STEM History:

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz 


Entrepreneur and Inventor

Birth/Death Dates

January 31, 1873 – June 29, 1950 


Melitta Bentz was a German entrepreneur who invented the paper coffee filter in 1908. She founded the Melitta company, which still operates today under family control.

In 1908, Bentz tried to create a prototype filter using a brass pot and a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school notebook. She successfully filtered out the coffee grounds by punching holes in the bottom of the pot and lining it with blotting paper, resulting in a clear, flavorful brew. This simple method was a significant improvement over the existing brewing techniques. The coffee filter effectively trapped the grounds and allowed the coffee’s flavor to come through. Bentz filed for a patent for her invention, a “Filter Top Device lined with Filter Paper,” and founded the Melitta company in a room of her family’s apartment with a starting capital of 72 pfennigs. Her husband and sons were the company’s first employees. Melitta filters, crafted from specialized paper, transformed the coffee brewing process. They became a staple in households and cafes.

Educational Background


Struggles this Innovator Overcame

Bentz started her company with 72 old German pfennigs of capital and four employees: her husband, two sons, and herself. Their headquarters was the family’s five-room Dresden apartment. 

Problems this Innovator Solved

As a housewife in Dresden, Bentz had to brew coffee every day. This daily chore led to her invention. She was dissatisfied with the methods of brewing coffee that were available. She believed that porcelain percolators and fabric filters often resulted in over-brewed coffee with grounds floating in the cup. In her opinion, this was unpleasant and took away from the coffee’s flavor and quality. Bentz sought a way to brew a cleaner and more enjoyable cup of coffee.

How this inventor changed the world (or at least their corner of it)

Bentz’s invention made it possible to brew a cleaner, more flavorful cup of coffee, simplifying the brewing process and making coffee more accessible worldwide. In addition to being inexpensive and easy to use, paper filters addressed the issues of waste and cleanliness associated with traditional brewing methods.

Lasting changes from this inventor’s work or how they trailblazed

Today, Melitta filters remain an integral part of the coffee brewing process worldwide. They have become a staple in kitchens, cafes, and offices globally. Coffee enthusiasts continue to appreciate the clean, flavorful brew that Melitta filters deliver while Bentz’s legacy lives on through the enduring popularity of her brand. The Melitta company, still a family-run business, has grown into a global enterprise, offering a range of coffee-related products.

Bentz’s legacy extends beyond the invention of the coffee filter. Committed to improving the working conditions of her employees, Bentz introduced benefits such as Christmas bonuses and paid vacations and established “Melitta Aid” for employees in financial distress. Her dual focus on product innovation and employee welfare set a precedent for future entrepreneurs.