Joseph Bramah Patents Beer-Pump Handle

On May 9th, 1785, Joseph Bramah patented the beer-pump handle, also known as a beer engine. A similar pump was invented in 1688 by John Lofting, a simple operated pump, incorporating no advances in hydraulic knowledge but adapted to its function in the public house. Joseph Bramah refined this invention, patented it and propagated it.

Born in April 13, 1748 in Barnsley Yorkshire, England, young Joseph was intended to work on his father’s farm, but at the age of 16 he injured his ankle and  could no longer work in agriculture. After this accident, he was apprenticed to the village carpenter, where he completed his basic technical training and started his first inventions. Among his inventions we can enumerate the flushing system, hydraulic press, the door lock, a machine for automatically printing bank notes, a planing machine, a paper-making machine, but most important for us, the beer pump.

The way it was done was by filling a jug with beer from a pipe leading to storage vessels below ground. The pipe ends in a simple faucet and the force that brought up the beer did not derive from a pump operated from above, but from a more complicated mechanism which would prevent the machine from being used in an ordinary public house. Heavy boxes of sand raised on pistons, which fitted exactly into special cylindrical storage containers, pressed down the beer they contained and forced it through exit pipes. Prior to his invention, beer had to be dispensed from a wooden tap in the end of the keg, but drawing up beer from the cellar instead of the continuous journey to and from it by the pot-boys. This increased the speed of sale and cut the wage bill.

The force pump, though it had no future in the public house in this guise, did enable Bramah to incorporate with this patent a filtering device, which was destined to be used in breweries after his death.  Through time improvements were made, gas delivery systems were invented and the beer pump eventually evolved into the beer tap that we know today.

Evidence of the first makers of beer-engines suggest that Bramah’s patent was never operational. John Chadwell registered first as a beer-machine maker in the 1801 directories.


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