The French Press: a thin cylindrical beaker, typically made of glass or transparent plastic, and a filter consisting of fine stainless steel wire that is used to completely submerge coffee grounds in hot water, followed by pressing down the plunger to separate the grounds from the coffee. It is one of the most easily recognized coffee makers and one of the less complicated coffee contraptions. 2.5 million of these nifty coffee vessels are sold in the United States every year, with the number of French press users growing steadily. In North America, we call it a French press or inelegantly a “coffee plunger,” but it has different names depending on where you go in the world! The press is called a “cafetière à piston” [press pot] in French, a “caffettiera a stantuffo” [French coffee press] in Italian, and a “Stempelkanne” [stamp pot] in German. So, who created the French press?
As with all great things, the French press comes with its own creation tale. The story goes that every day, an elderly Frenchman from Provence would take a stroll. He would stop each day halfway through his stroll to brew himself a cup of coffee by boiling the beans over an open fire. One day, the man boiled the water without first adding the coffee grounds. He realized his error and removed the pot from the flame to add the grounds. The grounds, however, floated on top of the water rather than cascading to the bottom as they usually would have. An Italian trader who had metal screens for sale happened to be passing by at the time. To the surprise of the Italian trader, the old Frenchman took a sip of the coffee and was shocked at how delicious it was! The two of them agreed it was the finest coffee they had ever tasted. According to the story, the two men went into business together and made their fortune by peddling their plunger-style coffee maker.
As lovely and simple as this story is, it isn’t backed up by any historical evidence- the real history behind the French press is a lot more complex. In 1852, two Frenchmen, Henri-Otto Mayer and Jacques-Victor Delforge patented the precursor to the modern French press. The most notable difference was that this press was not made of glass, had a much longer pouring spout, and used a cheesecloth to filter the coffee grounds instead of the modern metal screen. There is no historical evidence that Delforge and Mayer mass-produced their invention. Decades later, another version of the French press was created in 1928 by the Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta.
Photo Source: Mayer & Delforge's 1852 patent, commons.wikimedia.org
Their design is almost identical to the patent of Mayer and Delforge but with a much better feature- using a metal screen disc with a spring wrapped around it so it fits enough in the vessel to filter the coffee grounds. Calimani and Moneta’s design has an A47J31/20 patent classification which means the design is an “Apparatus in which ground coffee or tea leaves are immersed in the hot liquid in the beverage container having immersible, e.g., rotatable, filters.” The French press then underwent its final makeover, with its final design coming in 1958 courtesy of a Swiss inventor by the name of Faliero Bondanini.
Photo Source: Calimani and Moneta's 1929 patent, patents.google.com
Faliero Bondanini’s version proved to be the most successful; the press went on to be branded and sold under the name “Chambord.” The Danish Bodum Holding purchased the original distributing company of the Chambord, Martin S.A., in 1991. Bondanini’s iteration of the French press is the one we use today; the Chambord’s classic design is very recognizable. The Chambord coffee press is known for its sophisticated look with a glass vessel, steel lid, frame, and handle.
Photo Source: Faliero Bondanini’s 1957 patent, patents.google.com
With the press being improved upon by Italians and the Swiss but initially being created by the French, it has caused quite a debate on who can lay claim to its creation. Regardless of who invented it first, French Press is still an amazing coffee device that we enjoy using today.
We would love to see your French press and have you use it to brew our medium-coarse ground Sheldrake Coffee!
Since it is a French press, our mouth-wateringly rich, smoky French Roast would be a perfect pairing.
Tag us on our Instagram page @sheldrakecoffee or use the hashtags #FrenchPressSheldrakeCoffee #FrenchPressWithSheldrakeCoffee #SheldrakeCafetiere #SheldrakeStempelkanne!