In 1899, the Commissioner of the US Patent Office, Charles H. Duell uttered the apocryphal statement: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
And oh, how wrong he was.
But while he may have failed to foresee the creation of the aeroplane or the spacecraft, Duell did spot one thing.
Because although moronic, his statement also implied that most new inventions would just be worse derivatives of what had come before.
And oh, how right he was. Especially when it comes to coffee gadgets.
Because despite the coffee machine being indisputably the greatest coffee invention ever, plenty of innovators are attempting to steal its crown with bizarre coffee contraptions of their own.
From best to worst, let us introduce you to the strangest coffee-themed inventions and the weird science behind them…
SensorWake: The Coffee-Scented Clock
We’ve all heard the saying ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, but how many of you are aware of the phrase ‘smell the coffee and wake up’? A less metaphorical term, literally meaning to be awoken by the strong stench of brewing coffee.
Well, the answer should be absolutely none of you, mainly due to the fact it’s not an actual phrase and that we just made it up.
However, if olfactory company SensorWake has their way, it soon will be…
The brainchild of French entrepreneur Guillaume Rolland, SensorWake is the first-ever alarm clock to work by scent and not noise.
Rather than a repetitive drilling sound, this bizarre machine uses an innovative diffusion system, releasing scents at your chosen wake up time, guaranteed to stir you to your senses within 2 minutes.
You can even choose which smell tickles your nostrils come morning, with a range of insertable fragrance capsules from ‘Citrus’ and ‘Apple-Cinnamon’, to the far more ominous ‘Edge of the Woods’ – presumably reeking of pure fear.
And there are no prizes for guessing our favourite – an espresso scented capsule, spreading the joyous, rich smell of coffee beans throughout your room. Can you seriously think of a more peaceful way to be woken up?
We certainly can’t, but it remains difficult to believe that someone could be awoken by stank alone. So the question is… does it actually work?
The Science of Sensorwake
SensorWake says that when you are in light or REM stages of sleep, your brain is far more receptive to external stimuli, which can include smell as well as noise! These stages are far more common after several hours of sleep, so the perfumed scent should do its job.
Apparently, sensitive sleepers will be roused in less than a minute by its smells, whereas a very deep sleeper may take up to 3 minutes.
If you have still not woken up after that point, the clock will then begin playing a backup melody, effectively defeating the entire purpose of the invention.
However, it’s success rate has been lauded, and tests that were taken in a care home (possibly the sleepiest of all habitats) revealed 99% of people are awoken by the scent alone within 2 minutes.
Since its creation in 2014, it’s gone from strength to strength and won numerous awards, including placing in the top 15 inventions ‘that could change the world’ at Google’s Science Fair 2014.
It’s fair to say then that this alarm clock is starting to give off the sweet smell of success!
eDrink: The Phone Charging Coffee Mug
Child prodigies. Just where have they gone?
It’s been over 250 years since 5-year-old Mozart was plonking out hits on his piano, and it feels like we’ve had very few young geniuses grace our planet since.
But it turns out that kid virtuosos are still very much active, it’s just that rather than whipping up a concerto or solving world hunger, they like to invest their talents into far more worthwhile things.
Things like a coffee mug that can also charge your phone.
Or at least, that was the case for young Anna Makosinski.
Now 22 years old, Ann was a certified Einstein back in 2013, when at 16 she won the prestigious Google Science Fair for creating a battery-free flashlight.
And with the world at her feet, everyone couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with next.
However, after beginning life as a college student at British Columbia in 2016, her focus soon changed from helping the planet to instead solving the first-world problems of her friends.
And Ann soon noticed the two main problems affecting her college pals were ‘phones or iPods running out of battery’ and ‘coffee taking too long to cool down’.
Ah to be young.
But it was in trying to solve these dilemmas, that Ann spotted a way to cheer up her braindead buddies while also aiding the far more critical issue of the world’s energy crisis.
Her solution was the eDrink: a coffee mug which charges your phone for up to 30 minutes, purely through the power of coffee! No plugin, no batteries.
But how on earth does it work!?
The Science of eDrink
When waiting for a hot drink to cool down, tons of wasted heat energy escapes from your mug.
And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a lot of wasted potential.
However, with an eDrink mug, this usually wasted energy is instead harvested using its unique materials, namely an electrical circuit and something called a Peltier tile, a kind of thermoelectric generator.
This heat energy can then quickly become electrical power contained within the mug, which can then be used to give your phone a small boost of power through a handy USB port!
Amazing right!? Well, not quite.
Despite the eDrink being a successful invention, it was unfortunately never released commercially, as presumably, no tech companies were willing to mass-produce it.
Because let’s face it, saving the earth’s fastly diminishing resources is still frighteningly low on everyone’s agenda.
Still, the invention won Ann a $5,000 dollar grant and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon, so it’s not all bad.
Barisieur Coffee and Tea Alarm Clock
It can sometimes be easy to forget that although Wallace from Wallace & Gromit was predominantly a cheese-scoffing idiot, he was also a fantastically good inventor.
Every morning, his various machines and contraptions did everything for him, from making his breakfast to getting him out of bed.
And while the world is still way off matching the impressive technological output of a plasticine fictional character – we are getting closer.
Enter the Barisieur Coffee and Tea Alarm Clock from Joy Resolve, an alarm clock which wakes you up with a fresh cup of coffee before you’ve even got out of bed!
Presumably made for the kind of person who can’t even be bothered to press a button on a coffee machine, Joy Resolve’s invention is still admittedly quite cool.
With the appearance of a lab experiment atop a sleek vinyl record player, the clock certainly looks the part and would definitely enhance your mornings.
And although there is an alarm system in place, it’s far more likely you’ll be awoken by the soothing sound of bubbling water and the fresh smell of coffee.
But is it really as automatic as it sounds?
The Science of The Barisieur Alarm Clock
Although you might be imagining a bizarre Rube Goldberg machine, the alarm clock is actually a fairly simple coffee filter machine, which means its unfortunately not as effortless as you’d like.
Before bed, you’ll have to fill the boiling vessel with water and also apply your required coffee grounds into the filter.
Then when your alarm goes off come morning, it will trigger the heating of an induction coil, which will boil the water and send it through the filter, pouring you a fresh cup of coffee.
But that’s pretty much the end of its automatic genius, and woe betide, you’ll probably have to apply your own milk!
Maybe just put a coffee machine in your room? It’ll probably be quicker.
Mokase: The Coffee-Making Phone Case
The annoyingly parrotted phrase ‘There’s an app for that’ is a joke that has become as depressingly unfunny as it is true over the last few years.
There’s literally nothing a smartphone can’t or won’t attempt to do these days, from delivering the results of your pregnancy test via Bluetooth to sending you a tweet every time your child soils their nappy.
This is despite the fact that such apps are rendered useless by normal pregnancy tests and your sense of smell.
Still, it hasn’t taken long for this sort of application lunacy to reach our coffee innovators and by far the worst effort so far is Mosake’s Coffee Phone Case, released in 2017.
For busy caffeine addicts who need an instant quick hit, this heat-proof phone case can create a standard espresso shot within its frame, meaning you always have a cup of coffee to hand.
Well, that’s assuming you have an actual cup on you.
Otherwise, you’ll just have to pour it into your mouth.
And good luck doing that without being judged, or worse, giving yourself third-degree burns.
The Science of Mokase
This bizarre invention works by inserting a unique thin-style coffee capsule into the custom phone case, a capsule which also contains the water needed to conjure up an espresso shot.
Then through Mokase’s one-function app, you can trigger the capsule to release its contents through a built-in heating system and out through a small hole at the top of the case.
And voila! Coffee!
Or… you could just go to one of the several thousand coffee shops and stands in the UK, literally designed for busy people on the move.
In fact, you’ll have to, as Mokase’s phone case is unsurprisingly no longer being manufactured.
Ironius: The Coffee Mug
Nobody likes doing the ironing, a seemingly simple chore, that instead has so many annoying elements to it:
Dragging the monstrous ironing board out the cupboard, filling the iron with water, plugging the iron in, actually doing the ironing.
Surely it would be so much simpler if we could combine our daily ironing with our daily brew?
An iron which requires hot coffee to work and that also cannot maintain sufficient heat for longer than a few minutes. No tricks, no technological offerings, just a normal mug in the shape of an iron.
And in a frighteningly basic design flaw, the mug also seems to be completely devoid of any kind of protective lid. It doesn’t take a genius to foresee what might happen when you start aggressively rubbing it up and down your shirt.
Only when people start wearing shirts smothered in brown stains do they realise a few creases aren’t so bad.
Luckily, the product doesn’t seem to have gotten very far past the design stage, preserving our shirts, our wallets and most importantly our sanity.
Always use a real iron.
The Science of the Ironius
We can confidently say without any irony, that this was a woeful idea.
Although with a name that reads suspiciously like erroneous – perhaps the joke is on us!