Edmund Abel Jr., the tea-drinking inventor who helped revolutionize automatic drip brewing, has died at age 92 of complications from old age.
Abel, a World War II veteran, was granted a patent for the initial Mr. Coffee design after the machine debuted at the National Housewares show in Chicago in 1971. While not the first automated brewer — that title belongs to the German-made Wigomat, which debuted in 1954 — the Mr. Coffee built upon existing automated brewing technology to brew batches in half the time of competitors in the marketplace.
Abel’s design responded to the high temperatures created by electric percolators, which were the dominant home brew device at the time and were believed to over-extract, creating excessive bitterness. By later in that decade, Mr. Coffee manufacturer North American Systems Inc. had used the Mr. Coffee technology to capture more than half of the U.S. brewing market share.
Abel Jr. was a lifelong Cleveland-area resident and reportedly never drank coffee. He saw little money from the patent after selling it to North American systems. See Cleveland.com for more on Abel’s long life.
Here is the abstract from Abel’s 1971 patent:
In a pour-in, instant brewing type coffee maker, gravity flow of water, from a receiving tray bottom orifice to an electric resistance heated block of a unit heating the water as it passes to a brewing funnel discharging hot brewed coffee, is controlled by a float-varied orifice structure, and the tray overlies the block for tray water heating by water vapor latent heat; thus eliminating need of a large block mass or excessive heater wattage to provide requisite hot water temperature in an acceptable cycle time, and permitting a simple molded plastic housing design. Baffling in a block water flow top cavity conduces to efficient heat transfer and to reduction of steaming and of attendant noise.