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Guide to the History of French Press Coffee

Where Did the French Press Come From?

image of french press coffee maker

As centuries have passed, so have brewing methods for coffee. At this point, there are about as many different styles of brewing coffee as there are coffee beans. But one of the most exquisite and revolutionary remains the French press: a simple and elegant brewing technique.

These days, we’re so far along in the revolution that you can purchase a basic French press at IKEA for as little $10. Connoisseurs need not worry, though, as the fanciest French presses can cost anywhere from $250-400. Take your pick, because either way, you will be utilizing a finely honed brewing method that is renowned all over the world when you brew your morning coffee with the French Press. Read on for the history of how this great coffee making device came to be.

French Press: A History in Paris

In 1852, a Paris metal smith received a patent for the filtering of coffee by means of a piston. This was the predecessor to the French press that we know of today. First definitively patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, the French press was a coffee maker designed to make the best coffee for your palate. The second patent to emerge came in 1958, and was claimed by Faleiro Bondanini, who manufactured his coffee maker with the Danish kitchenware company Bodum to distribute the coffee pot across Europe.

image of french press coffee makerAlthough the design quickly became popular throughout Europe, it took a while to reach the United States. Although Italy is primarily known for its dedication to the fine drink of espresso, Italians have a pretty varied history of consuming different types of coffee. Turkish style brewing was popular when coffee was first imported, and the Neapolitan flip-pots were popular in kitchens in the southern region of Italy.

In New Zealand and South Africa, the French press coffee maker is called the coffee plunger. In the Netherlands, it is referred to as a cafeteire.

The Modern French Press Coffee Maker

The modern French press is a narrow cylindrical beaker equipped with a lid that fits tightly in a cylinder, with a fine mesh strainer attached. The French press has undergone several modifications though the years, and is available in a variety of materials and sizes. There are travel presses available, which normally provide one cup of coffee, and are smaller in size than the typical coffee maker.

Making Coffee With a French Press

The use of a French press requires a coarsely ground coffee bean, which means that you don’t have to apply a lot of force to lower the plunger. Finely ground coffee is more likely to seep through the filter and contaminate the coffee. The coffee grounds are placed into the empty beaker. Hot water is added, proportionate to the amount of coffee grounds you are adding.

The total brewing time for coffee in a French press is about two to four minutes, depending on the size of the press. The plunger is pressed in order to separate the grounds and to hold them at the bottom of the beaker, then the brew is poured out. In many ways, this is the most effective and traditional method of brewing coffee.

Making French press coffee is a slow and steady process, and is not really for the impatient, for whom an affordable home espresso maker may be a better option. The only drawback to the French press method is that it sometimes makes the coffee muddy.

The French press is one of the most favored ways to make coffee today, and produces some of the finest flavors of coffee. The coffee making process is simple, the taste of your beans is delightfully enhanced, and the cleanup is easy. No wonder this coffee maker became one of the most popular methods of brewing around the world!