Melitta Bentz (1873–1950)
The Melitta coffee filter still used today takes its name from the German housewife-entrepreneur Melitta Bentz who invented and developed it.
Bentz was born Melitta Leibscher in Dresden, where her father was a book salesman. She married Hugo Bentz in her home city. As a housewife she was dissatisfied by methods of making coffee. She found that ground coffee in a jug of hot water resulted in coffee that brewed too long and the espresso equipment of the time left gritty grounds. She devised her own solutions, which led to her patent for a pour-over coffee filter in 1908.
Her first device was a brass pot with a brass top punctured with holes that took a piece of blotting paper of the kind she found in her son’s schoolbooks. She officially started the company in her own name in 1908, ‘M. Bentz’, and employed her husband and her two sons. She sold 1,200 units at the Leipzig trade fair in 1909. In 1910 she developed the device further so that the coffee poured directly into a jug or pot.
Production fell during the First World War but in 1922 she developed a graphic style for the brand on packets of filter papers and in 1928 the company employed 80 people. Due to a lack of space in Dresden, in 1929 she moved with the company to the town of Minden near Hanover. She transferred the business to her sons Horst and Willy but was still involved, especially in ensuring good social care for the company’s workers. During the 1930s the company developed the conical shape and the signature-style lettering for the Melitta trademark. Production was stopped again during the Second World War when the factory was requisitioned. It re-started in 1948, two years before Melitta Benz died.
Filters began to be made of ceramic instead of metal. They were replaced by plastic from 1960. The grandchildren of Melitta Benz own the company, which is based at Minden and employs several thousand people worldwide.