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Nothing new under the sun.

Nothing new under the sun

"There is no new thing under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) - So we say when we learn that a modern discovery" is, in fact, the recycling of knowledge from the past - the equivalent of re-inventing the wheel. In the modern era of rapid technological change, however, there are developments of which our ancestors could not have dreamt. In the coffee world, too, there are machines exploiting new techniques and new materials, using the ubiquitous microprocessor and the modern plastics, for example, in many different ways. Yet, there remains a place for the traditional machine using traditional materials.

The universally traded green coffee bean represents the half-way stage in the journey from tree to cup. First comes the harvesting and primary processing in the producing country. Afterwards follows the blending, roasting and packaging in the consuming country. By the nature of the crop, the producers are largely tropical countries, while consumers tend to be in temperate zones. Consequently, highly sophisticated machinery and equipment that are essential in the competitive environment. But consuming countries are often inappropriate in the difficult conditions found on a coffee plantation in the tropics. What the plantation manager is looking for are reliable, robust machines that are long-lasting and are simple to repair.

The late 19th century was a period of great innovation in coffee machinery designs, come of which continue in use today, almost unchanged. Two names from that time are still well-known: Jules Smout and John Gordon. The into a range of coffee peelers and polishers whose manufacture was licensed to John Gordon & Co. as long ago as 1878. The original machine was the 36 inch size, of which 700 were sold in the first 20 years. The same quantity again was sold in the next 50 years, with an equal number of replacement cylinders, doubling the life of each machine. Presently there are no statistics to indicate how many are still in use world-wide, but its substantial cast-iron construciton will have ensured that there are certainly more than a few. Following the introduction of the original machine, the range was extended to include 18 inch, 15 inch and 9 inch peelers and, in 1900, the largest version, the 54 inch "Smout" Peeler and Polisher. With a capacity of more than two tons per hour, the machine was appropriate for only the largest parchment curing works. Of the 60 machines sold by John Gordon & Co. as many as 30 were delivered to London curing mills, sited by the wharves on the River Thames. Until World War II, a great deal of coffee was shipped to London as parchment and then "cured," that is peeled, polished and graded, once the coffee had been sold on the market. Increasing freight costs made it uneconomic to ship coffee that was not already fully cured, and the destruction of many of the mills by wartime bombing, brought the practice to an end. Nevertheless, 54 inch size mchines, some more than 50 years old, still give good service in producing countries and are supported by the manufacturer, with spare parts still available, despite the age of the machines.

After a gap in production for a few years, John Gordon recently reintroduced the 54 inch "Smout" Peeler, at the request of clients who wished to replace four of the eight machines installed at their curing works in East Africa. Manufacturing was completed at the modern facility in Epping, Essex, England, the new purpose-built home of John Gordon. The second move in the last 100 years for the organization, it has placed great emphasis on traditional values and quality since 1850. A wide range of machines that includes pulpers, hullers and catadors, and a willingness to adapt standard models to suit particular clients' requirements, will ensure that the coffee trade continues to be supported by one of the oldest names in the business.

PHOTO : John Gordon checks a 54 inch "Smout" Coffee Peeler and Polisher.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:includes article on 7th International Coffee Congress in Berlin; coffee industry technology
Author:Gordon, John M.; Khurt, C.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:658
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