Designing The Definitive
Vacuum Jug

First launched in 1977, the EM77 Vacuum Jug by Erik Magnussen for Danish manufacturer Stelton has reportedly sold over ten million units and is still one of the company’s most successful products. It has come to represent a certain kind of Scandinavian design, blending good function with modernist aesthetics.

Of all the products we have featured here on Designing The Definitive, the Vacuum Jug should arguably be the easiest for me to write about; this jug is a cornerstone of my daily working ritual. As soon as I arrive at the studio each morning, I boil the kettle, then use paper coffee filters, a stainless steel funnel (picked up at a catering store) and the EM77 Vacuum Jug to make a fresh pot of coffee for the day. Without which, I tell myself, work cannot really begin.

The EM77 Vacuum Jug was designed for Stelton by Erik Magnussen in 1977. It was created as a complementary piece to their award-winning stainless steel Cylinda-Line tableware collection, which Arne Jacobsen had designed a decade earlier. Cylinda-Line had been a great success, but had also been very complicated and costly for Stelton to produce. To keep production costs down, Magnussen used an existing glass bottle liner in the design. He also created a clever t-shaped lid, which works as a stopper for the vacuum while the jug is upright and opens when the jug is tilted to pour. Only two years after it was first launched, the EM77 was made available in a number of colours of ABS plastic, further reducing the cost. Today there is a dazzling array of seventeen different colours to choose from.

The jug proved popular straight away, selling well in stores and winning the Danish Design Centre’s ID prize for 1977. The version at my studio is an early stainless steel one that I was delighted to pick up for a few pounds in a charity shop about five years ago. As it was so cheap, I did that slightly naughty thing that I sometimes do in charity shops, feigning no knowledge of item I am buying in the hope that no one realises the true value of it before I can spirit it away safely out of the shop. On this occasion, it worked.

Handling an EM77 every day has given me plenty to enjoy and many of cups of coffee. It has a reassuring weight to it, even when empty. And it can be easily carried, not by the handle, but by gripping your fingers on the small rim around the lid; particularly useful if you are carrying cups by their handles in the other hand. Sometimes, when it has just been filled with boiling water, the build-up of steam inside makes the tip-lid move a little, making a gentle tapping sound that is just audible across the room. In my view, the sheer wonder of the vacuum itself, with its ability to keep our drinks hot for ages, should be enough to keep us all happy.

Designing The Definitive

The EM77 Vacuum Jug has proved to be an enduring design. The beautifully resolved combination of circular and cylindrical shapes in its form gives it the feel of something elemental, while in use it has proved to be both resolutely functional and tremendously robust. It is easy to imagine this design quietly keeping our drinks hot for another forty years.

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