Edmund Abel; invented Mr. Coffee machine, at 92

NEW YORK — Edmund Abel, 92, whose patented design for the Mr. Coffee machine changed the way millions of households brewed their morning beverage, died April 21.

Mr. Abel died at his home in Rocky River, Ohio, from the effects of old age, according to his niece, Holly Bundy.

Introduced in 1972, Mr. Coffee soon dominated the US home-brew coffee market, as the trim glass decanter and drip brewing unit replaced percolators in kitchens nationwide. Former baseball star Joe DiMaggio pitched the product in advertising for more than 15 years, almost from the start.


Mr. Abel, a largely self-trained engineer who held patents in film developing and aviation, was hired by the owners of Cleveland-based North American Systems to develop an automatic drip coffee appliance. Most drinkers used percolators, which had a reputation for making bitter coffee.

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The process that Mr. Abel developed, demonstrated at the National Housewares Show in Chicago in 1971, produced a mellower brew by using water at a lower temperature than percolators. The final product worked more than twice as fast as its nearest competitors, making a cup in 30 seconds or 10 cups in five minutes, according to ads. Mr. Coffee also was twice as expensive as a typical percolator, selling for $39.99 each when it was introduced.

By the late 1970s, the machine drove North American Systems annual sales to $150 million as the company captured more than half the US coffeemaker market, according to a 1979 Forbes magazine article. Today, Mr. Coffee is manufactured by the Jarden Corp., based in Boca Raton, Fla.

Edmund Angel Abel Jr. was born in Cleveland. In high school he became a radio hobbyist and student pilot, and got mechanical and electrical experience working for an uncle, a home builder, he said in a 2011 interview.

In 1942, Mr. Abel was drafted into the Army, according to the institute. His service during World War II included building remote-controlled flying drones used for target practice. Later he studied aeronautical engineering on the GI Bill and worked for companies in the Cleveland area.


Although Vincent Marotta, co-owner of North American Systems, often portrayed Mr. Coffee as his brainchild in interviews, it was Mr. Abel who patented the machine. He assigned the patent to North American Systems and saw little of the revenue from the product.