At Melitta, the company that pioneered the paper coffee filter, inspiration was close at hand.
“The ergonomics of the thing, the fact that the filter fits exactly over mouth, nose and chin is so unbelievable that you might call it a gift from heaven,” says Katharina Roehrig, a managing director at Melitta, which is based in a small city in northwestern Germany.
Melitta has a 112-year history with coffee filters that began in the kitchen of the woman who invented them, Melitta Bentz. The company also owns Wolf PVG, which has produced air filters and vacuum cleaner bags for decades, providing valuable knowledge and a supply of the three-ply microfiber needed to make masks to a hospital standard.
“Facing this particular challenge, we realized that we could produce the needed quantities at an insane speed,” says Roehrig – in other words, as many as one million masks a day. “That is what differentiates us from the competition.”
The coffee-filter-shaped masks are produced on the same machine as the filters found in grocery store aisles. Although they physically resemble a normal coffee filter, the masks are made from different material (making them unsuitable for brewing coffee).
The material, a triple layer of melt-blown and spun-blown microfibre, has a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency certification of above 98 per cent, a value comparable to simple medical masks.