Automatic Coffee Maker


Ah, that first cup of the morning!

My earliest kitchen related memory is learning how to make coffee. I must have been around 9 or 10 years old. A life long early riser, I was always the first one up in the morning, especially on the weekends. I viewed my siblings as lazy slobs, rarely emerging from sleep before noon on a Saturday.

Note to my siblings

Little Patty, however, would wake up early, usually before 6 am. Padding down the dark stairway, creeping across the dining room and snuggling myself into the built in kitchen breakfast nook, I would patiently wait for someone to wake up.

That's me holding the teddy bear on my 10th birthday, February 8th 1964. The dark haired girl on the left is my friend, Linda, my younger sister, Mary, with the glasses and my older sister, Wendi. This was the only picture I could find of our breakfast nook, my favorite hang out.

 It was always my mother. Early one Saturday morning my mother said to me “If you are going to be the first one up, you are going to learn how to make coffee.” Great! I get to do something none of the other kids know how to do.

I finally broke down and bought one for $4.00 at a thrift store!

My mother brought out the Corning ware ceramic percolator. Every time I see one of these with its blue cornflower emblem in a yard sale or an antique shop it brings back this warm and fuzzy memory.

Totally complete and in pristine condition

She removed the metal basket and stem and showed me the fill line on the inside of the pot. She guided me over to the sink where we put the pot under the tap and filled it to the 9 cup line. Tap water was actually drinkable back in the 60’s.

The fill lines

Next step was to put in the metal basket. Now I can’t really recall if there was a paper round filter that went in the bottom or not, but I believe there was. The filters were kept in the pantry along with the can of coffee, so that’s where we headed next. I loved the pantry. It was full of mystery ingredients, like deviled ham that I don’t ever recall anyone actually eating. I loved the little dancing red devil on that can.

This stuff was a total mystery to me

 My mother always tried to hide the rare box of See’s candy that would find its way, via a gift, into our house in that pantry. I ate more of that candy than anyone. It pays to hang out in the kitchen.

My sugar addiction started early in life. I totally ate most of any See's candy that made it into our pantry!

But, I digress. The reason we were in the pantry was for the big red can of Folgers or Hills Brothers.

I think my mother had a thing for coffee in red cans

or maybe it was whatever was on sale that week!

I loved opening the coffee can. Back in those days coffee cans came with a cool little key. Resembling a skate key, it was attached to the bottom of the can. You would snap off the key, locate the little metal tab on the top of the can, pull it away from the can a bit with a butter knife (if you were a mother with a manicure) or your fingernail if you just didn’t care and start to wind the key. The can would start to slowly rotate and make a puffff sound, as the vacuum seal was broken. And the heavenly aroma of Mrs. Olsen’s drug of choice would fill the kitchen. It would be a good 10 years before I ever actually enjoyed drinking the stuff, but I always loved that aroma!

Yeah, that's Mrs. Olsen, the caffeine pushing TV commercial woman of my youth


Once the can was opened, I got to dig for the buried treasure that was the coffee measuring scoop. It was usually on the top of the ground beans, but sometimes you had to dig a bit. My mother told me to measure 3 level scoops, pouring each into the little metal basket. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my mother’s coffee was really weak. It’s funny to think back to the early 1970’s, my friends and I considered ourselves coffee snobs and wouldn’t be caught dead with Folger’s or Hills Brothers in our kitchens.

I still can't believe we thought this was gourmet coffee!

No, we thought Yuban was the “it” coffee of the time. Yikes! If I was making that pot today I would be using 5 heaping scoops of freshly ground beans that were roasted locally.

The final step was to put the lid on and place the percolator on the electric burner of our stove. I pushed the button marked “high” and then sat and watched. I waited and waited. Then I waited some more. The white appliance with the blue cornflower started to make some noise. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. I could see the water starting to pop up in the glass knob. Weakly colored at first but then it began to darken. At this point my mother tells me to push the “simmer” button. “ It’s very important that you put it on simmer at this point” she tells me “because it will boil over and then you will have a hot mess to clean up.” Not to mention that I will ruin the coffee and have to start all over.

I made coffee for my parents for years. I think my mom was the only woman on our street to have the first automatic coffee maker, years before they were ever invented. And I am so grateful that I did not grow up and marry one of these guys!


13 Responses to “Automatic Coffee Maker”

  1. July 19, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Yup, and now you’re my little automatic coffee maker….

    Thank you Ma’am, may I have another… cup that is.

    • July 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

      I am proud and happy to be your coffee maker, my darling. And your dinner chef, pastry chef and dishwasher. Thanks for bringing home the veggie bacon!

      • July 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm

        Oh Darlin’, it’s just like the kinks sang it so long ago….

        “I mustn’t stay in this job too long
        I gotta get out before the hold is too strong
        Gotta get out before my ambition is gone
        ‘Cos it’s breaking me up and bringing me down.

        “But when I get home you make it all worthwhile,
        You make me laugh and you make me smile
        And after a hard day sorting out the files
        You make it all worthwhile.”

        Yes you do, you Vamp you.

  2. July 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for the flashback! I can totally relate….those pics really brought back memories! Now I want a cup of coffee too….

  3. July 19, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Now I want a cup of coffee, too! Glad I could bring back a memory or two. This was a fun post!

  4. July 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

    I have almost exactly the same coffee-making memories, except that we had a metal percolator, made the coffee stronger, and opened the can with a regular can opener (I remember digging around for the coffee measure, though — although I can’t remember whether we threw out the previous one or accumulated a huge collection of them in the silverware drawer). We used large square coffee filters that basically formed a packet enclosing the coffee grounds. Each filter had holes in the center and near each corner: you’d put the filter in the basket (with the percolator stem through the center hole), add the coffee grounds, and then fold each of the four corners over the top, pushing each corner’s hole over the stem in turn.

    • July 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Laura. Glad I could evoke a memory in you. I just had to buy that Corning Ware pot at my favorite thrift shop! I remember those filters you described. That is the only thing that is fuzzy about my memory and my coffee learning experience. I know there was a filter involved. It may have been those square jobbies.

  5. July 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Patricia…your post is one that I related to in so many ways.

    That corning ware percolator still exists in my Mom’s kitchen…even though she only pops it out to make wonderful coffee with it on occasion.
    I too get the warm and fuzzy feeling because this was passed on from my ‘Nonna’…and all the memories of feasting over desserts at her house.

    Love all the accompanying pics.

    Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

  6. August 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I hope all is well, I look forward to your posts here! Wish you well, until you return…

  7. August 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Hello Elisa! Thanks for checking in. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Been really busy with summertime life. Thanks for the well wishes. I will soon return.

  8. 11 Grace
    September 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I enjoyed your coffee story very much. Childhood traditions like that mean so much to us later in life, don’t they? Percolated coffee tastes so much better than drip coffee, I just refuse to give it up. I still use the electric version of that coffee pot, although it was recalled in the 70s. I’ve had to nurse the cords along as they tend to melt every once in a while. I have the same stove top model you show there in my pantry, ready to step in if (oh, please, no!) the worst happens and my last cord dies for good.

    • September 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Grace! Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave a nice comment. I heard about those 70’s models being recalled because of melting cords and the handels falling off. I’m glad you have been able to keep yours alive and perking! Have an awesome day and please feel free to stop by again.

  9. July 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Awesome Web site, Preserve the very good work. Many thanks!

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