Believe it or not, there was a time before Starbucks existed. And, yes, there was even a time before your beloved slow drip coffee maker and Chemex existed as well. And, if coffee has been around for about 1000 years, then how did people make coffee before coffee machines?
Although we grow up hearing about coffee houses being at the forefront of the Enlightenment Period in the western world, that gives the incorrect perception of what was going on.
Yes, coffee started becoming popular in European civilizations a few hundred years ago. And, yes, coffee houses existed. But it wasn’t nearly as popular and widespread as it is now.
Most people had to roast their own coffee beans.
Before there were easy processes to roast beans, people just used a pan and an open fryer. When people purchased coffee beans, the coffee beans did not come pre-roasted. The delicious precision that we are now accustomed to was not part of the deal back then.
This rugged method of roasting did the trick, but it was not as effective as our current roasting methods. As you can imagine, using a pan or kettle led to really uneven and inconsistent roasts.
But people got their caffeine fix!
This was just the roasting, however. The brewing process was very crude back then as well.
We have discussed the Cowboy Method of brewing coffee before. Coffee was made very primitively back in the day. More or less, you boil water in a kettle, and then put some coarsely ground coffee beans into the boiling water for a few minutes.
It is primitive, but it works. When you brew this way though, you do not get the full extraction. So, people were pretty much missing out on all the great things that the third wave of coffee is bringing to us now.
What is crazy is that there were totally coffee snobs back before coffee machines. George Washington paid handsomely for fine quality and large quantities of green coffee beans, for instance.
What do you guys think? Before you were wondering, “How did people make coffee before coffee machines?” And, now you are probably wondering, “could I even stand drinking coffee without creamer, sugar, and that was poorly roasted and poorly brewed?”
We think the answer is still: yes. Yes, of course you would still drink coffee in mass quantities. We are just too spoiled by having perfected the craft, and by silly subscription services that bring craft coffee to your doorstep.