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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

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Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

Posted April 29, 2019 4:30 PM by lmno24

If you brew your coffee with a paper coffee filter, you can thank Melitta Bentz.

In the early 1900s, she started most days the way most of us still do: with a fresh cup of coffee.

But she was often irritated with the coffee grounds in her cup and having to scrub ground stuck to the side of her copper coffee pot. Each morning from her kitchen in Dresden, Germany, she thought about ways to make a better cup of coffee.

She tried many things, all of which didn’t work. One day, she tore a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school notebook and stuck it in an old tin pot that she drilled holes into.

Bentz then added ground coffee and poured hot water over the grounds. The coffee dripped through the paper and into the cup underneath. The used, wet grounds and the paper went right into the trash and the pot and mug clean up was much simpler.

She was able to share this more enjoyable cup of coffee with family and friends and the results were excellent. Everyone loved her more enjoyable cup of coffee. She decided to start a drip coffee company.

The Kaiserliche Patentamt (Imperial Patent Office) granted her a patent in June 1908. In December 1908, her company was entered into the commercial register as “M. Bentz.” Her family helped her with business duties including contracting a tinsmith to manufacture the devices.

Her husband Hugo and her sons Horst and Willy were her first official employees. When the first World War broke out, metals were rationed for use other than Zeppelin construction. Paper and imported coffee beans were also rationed. The budding business was halted during this time.

Things picked back up again after the war ended and the company expanded very quickly. By 1928, demand was so high they hired 80 employees to work in a double-shift system.

In 1930, Horst took over the business, then called Bentz & Son. Bentz transferred the majority of business operations to both her sons in 1932 but kept a hand in the business. She mostly worked on making sure the employees received great benefits from Christmas bonuses, up to 15 vacation days a year and a five-day work week. She also started the “Melitta Aid” system, which was a social fund for company employees.

She also edited the original filter into the ribbed cone shape most of us are familiar with today.

By this time, World War II had broken out. The company had to stop their regular production and help produce goods needed for the war. After the war, production picked back up but not in their main factory as it was still being used as a post for troops. Employees were temporarily relocated to old factories and even pubs to get the company moving again.

By 1948, things has returned to normal. Bentz died just two years later in 1950. The company remains in operation in Minden, Germany by Thomas and Stephen Bentz, Melitta’s grandchildren, and distributes coffee, paper filters and coffee makers as part of the Melitta group. They employ approximately 3,500 people.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

04/29/2019 9:06 PM

Great story.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

04/30/2019 12:06 AM

I don't like the paper coffee filters, they make the coffee taste funny....I use the basket type...

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

04/30/2019 10:41 PM

You do realize that the thin screen filter you use is just a metallic or plastic analogue of Ms. Bentz's invention, so yeah you are still indebted to her.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

05/01/2019 2:28 AM

No, I would have figured it out myself....Just because somebody thought of something first, doesn't mean nobody else can ever think of it, , or something better....it happens all the time... Cuban coffee....

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

05/01/2019 10:05 AM

The point is you didn't have to. That's the "why" of the inventors and creatives now, then, and the future. Same as it ever was going back to the human that strapped a stick to a rock creating the first sophisticated tool. (Yeah there were hammers before, but you had no force multiplication and stood a good chance of "barking" your knuckles.)

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

05/01/2019 4:19 PM

The point is, yes I did, because I don't like the taste of the paper filters....that's why I searched until I found something I did like....If I hadn't found the improved permanent filter, that saves paper waste by the way, I would have invented something myself...and by the way I'm sure she's not the first person that used an alternative method of capturing the grounds, she's just the one that got credit....People always like to take somebody that made a successful business out of something and give them credit for thinking of the idea first....that's ridiculous....People don't patent and commercialize every idea they have...In fact most guys get ripped off by somebody with deeper pockets...I'm not convinced she didn't ripoff this idea from somebody else...Besides that the paper filters remove the diterpenes, organic compounds present in unfiltered coffee known to be antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Metal or nylon mesh filters do not remove these components...so paper filters are bad....

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

05/01/2019 6:21 PM

I might add that there were other types of filters being used at the time, most predominantly linen....Paper probably became popular because they were cheap...so she didn't invent the filter, just the cheap paper filter...

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Re: Woman of the Week – Melitta Bentz

04/30/2019 9:26 AM

Great story. I was impressed not only by the invention but by the benefits the Melitta company offered its employees way back in the 1930s.

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