Cyrus Melikian, Vending And Coffee Pioneer, Dies At 88

Posted On: 12/4/2008

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HAVERFORD, PA -- K. Cyrus Melikian, a pioneer in vending equipment design and coffee brewing technology, is dead at the age of 88.

Melikian, who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, met eventual business partner Lloyd Rudd while both were performing engineering evaluation of B-17 bombers. Recognizing the desirability of 24-hour access to coffee, they teamed up to invent and produce a coffee machine after the war. Rudd-Melikian (Warminster, PA) had many firsts to its credit, including vending systems for coffee prepared from liquid concentrate and, about a decade later, the first practical U.S. fresh-brew machine.

After Rudd-Melikian was sold and became Refreshment Machinery, Melikian and his sons founded Automatic Brewers & Coffee Devices (Conshohocken, PA). Melikian had designed a method of sandwiching finely ground roast coffee between two long strips of filter paper, supplied in rolls for the RMi fresh-brew machine. ABCD produced and marketed machines that formed these sandwiches and die-cut "pods" from them, initially for home espresso machines in Italy. This was the origin of the popular coffee pod.

A versatile inventor, Melikian made substantial contributions to the design of postmix vender icemakers, microwave ovens, in-machine coffee bean grinders and the use of electronics to replace electromechanical timers in coffee venders.

His interests and enthusiasms extended beyond vending and coffee, ranging from trap-shooting (at which he won awards) to the culinary arts. He initiated the Culinary Institute at Rockland Mansion in  Fairmount Park. Melikian also established the Flavor-Maker Culinary Chef's Training School, and taught there for 10 years. He co-authored The Wonder of Food and a syndicated weekly column, "The Gourmania Guide," that described the history and illustrated the preparation of unusual dishes, and recommended wines that were appropriate to serve with them.

Melikian is survived by his wife of 63 years, Roxie; his son Robert; daughters Karen and Michele; and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son K. Cyrus Melikian Jr. Donations may be made in his name to Armenian Students Association, 333 Atlantic Ave., Warwick, RI 02888, for the K. Cyrus Melikian Memorial Scholarship.