from demitasses first filled almost to the brim with characteristic moist, soft coffee sugar of the country, which melts five times as fast as our hard granulated.”

The cook book goes on to state that, “For breakfast larger cups are used, and they’re more than half filled with cream. This cafe con leite doesn’t require so much sugar as cafe preto – black coffee.”

1939 - In an elegant and artistic setting, Vienna’s Cafe Hawelka opens. Today it remains as one of the few traditional coffee houses of Central Europe.


1940 – About 70% of all of the coffee grown in the world is imported into the United States.

1940 - In Kona Coffee Country on the western volcanic slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii, the donkeys that had been used for many decades to carry the coffee crop from the rocky, sloped farm areas to the mills, were finally replaced by jeeps.

These donkeys were known as the Kona Nightingales. Today some remnants of the donkey herd, which had been released on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano, now survive in a region located to the north of the Kona Airport.

1942 - U.S. soldiers in World War II are given Maxwell House coffee as part of their ration kits. A strong demand for coffee in the U.S. leads to a shortage in the United States results in the rationing of coffee to the general public. After the war, coffee prices will continue to increase.

1942 – In To Think of Coffee, Margaret Meagher writes, “Coffee has…expanded humanity’s working day from twelve to a potential twenty-four hours. The tempo, the complexity, the tension of modern life, call for something that can perform the miracle of stimulating brain activity, without evil, habit-forming after-effects.”

1946 – United States coffee consumption peaks with an annual per capita consumption of 19.8 pounds, which is double the consumption of the year 1900.

1946 - Italian Achilles Gaggia creates a commercial piston espresso machine that uses a piston to generate high pressure.

With the pressure applied to the coffee by a spring lever independent of the boiler pressure, and the water temperature also independent of the boiler, it was possible to achieve a faster and stronger as well as a more controlled filtration.

The piston along with a spring-powered lever system result in a better extraction producing an espresso with a rich layer of crema, which is the thin, foamy layer atop the espresso shot which contains its finest aromas properties and flavors.

Gaggia installs his newly improved espresso machine in Gaggia’s Coffee Bar. The cappuccino drink gets its name form the resemblance of the color of the espresso crema to the robes of Capuchin monks.

1949 – The New York Times states, “Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy.” The article goes on to state that coffee “is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat.”

1949 - In Germany the Tchibo Coffee Chain is founded.

Next see Coffee History / 1950-Present

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Opiew Owar July 1, 2011 at 7:23 am

It is great to know from where and how “cappuccino” exist. I like cappuccino, its my faverdrink.
Thanks for information,

You cannot recommend protected posts. April 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Hi to every body, it’s my first go to see of this website; this blog contains remarkable and in fact fine information in favor of readers.

Leeann April 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Do you have any information on the history of the packaging of coffee, like what was the first packaging glass? when was it being packaged in plastic jar etc. Would appreciate it a lot, as it is part of my dissertation

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