I am sure today is important for any number of reasons, but personally the key innovation for the day comes from the American James H Mason.
OK, so perhaps on the universal scale of great scientists and innovators he doesn’t rate up there with some of our recent blog-featured personalities (Newton, Joule, Edwin Armstrong, even Steve Jobs) but to me his contribution has brought much enjoyment – Mason is the guy who first patented the coffee percolator in the US in 1865. (Actually a British soldier and scientist, Sir Benjamin Thompson, came up an earlier version of the percolator some years before, but I couldn’t find out much about his invention.)
Mason’s patent was for a downflow method, which didn’t use rising steam and water, but it did pave the way for another American, Hanson Goodrich who, in 1889, came up with the classic percolator system similar to the stove-top percolators still produced today.
Traditional stove-top percolators have lost some ground in recent years, with the rise in popularity of, firstly, the automatic drip style coffee makers, and more recently the very simple and practical French press devices.
And yes, a French press is great for your daily brew at home, but more than a century after its invention, a classic stove top percolator on a camping stove under a starry sky remains a wonderful thing.