V tried to convince me this afternoon that a pair of Guatemalans invented instant coffee. They went to France with their idea and the French got all the credit, she explained ruefully.
Well not all, because according to Wikipedia the inventor of instant coffee was one Satori Kato, a Japanese scientist working in Chicago. It was not however marketed commercially for another 37 years until Nescafé was launched in 1938.
Guatemalans have made significant contributions to coffee-making though. In 1872, Jose Guardiola (actually a Spaniard educated here in England) patented a machine designed to artificially dry coffee: the beans are placed in a large, compartmentalised, rotating drum. A constant flow of hot air is evenly distributed though perforated pipes, and the steady movement and the constant heat combine to make the drying uniform. The Guardiola dryer is apparently still the most popular in use today.
Julio Smout (properly Jules Smout, a Prussian-born Belgian of Scottish descent) also transformed the dry mill phase of the process. His hulling (decorticador) machine replaced the primitive mortar and pestle technique previously used to remove the outer casing of the bean. His design featured a spiral-shaped cylinder that gradually rotates the beans around a casing. As they are caught between the side of the cylinder and the casing the beans are stripped of their husks. Patented in 1881, Smout's invention was originally manufactured by John Gordon in London and has been referred to ever since as the “Smout type of huller.”
Roberto Okrassa, a finquero from Antigua, added a polisher so that both procedures could be accomplished as part of a single operation. He also added some blowers to get rid of dust and parchment, and a more efficient cooling system that reduces the heat the beans are exposed to during milling. Okrassa’s huller and polisher was patented in 1912.
(The slightly loopy bloke that runs the Finca Macadamia just outside Antigua has developed a similar revolving contraption for separating and removing the hard casings of his Macadamia nuts.)
Not sure where V's perfidious French story came from. Anyone have any ideas?