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Probat unveils historical coffee museum.

It's arguable that without the machinery manufacturers who created the roasting equipment, today's international coffee industry would be a thin shadow of its present self. The new museum of coffee technology in Emmerich, Germany, traces the progress from table-top ball roasters to today's multi-ton Titans, reports Richard Clark.

Unmechanized, the coffee trade would probably still be run by a handful of small merchants, offering penny-packet lots Of beans for home preparation. Instead, the modern multi-nationals use installations that process coffee by hundreds of tons where the old ways could only produce single pounds.

The Probat Museum of Coffee Technology's collection has been assembled from all over the world, and many of the exhibits go back to well before the company's own beginnings in the 1860's. The truly surprising thing though, is how roasting techniques remained more or less static for decades after that, until the microprocessor brought in automation systems that control every phase of the roasting operation, with very little human interference.

But it is the items from the pre-industrial age that most forcefully nudge the emotions. There are the old stove-top roasters that were either cast in iron or made in mild steel by village blacksmiths, first used before improved transportation systems could guarantee freshly-roasted coffee to the most remote community. It is a sobering thought that similar types were still being used for domestic roasting well into this century.

With the home roasters went the hand-held grinders, beginning with the slim, tubular brass models which were a standard item in the saddle-bags of every self-respecting camel-driver throughout the centuries of the Ottoman Empire. The Western models vary between the simplest, virtually home-made models, to elaborately decorated versions for the more ostentatious households.

Although the new museum is largely devoted to the company's own historical machines, it also finds room for dozens of small domestic items coffee memorabilia and the larger products of U.S. and French manufacturers. A prominent position is given to a long-lived Jabez Burns drum roaster that was built in 1908, and a mobile roaster built for t U.S. armed forces for use in the field during World War II.

The collection was started by the son of the founder, Carl Hans von Gimborn and his son Hans, in the 1950's and is still being added to by the original Theodor von Gimborn's great-grandson Peter. The company's first covered-ball roaster is included, but the star items have to be the variants of the simple but effective Model One, which Probat began mass-producing in the 1870's. This model, and its immediate descendants, still in production nearly 30 years later, have pride of place near the big bronze plaque at the entrance to the museum, which was formally opened by Fritz Reinhard-van Gulpen, descendant of one of the three founding families. Hans von Gimborn, the company's chairman, welcomed the 200 guests, who included some of Probat-Werke's most distant customers.
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Title Annotation:Probat Museum of Coffee Technology
Author:Clark, Richard
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:Dutch Golden Box still thriving.
Next Article:Inside the German coffee market.

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