Who Invented the Coffee Percolator


How does the smell of coffee in the morning appeal to you? In the past, coffee that was brewed would be put into a pot and then left there so that it could stay warm. After some time, the coffee would become bitter and would then be tossed down the drain. It works to continually cycle hot water through the coffee grounds until the right strength of coffee can be achieved. Invented by Sir Benjamin Thompson, you may know him better as Count Rumford.

Who Was Count Rumford?

Born in the United States to British parents, Count Rumford served the Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. He moved to London when the war was over and received his knighthood because of his talent for administration. It was the Holy Roman Empire who made him a Count in 1791.

At first, Rumford was primarily interested in explosives and guns, but this quickly led to an interest in heat. Many credit him with the discovery of how to measure the heat of a solid substance, but a parallel discovery was published before his. This led Rumford to look at how various substances, such as feathers and wool, would act as insulating materials.

Unfortunately for Rumford, he held himself back with some audacious claims regarding this period of his research. It would, however, take him toward the work that would lead to his inventions.

What Else Did Count Rumford Invent?

Aside from the coffee percolator, there are a number of other heat-based inventions that are credited to Count Rumford.

Industrial Furnaces. Rumford improved the design of the furnaces that were producing quicklime in Europe by separating the hot fuel from the limestone. This eliminated contamination of the final product.

Fireplaces. The Rumford fireplace was based on the principal that if one restricted the size of the chimney opening, it would heat a room more efficiently. It eliminates much of the smoke in modern chimneys and allowed for extra control of the combustion rate of the wood or coal.

Double boiler. When you want something to heat without the influence of water or a heating element, then the double boiler is still the preferred item of choice. Placed on top of boiling water, the bowl heats and allows for the cooking process to begin. It is often used to melt chocolate.

Photometers. Rumford is most known in the scientific community for the introduction of the term “standard candle.” This term was created to assist with the measurement of light so that the intensity of any light could be measured. His observations and measurements led to the law of simultaneous color contrast by Chevreul in 1839.

It wasn’t just heat that fascinated Count Rumford either. His approach to cold was that it occurred not because of a lack of heat, but that it was something absolutely real by itself. He conducted a number of experiments on this as well, although no inventions came from his work.

Count Rumford may have created controversy in life at times by supporting the Loyalists and moving from America to Europe, but he also created a number of inventions that have made life easier and some are still used today. It is for his contributions that he will always be remembered.

Coffee Habits in America