Who Invented The Coffee Filter: How One Woman Changed Coffee
There are few things worse than a poorly-extracted cup of coffee. Once upon a time, it was all too common to find oneself sipping a bitter, sour, or gritty cup. But in the early 1900s, one German woman set out to change all that. Read on to find out how Melitta Bentz invented the coffee filter and changed the face of brewing forever.
Melitta: The Mother of All Great Coffee
The coffee filter and the drip coffee machine are inseparable. From humble bodegas to Michelin-starred restaurants, drip coffee and paper coffee filters are seemingly always within reach. And if you’re just starting your coffee journey, these two elements are probably where you’ll start.
Coffee enthusiasts have many methods of making coffee, but a good filter brew is the most accessible route into specialty coffee. And it wouldn’t be possible without Melitta Bentz, one of the first women ever to receive a patent for her work.
Who Invented the First Coffee Filter?
A German housewife named Melitta Bentz invented the paper coffee filter in 1908 (1). She ripped some blotting paper from her son’s notebook, added coffee grounds and hot water, and in doing so, spawned a revolution in home brewing.
Are you fascinated by science and how paper coffee filters are made? Watch the Science Channel’s excellent explainer.
Sweetening A Bitter Brew
Germans traditionally brewed coffee by boiling water, measuring in finely-ground coffee, and letting it steep. The brew was then filtered through sieves to remove the grounds.
Electric burr grinders weren’t readily accessible to the average consumer, however, so the coffee was inconsistently ground. Coffee fines either passed through holes in the sieve into the mug or prevented brewed coffee from passing through.
The resulting mug of coffee was astringent, bitter, and chock-full of the sour flavours coffee lovers dread. Something had to be done.
To add insult to injury, after enjoying the poorly-extracted coffee, coffee connoisseurs would have the frustrating task of cleaning up coffee grounds from their copper coffee pots.
Melitta Bentz was frustrated. She punched holes into the bottom of a copper pot, added a sheet of paper to the bottom, and unknowingly created the world’s first pour over set-up.
The Rest Is Delicious Coffee History
Melitta received the patent for her coffee filters in June 1908. The Bentz family quickly turned the humble coffee filter into a full-fledged business (2).
The first coffee filters were produced at home. The boys made deliveries with a handcart, while Bentz’s husband set up a display in shop windows …
By December of 1908, Melitta Bentz had formed a company, M. Bentz, which is now the Melitta Group (3). The Melitta Group is now an internationally recognized household name, selling all things coffee, from beans to brewers – and, of course, some of the best filters for coffee.
A little passion, persistence, and ingenuity can spark a revolution. Melitta Bentz, a Dresden housewife, took matters into her own hands to devise what is, arguably, one of the most important inventions in the history of coffee.
Which filter coffee method do you enjoy? Drop us a comment below, chat with us in our Home Grounds Facebook group, or tag and follow us on Instagram. We’d love to hear from you!
The typical cup profile of filter coffee is clean, nuanced, and complex. While the flavour of a cup of coffee depends on the bean variety, processing, and roast level, the clarity of flavour comes from the infusion brewing method and the paper filter (4).
Yes, you can compost paper coffee filters. Paper is primarily made of cellulose, which originates from plants, so your coffee filters and spent coffee grounds can go into your compost pile.
No, not all paper coffee filters are the same. They vary in thickness and shape, which can have a significant impact on brew coffee flavour. V60 coffee filters are thin and allow more oils in the cup for a fuller-bodied flavour. Chemex filters are thicker and yield a cleaner, more complex brew.
- German Patent and Trademark Office. (2023, February 17). The invention of the coffee filters. Retrieved from https://www.dpma.de/english/our_office/publications/ingeniouswomen/110jahrekaffeefilter/index.html
- Moses, C. (2018). Overlooked No More: Melitta Bentz, Who Invented the Coffee Filter. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/obituaries/melitta-bentz-overlooked.html
- The Melitta Group. (2013). Melitta® – Journey through Time. Retrieved from https://www.melitta.com/melitta_journey_through_time_en.html
- Burgess-Yeo, S. (2019, March 15). Drip and immersion brewing: A battle of two methods. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/03/drip-pour-over-vs-immersion-the-battle-of-the-coffee-brew-methods/