When Did You Get a Mr. Coffee?

Simple cutaway diagram of a coffee percolator

Simple cutaway diagram of a coffee percolator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the favorite toys my sons played with at my mother-in-law’s house was her stove top coffee percolator.

She didn’t use it at home anymore and no longer used it for their camper, so it was available as a toy.

The boys were fascinated with all the pieces and spent hours, as toddlers, taking them apart and putting them back together on her kitchen floor.

There was the basket that coffee grounds went in. The lid to the basket, with many small holes in it, served to spread the water out over all the coffee grounds.

There was a metal tube that fit through the middle of the basket and had a small disk at the other end that rested on the bottom of the inside of the percolator.

There was a top with a removable glass handle. They all fit neatly into the metal percolator.

When it was in use, the stove top percolator worked by boiling water in its base.

The water entered the narrow tube as steam, then fell back down over coffee grounds in a basket and eventually dripped down, as coffee, to the same spot in the base where the water had boiled.

It was efficient, cheap and easy to use if you got used to the timing.

If you forgot it, though, and the coffee had dripped back down, or you left it on the stove too long to keep warm, the coffee would scorch.

When I was growing up and when I first got married, we had an electric percolator.

Instead of the heat from a stove top burner, water was heated by an electric unit inside the pot. This meant keeping it warm after the water dripped through the basket inside used less heat.

So, the timing was more forgiving. You were less likely to scorch the coffee. But, still, if it sat a long time, it picked up a scorched taste.

When Did Mr. Coffee Come Out?

In 1972, Mr. Coffee revolutionized American home coffee brewing. 2012 is Mr. Coffee’s 40th anniversary.

The owners of a coffee delivery service had commissioned two engineers to design an electric drip coffee maker.

This had the potential of eliminating or reducing the risk of scorching that was a problem with electric percolators because the heat used to boil the water was separate from the heat used to warm the resulting coffee.

Initially, the water passed over a heating coil before dripping through the coffee grounds into the carafe resting on a heating plate.

Eventually, a reservoir and siphon, like percolators, was incorporated. But, in both designs, the heating units for the water and for the coffee were separate and used different temperatures so as not to scorch the coffee.

In 1973, Joe DiMaggio was hired as a celebrity spokesman. By 1974, more than one million Mr Coffee coffeemakers had been sold.

By 1995, Mr. Coffee was a $174 million-dollar company.

What Do Home Coffee Drinkers Do Now?

Coffee drinkers today, used to the flavors available at popular chains like Starbucks, have found single-serving coffee makers efficient for brewing a cup of coffee, with their favorite flavor, on the way out the door in the morning.

Mr. Coffee has licensed the most popular of these, the Keurig K-cup technology, for single cup brewing.

They have also created the Mr. Coffee Cafe Latte machine that whips steamed milk into coffee.

What Does the Newest Mr. Coffee Do?

Mr. Coffee’s latest coffee maker flash heats the water to the ideal brewing temperature of 195-200 degrees just before it drips over the coffee grounds. Ten cups of coffee take eight minutes to brew.

The coffee stays warm in a thermal carafe, so it won’t scorch.

We add near-boiling water to our thermal carafe to heat the glass sides, as well as a coffee mug, while coffee is dripping in our Mr. Coffee. Then, we pour the hot water out and pour in the hot coffee.

This keeps the coffee warm all morning.

It’s the same process we saw in China more than 20 years ago. A line of glass-lined carafes were filled with boiling water while tea steeped. The carafes were then emptied just before the tea was poured in.

I wonder how Mr. Coffee is going to heat the thermal carafe?

Do you still have any toys your mother or mother-in-law gave your children to play with?

Which of your children’s toys did you keep for your grandchildren?

Do you have any thing you no longer use that you let your grandchildren take apart?

To you and helping your grandchildren figure out how the world works.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers

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