Choo-choo, here comes the coffee train!
May 17, 2019 9:41 PM   Subscribe

In a world of crazy coffee-making contraptions (Espresso Made in Italy) the "cafetière-locomotive" or coffee-making train stands apart (Atlas Obscura), pairing railroad fever ( and increased interest in coffee (PBS). First patented in 1861 (Early Tech) by an Italian architect living in Paris, Jean Baptiste Toselli, this bit of "domestic theatre" was reserved only for the very wealthy, as they were never mass-produced.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
So there’s no way I can get a coffee-maker train???
posted by gucci mane at 12:05 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]

i really need a video
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 12:40 AM on May 18 [9 favorites]

These are darling or something, but I want a flat black hissing hot steam engine tea kettle that makes and brings my tea and biscuit from the kitchen and only occasionally explodes or sets things alight.
posted by pracowity at 12:42 AM on May 18 [10 favorites]

Sometimes you get coffee, sometimes scalding and shrapnel. Are you feeling lucky?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:12 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]

Sometimes you get coffee, sometimes scalding and shrapnel. Are you feeling lucky?

posted by Fizz at 4:13 AM on May 18 [18 favorites]

Finally I know what expresso coffee is.
The coffee world burbled with activity in the mid-19th century, from the eight-foot-tall Loysel coffee machine, which could produce 2,000 cups of coffee an hour
Look at the thing. It's like a steam engine crossed with the Stanley Cup.
posted by zamboni at 5:07 AM on May 18 [13 favorites]

Like the Wreck of the Old 97, but with coffee:

He was going down the grade making 90 cups an hour
He went looking for the cream
He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle
Scalded to death by the steam

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:11 AM on May 18 [12 favorites]

The coffee train sounds to be more like a horizontal vacuum pot than an espresso machine. Modern vacuum pots use heated gas pressure to move liquid around but the pressure is so low there's no risk of explosion (unless you're doing something wrong). But they're also not sealed systems, and the coffee train is. I imagine what made most of them explode was using fine china vessels with low pressure tolerances, and piping that clogged easily if the filters were dirty or broken. So basically if somebody wanted to bring this back into fashion, I'm guessing they could probably gin up a pretty safe version using modern materials without having to alter the design itself much.
posted by ardgedee at 5:29 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

> It's like a steam engine crossed with the Stanley Cup.

I found this Cimbali at an antiques store last year. It might still be there if you really want an espresso machine the size of a home oven. The seller claims it's from the mid-19th century, but if it is, it's probably been retrofitted with modern innards (see the pressure gauge).
posted by ardgedee at 7:12 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]

This is amazing and I too want video. Also, I eagerly await the Fourth Wave coffee shops that use these and tell everyone what cretins they are for drinking pour-over.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:50 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]

That is very cute. Functional stuff that's made to look like something other than what it is is my FAVORITE SHIT. It's also always my favorite thing at a museum that has ancient artifacts and somebody was like well I know how to make jug and that's boring now, jugs and birds both have mouths so I'm gonna make this jug look like a bird just because I can. I see that at the museum and I'm like hi dude, love your work, we are the same. This is another instance of that.
posted by bleep at 9:03 AM on May 18 [7 favorites]

Now I want to ride in a ceramic train made to look like a bird* while drinking coffee.

* I wish the train to look like a bird, not that I should suddenly sport an avian motif.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:11 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

Bleep and I are kindred spirits. I covet this greatly, I love coffee and I love miniature trains and I want one with a motor so it can go around the room on a track offering my guests coffee. It could tow carriages with a selection of biscuits. And then I'll need a second train for tea.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:43 AM on May 18 [7 favorites]

Maybe a matching tea blimp, because that wouldn’t be dangerous....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:58 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

If a person were to do this now, wouldn't it be a coffee drone?
posted by jamjam at 1:35 PM on May 18

As ardgedee said, it's definitely a vacuum pot, which was a popular 19thC way of making coffee. By far my favourite way of making coffee. It probably made good coffee.
posted by sfred at 7:25 PM on May 18

In the late 1980s, when I was a whipper snapper attending Academy of Art’s summer program for teens, there was a gallery in SF doors down from the piano store South of Market. An artist had created an espresso machine from various surplus hardware. The ‘boiler’ was a basketball size steel sphere. Under it was a wok ring burner connected to a propane tank. Beans were held in a very large (quart?) conical beaker mounted upside down above a grinder. Finally a foot long lever, activated the pour into a tiny 2oz demitasse. Steam Punk espresso. Despite my efforts, I’ve never learned of the artist all these years later.
posted by xtian at 7:10 AM on May 19

Oh man, a working steam model with a coffee percolating system would be extra fun.

By "Extra fun" I mean making everyone wait fifteen minutes or so while you fiddle around with the locomotive as it raises up steam.

I ended up thinking about how to make this work as I fell asleep last night:

Using boiler water to make coffee wouldn't work, at least with the steam powered models I'm familiar with, since oil is mixed in with the boiler water and you'd end up with oily coffee in your cup. BUT you could have a seperate coffee boiler on top of the regular boiler, maybe in the form of a saddle tank. It would take longer to heat up since it wouldn't be directly heated like the boiler, but that's why you have a train track around the breakfast table, so you can watch the train trundling along as it brews your coffee. Not that I like waiting for my coffee in the morning. Anyway, thanks for the post!
posted by gamera at 12:34 PM on May 19

With the addition of a safety valve, Toselli could market his coffee maker as inexplosible
I think more products should have New: Doesn't Explode! as a selling point.
posted by zamboni at 12:59 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

I broke my 30+ year old glass Bodum Santos vacuum pot this morning, and as I was ruefully inspecting the cracked upper bowl, a big piece fell off and pierced the upper surface of my flip flop clad foot badly enough to leave a small puddle of blood on the floor by the time was able to control my impulse to throw the rest of it against the wall.

Oh well, the Vacuum Pot God was due a blood sacrifice after the well over a dozen I've smashed to date, I suppose, but I feel compelled to note that, while vacuum pots don't explode in my experience, they can and do implode impressively, as I learned a few years ago from a relatively ornate Silex dating from the teens of the last century. Except for a few, the fragments of that were the shape and about the size of the crystals you'd find in a box of Epsom salts.
posted by jamjam at 1:59 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]

I think more products should have "New: Doesn't Explode!" as a selling point.

Oh, I'm note sure - I like a little frisson of potential catastrophe with my morning cuppa. When I was a kid, I had a Mamod toy steam roller like this. It also had a sprit boiler - they don't give out a fantastic amount of heat - and this meant there would be a considerable delay of anticipation between lighting it up and getting any action. There was a namby-pamby pressure release valve built in - but otherwise the toy had just the kind of mix of high pressure steam and naked flames that would make playtime fun!

Yet, very happily, Mamod are still going and can sell you new models. Maybe they could be persuaded to come up with a coffee maker variant?
posted by rongorongo at 1:01 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

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