Posts Tagged ‘glassware’

A Retort

May 8, 2014

As a former science teacher, it is no surprise that I have collected a few odds and ends over the years – items that schools had and then deemed of no further use.

One such object is a retort – the piece of glassware that led to jokes about chemists and the replies they made to people – invariably they offered a retort and quite possibly a rude one.

Here is my retort.


A retort is a simple, elegant piece of glass with a perfect fit ground glass stopper. The idea is that you can put a liquid in it, hold it in a retort stand and heat the liquid. Vapours produced can only pass along the tube which is well away from the heat source and so they cool, condense and drip out of the end of the tube where they can be collected. You could use one, for example, to get pure water from salt water since the salt won’t boil.

I just love the simplicity of the retort and, having done a bit of laboratory glass blowing and bending myself, I admire the skill of makers who can produce such a device.

Retorts can still be bought. They cost around £30.

Camp Coffee

August 8, 2013

I am not a bottle collector. I certainly don’t buy bottles. So how come I have more than fifty of them? The answer is that I might dig them up, or I just find them, or other people give them to me.

If things are given to me, I tend to keep them.

Today I am looking at a bottle which once contained ‘Camp Coffee’.

I do not find glass bottles the easiest thing to photograph. By their very nature they are a bit see-through. But here goes.


The jar says very clearly that here we have Ess (essence of) Camp Coffee, with the two words sharing the initial letter C, and chicory.

Now my dad might have been described as a coffee snob. Even in times of poverty, he would seek out the right beans which he (or often we children) would grind in a hand powered mill. Contraptions would then gurgle and hiss on the ancient stove, producing a liquid so strong and utterly foul tasting. Dad loved it. I think it is a wonder I still drink coffee at all. It was truly awful to my young taste buds.

But Camp Coffee didn’t suit dad at all. Essence of chicory was no substitute for the real thing in Dad’s eyes. Maybe he just couldn’t get it to the right strength – or maybe he really did have a need for caffeine which chicory doesn’t provide. Actually, Camp Coffee was 4% caffeine.

We kids loved the bright labels on the bottles and certainly felt that a bottle of the stuff should go camping with us. It must have done sometimes otherwise we wouldn’t have known about it.

Camp Coffee was first made by a firm called Patersons in the 1870s.


The Glasgow firm produced it until 1974.


Then they were taken over, but the drink is still made today and finds much favour with bakers of coffee cakes.

My bottle is, I think, an older one since it has no method of fixing a screw top and so must have been closed with something like a cork.