French Press History and Shopping—Which Model Covers Your Need?
By Colleen Luckett
According to Miss Manners, in addition to making a really fine cup of joe, a French press can be used for draining shellfish. Although, she advises, probably not at the same time. OK, now that I have your attention . . . let’s talk further about the lovely French press!
The French and Italians duke it out when it comes to claiming creation of this coffee maker with a plunger. The first design for this style of brewer was patented in 1852 by Frenchmen Mayer and Delforge, but it differed from the press you know today because it had no internal seal. The first French press that resembles what we use today was patented by the Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929.
But the most popular design was patented by a Swiss brewer named Faliero Bondanini in 1958. Bondanini was known in France, where his French press design was manufactured as a “Chambord.” The well-known Danish company Bodum later distributed the Chambord in Denmark and eventually bought the rights to the Chambord name and factory.
The French press goes by various names around the world. In Italy the press is known as a caffettiera a stantuffo. New Zealanders, Australians, and South Africans call the press a coffee plunger and coffee brewed in it plunger coffee. Its French name is cafetière à piston, though French speakers also use trademarks, notably Melior or Bodum. In the UK and the Netherlands the device is known as a cafetière, the French word for coffee maker or pot.
Which model of French press you go for depends on what best matches your lifestyle:
Grab-n’-go: Try a “traveler mug” single-tumbler with the plunger included as you head to the office or PTA meeting. (But you must also love strong, bitter coffee, because the grounds will keep brewing on your commute!)
Backpacking and camping: Fishing in high country this weekend with your buddies? Grab a French press with a plastic carafe from an outdoor store before you go. These presses are specially designed for durability so they don’t break into a million pieces in your pack.
Home or office with a bit of elegance: Go for a glass-carafe French press. Look for a stable base and sturdy frame. A glass carafe won’t keep in the heat as well as a stainless steel press, but hey, you have your trusty and functional Koffee Kozee French press cozy made with 3M™ Thinsulate™ insulation to help keep in the heat, right?
Stainless-steel model for no breakage: These French presses are perfect for the household with a toddler or cat who loves to knock your nice things around! You can find them in traditional silver, as well as bright colors like black, brushed steel, candy apple red, mocha and green tea if you go with Planetary Designs’ Tabletop French Press model.
Now, we Americans—never being ones to be outdone by the French (or Italians)—had to create our own press eventually, right? Right. One American in particular tackled this project: Alexander Albanese, former design and physics student, crowd sourced his It’s American Press coffee press onto the market in 2016.
Albanese’s model is the French press re-imagined, though. Instead of pressing coffee sludge down into the bottom of a carafe, the It’s American Press contains the grounds in a plastic chamber as you push the plunger to the bottom of the carafe. So it acts more like an espresso machine. And it’s much easier to clean than a traditional press. You need a lot of spare change for this one ($79.95), though, so maybe wait a while for the price to fall!
Many appreciate the French press for how easy it is to use as well as the robust taste of its coffee because it perfectly extracts oils and flavors. For information on how to pour a perfect cup using a French press, go to the Koffee Kompanions French press brewing page for instructions and a video. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t find information on how to strain your shellfish – we’ll leave that one up to Miss Manners!
Have a favorite French press model? Let us know in the comments!