As part of our modern obsession with artisan-everything, today’s pickiest coffee drinkers insist upon a hand-brewed cup made right before their eyes. At the cornerstone of this trend is the undisputed king of pour-over coffee, the Chemex Coffeemaker, which graces the counters of hip homes and cafes around the globe. But this ingenious device is nothing new: In fact, the Chemex company has been making the exact same brewer for more than 70 years, proving the staying power of great design.
The man behind Chemex’s functional-chic was Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, a scientist with a larger-than-life personality and a strong perfectionist streak. During his lifetime, Schlumbohm patented more than 300 different devices; at least 20 of these “Beautilities,” as Schlumbohm called them, eventually made it into the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection—everything from an electric fan to a cocktail shaker.
Schlumbohm developed his products by stripping appliances down to their essentials and making them work better. In the vein of modern inventors like James Dyson, Schlumbohm didn’t overload his creations with a jumble of new features—he reshaped the industries he entered through the sheer force of innovative elegance. Maybe that’s why the Chemex still feels so fresh; in a world of overly complex and smirking technology, the Chemex remains a quiet anomaly.