As we've seen in earlier installments of this series, Braun revolutionized the product categories of audio entertainment, personal grooming and even time-telling. By the 1950s, they begun to expand out of the living room, the bathroom and the bedroom to transform the most crucial of household spaces: The kitchen, where every family's sustenance was prepared. It was arguably the space where the housewives of the era, and the children they minded, spent the most time.
It was also a room for work, where design had yet to make a significant impact in easing the burden of labor. Braun's designers tackled kitchen tasks with their characteristically superb analysis of what was needed, and how those objects should look and function. They began by introducing a host of diverse kitchen products, but it was the preparation of one hot beverage in particular—coffee—which allowed them to knock it out of the park time and again, in their relentless search of design perfection.
Gerd Alfred Muller
From the get-go, it became clear that Braun would forge their own design path in this category. The KM 3 food processor was radically different from then-dominant American mixers of the time, which followed that country's streamlined, chrome-heavy style and often look as if they were manufactured by Chevy. The sleek, simple KM 3, in contrast, looked as if it were related to Braun's electric razors of the era. But this was no example of trying to graft the design of one product category onto another; the smooth, largely featureless shape was easy to clean. Attesting to the successful design of the KM 3 is that it would see production, with slight modifications, for more than thirty years.
The elegantly curved, white design language of the KM 3 was not to be blandly applied to the entire category. The serious, chrome-and-black look of the HE 1/12 electric kettle warns the user that this is a device like a cooking pot--it gets hot and ought to be treated with respect.
Gerd Alfred Muller, Robert Oberheim
The MX 32 blender was allowed to borrow the design language of the KM 3 because it made sense; the device ought be easy to clean. Chrome was permitted here for the security of the metal connection point between the pitcher and the base. And as with the KM 3, rubber feet would help dampen the vibration of the spinning motor.
If the KM 3 and the MX 32 carried the design DNA of Braun's electric razors, the HG 1 countertop grill was related to Braun stereos of the era: It was hard-edged and no-nonsense. Again we see the black-and-chrome material scheme warning of high heat, with the controls that the user could safely touch set off from the metal surface. And unusually, it had not only a glass front, but also a glass rear, providing a more even illumination for the user checking on the contents.
Something like a sleeker, more compact version of the HG 1 grill, the HT 2 toaster carried the same hard-edged design language as Braun's audio products. The controls are set off to the side, and as with the HE 1/12 and the HG 1, the color and materials scheme speak loudly and clearly: This device gets hot, and you can safely touch the black parts, but don't touch the shiny chrome.
Braun now meant to do away with the hand-powered coffee grinders found in kitchens of the time by applying technology. The motorized KMM 1/121 reportedly used a mechanism physically similar to what you'd find in a stone mill, and the formal language of the device represents what it does: The relatively soft shape of the cylinder is where the beans go, and after being processed, they fall into the angular-shaped hopper.
The KSM 1/11, in contrast to its more complicated predecessor, was smaller, sleeker and minimalist. An internal hammer mechanism helped crush the beans, which went into, and came out of, the same chamber capped by the removable transparent top. The form of the object is such that even someone with no coffee-grinding experience would find it impossible to mis-use.
Braun did not abandon the stone-mill grinding system of the KMM series in favor of the series' hammer-style; the former reportedly produced more consistent grounds, whereas the latter was fine for the casual coffee drinker. Ram's KMM 2 update experimentally blended the two-body form of the KMM 1/121, creating a monolithic object with the horizontal window up top providing a view of the raw material, while the vertical window on the side revealed the level of the processed grounds.
By now the form factor of the modern drip-filter coffeemaker is so embedded in our minds that it is difficult to see how revolutionary the KF 20 was. Up until the 1970s people had been brewing, steeping, percolating, even siphoning coffee using whatever assortment of gadgets their parents had. Here Seiffert had reconciled the technological/mechanical requirements of creating coffee--heating the water, steeping it, filtering finished product into a vessel, keeping that vessel heated--into a tidy and sleek cylindrical shape. The process was rendered largely invisible, with the workings hidden within the body and the elegant metal pipe supporting the "water tower" containing the wiring for the upper and lower heating elements.
Florian Seiffert, Hartwig Kahlcke
As we now know, Braun is not an organization to rest on their laurels, and the same year as the KF 20 came out, so too did a slight redesign. Kahlcke's re-designed pot featured a handle design that made it impossible to accidentally brush your knuckles on the hot glass of the pot.
Reinhold Weiss, Hartwig Kahlcke
People were now drinking more coffee—perhaps fueled by sales of the KF 20 and KF 21—and this update to the KMM 1/121 coffee grinder featured a larger-capacity feed hopper. Technology, too, was added in the form of a timer, freeing the user from needing to stand by as the grinder did its work.
Having nailed the coffeemaker form factor with the KF 20, Braun's designers set about trying to improve it. The KF 30 moved the bulky upper heating element of its predecessors and now relied on the lower heating element to do double-duty: It would both keep the pot warm and heat the water, which would then be piped back up top to drip down through the filter.
Just a year after the KF 30 came the KF 35, which was largely identical, but once again featured a redesigned pot by Kahlcke and a slight bulge in the tower portion, presumably the result of some inner technology-wrangling. (Seen from the side, the earlier KF 30's tower is a perfect cylinder.)
Looking at the earlier KSM 1 coffee grinder, it seems impossible to modify its perfect shape. But Kahlcke found a way. Here the button has been changed to a plunger-type connected to the removable transparent lid, further simplifying the operation. The channel circumnavigating the base is for the user to wrap the cord around, keeping things tidy.
The KF 40 moves back towards what the original KF 20 was trying to accomplish: A monolithic form factor. Having "learned" from the KF 30, with its singular heating element design, the KF 40 harkens back to a singularity of form not seen since the HE 1/12 electric kettle. (Author's note: The coffee maker I still use today, on a daily basis, is a KF 40 purchased in the '90s.)
The only way to make the KF 40 any sleeker, any more monolithic-looking, would be to get rid of the glass material for the pot. This Braun did with the KF 70, but not for aesthetic reasons: Here the pot has been supplanted by an insulated thermos, for coffee-on-the-go.
The KF 80 was the KF 40 on technological steroids: It featured a digital clock connected to a timer, allowing users on a schedule to have fresh coffee waiting for them at a predetermined time.
As single consumers, as opposed to entire families, became a purchasing force, the smaller-capacity KF 12 became an attractive option for those who didn't need to brew more than a few cups at a time. Placed side-by-side with the KF 40, it resmembles that machine's little brother.