A coffee vending machine is a coin operated, automatic dispenser of paper cups filled with one or more different types of coffees. The machines are usually quite large and rectangular in shape like most vending machines. They feature an area near the middle in which a paper cup is dispensed onto a small platform before being automatically filled with coffee after a certain button is pressed elsewhere on the machine. The appropriate amount of cash must be deposited in the money slot before the cup and beverage are dispensed by the coffee vending machine. Some machines today take credit cards, but many accept coins or cash only.
The first coffee vending machine was created in 1946. Most of these were installed in work environments such as factories and the idea of the coffee break became popular. In the early days of coffee vending machines, only one type of brew was offered. In 1960, a bean grinder became a part of many coffee vending machines, while 1991 saw the addition of different coffees being available by machine. These coffees include espresso, cappuccino and flavored varieties.
A coffee vending machine may be placed in a row with other types of food and beverage machines. Some vending machines dispense water and soda, while others offer snacks such as potato chips and candy bars. Sodas dispensed into cups were available in vending machines in the early 1920s, while bottles of soda were first vended in 1930. Canned soda wasn't available in vending machines until 1961.
Coffee vending machines are particularly convenient in areas where coffee shops are non-existent or close early. For instance, some hospital coffee shops are part of cafeterias that may close at 6 p.m., while visiting hours are at least until 8 p.m. Hospital workers, patients or visitors may appreciate a hot beverage when the other food and beverage services are no longer open. University campuses are another place where a coffee vending machine is likely to be appreciated as a welcome convenience past regular cafeteria hours.
It's interesting to note that the concept of vending machines is actually an ancient idea attributed to Hero of Alexandria in 215 BC. Hero was a Greek mathematician and engineer who invented coin-operated devices for dispensing holy water in temples. In the more modern world, it was London, England, that began using vending machines in the 1880s. These machines first dispensed post cards and later, books. In 1888, the United States began dispensing gum and small toys in vending machines before later using them mainly for candy, potato chips, soda and coffee.