Zahm & Nagel: Over a Century of American Ingenuity
Founded in 1908 by Edward Zahm in Buffalo, NY, Zahm & Nagel has grown to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of quality control and carbonation equipment for the food and beverage industry.
Edward Zahm served as a brewmaster in Germany for a number of years before immigrating to Buffalo, NY in the late 1800’s where he started manufacturing quality control, carbonation, and pumping equipment for the brewing industry. Originally established as Zahm Manufacturing in 1908, Zahm created quite a few ingenious testing methods for CO² purity and CO² quantity in tanks and storage containers, innovating an original product line comprising ofs CO² compressors, CO² gas filters, purifying filters, and pumps that were used throughout the breweries for carbonation and beer transfer.
1920’s & 30’s: World War I and Prohibition
When Prohibition hit in the 1920’s, Zahm Manufacturing hit its first major obstacle. Looking for ways to keep his business relevant, Zahm came up with some new designs such as an alcohol reducer, or what they called the “dealcoholizer,” to produce beer with very low alcohol content for sale.
However, the company was still cash strapped, especially in conjunction with World War I, so they sought out someone who was interested in investing in the company and help Zahm continue with his dreams of inventing and creating newer and better brewing equipment. The search begot a partnership that would define the company for the remainder of the century as Zahm found “the Nagel from what would become Zahm & Nagel,” explains David Koch, the current CEO of the company. Ed Nagel, a local businessman, saw opportunity in the struggling Zahm Manufacturing and invested heavily in keeping the company active during this period. Once Prohibition ended, Zahm & Nagel’s business boomed and Nagel was paid back in full within that first year; however, by that time the industry had become familiar with the brand as “Zahm & Nagel” so an effort was never made to rebrand despite Ed Nagel’s exit from the company.
The 1940’s: World War II
Zahm & Nagel’s success for the latter part of the 30’s hit a brick wall as World War II swept the United States into action. With many of the raw material and components rationed for battle, Zahm & Nagel once again struggled to keep afloat; however, the company soon found an unlikely lifeline when the United States government granted them an exemption due to their conviction that the soldiers overseas would require a supply of beer to maintain morale.
In 1954, after many years of successful production and sales of carbonating and quality control equipment for the beverage industry, the original company was sold to the Koch family who have continued the Zahm & Nagel tradition of producing high quality products for customers in the food and beverage industry.
David Koch recalls, “In 1950, my grandfather had leased space from George Zahm, then owner and president of Zahm & Nagel [and son of Edward Zahm]. When George decided to retire in 1954, he offered the business to my grandfather for purchase and he made the wise decision and purchased it. It has been passed down from my grandfather, to my grandmother, to my father, to my uncle, and now to me. I basically grew up in this business. It’s always been a part of my life since the day I was born. I’ve always had a great interest in the brewing and soda industry – it was a natural fit.”
Zahm & Nagel has evolved over the years, fine-tuning the equipment that has defined the company as one of the leading producers in the industry. “The original equipment that the Zahms had built – the pumps and the valves – were rather large and took quite a large workforce to manufacture,” reflects Koch. “At one point in the 40’s they had twenty women that did nothing but soldered pipe fittings, tubings, and the such all day. We’ve refined things since then and…still use a lot of the same manufacturing methods that they used sixty or seventy years ago but we’ve also incorporated a lot of newer techniques such as CC machining and modern welding and polishing practices. We’ve gotten away from the filters and the pumps but we’ve stayed alongside the CO² testing and the carbonation. We still continue on with a lot of the same basic designs from 100 years ago that Zahm had originally invented.”
For all their years of achievement and generations of dedication, David Koch is proudest of the company’s continued devotion to quality and the hard-working American spirit. “We’re still 100% American made. All of our materials come from North America. We still do all our own welding and polishing and machining right here in the shop. We don’t task anyone overseas. That way we have the utmost control over our quality which is one of the most important things to us. Top quality. That’s why we keep all manufacturing in-house.”