world fairs

German Inventions: Chemex

Germany is certainly not thought of for its coffee snobbery, but it IS known for clever engineering. As such, it may be unsurprising that your sleek new coffee maker is the product of a German inventor.

Originally posted by butteryplanet

Peter Schlumbohm was born in 1896 in Kiel, the current capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Nonsurprisingly given the science-class looking shape of the Chemex, Schlumbohm was the oldest son of a manufacturer of paints and chemicals. He himself, after completing time in the military, turned to chemistry as his field of study.

Traveling in the name of science patents, Schlumbohm arrived in the U.S. in 1931 searching for patent rights for the equivalent of dry ice. His travels to the States sparked an affection for U.S. patent law that came in handy when, in 1939, he approved the patent for his “filtering device” after exhibiting a prototype at the New York World’s Fair that same year. 

Coffee Consumption

Germans drink a surprising amount of coffee. Though we’ve got nothing on the Fins, who are annually consuming 9.6 kg per capita–we aren’t so far behind at 5.2 kg. That makes Germany the eighth largest coffee consumer in the world. Must be all those dark winter months, no?

Success of the Chemex

Never heard of or seen a Chemex? No judgement. This chemistry-set looking coffee maker is upfront about its time-consuming process. Between weighing coffee grounds and seeping the ground beans in spurts, the Chemex is for the more patient of coffee-addicts. This being said, speed wasn’t and isn’t what makes the product famous.

The design of the Chemex, a product of wartime, is considered quintessentially Bauhaus in style. It was featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York first in 1942 as part of “Useful Objects in Wartime,” making it the official poster-child of establishment’s new emphasis on undecorated, functional simplicity. It has since been part of the MoMA and the Smithsonian’s Museum of Modern Art.

Nowadays you are most likely to spot the Chemex in the nook of a coffee connoisseurs kitchen as it makes a 21st century comeback.

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