Forty years ago, the coffee habit-altering gift for those wanting to make a better cup of Joe at home would have been an automatic drip coffee machine.
Back in the 1960s, Americans were preparing coffee by the potful for breakfast, lunch and even dinner with their percolator. While the glass knob-topped pot deliciously gurgled and filled the kitchen with wonderful aromas, percolators often produced a bitter brew from cycling boiling water over and over through the grounds.
In 1969, Marotta set out to build an appliance that would make better coffee by controlling the temperature and flow of the water.
“The ideal temperature of the water is 200 degrees,” he explained to Forbes in 1979. “Not 212 degrees, which the percolators give you; 212 degrees gives you over-extraction, so the coffee becomes bitter and astringent. Not under 200 degrees, because then there’s a tendency for the coffee to come out like tea — too weak, not enough extraction.”
The secret — the challenge — was to get a mechanism that would provide water at exactly 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then control its flow over the grounds for precisely the right length of time.
Marotta and his business partner Samuel Glazer hired a pair of former Westinghouse engineers to solve the problem.
On July 26, 1971, Edmund Abel Jr., one of the engineers, filed a patent for a “Pour-in, instant brewing electric coffee maker.” On Sept. 26, 1972, patent number US3693535 A was granted.