French Press History – The Legend Behind It

March 6, 2019

The History Of The French Press

In last week coffee equipment review we told you that the French Press history dates back to the late 1800s and that its origin remains a mystery.

Today we will have a look at one of the most popular and most use brewing devices. You might know it as a Cafetiére, Plunger or French press. But the truth is that there have been several patents with different names and from different origins. It is not an unknown brewing method to us, but do we know who invented it? And why is it called French Press? From its origins to the modern days, we will tell you the history behind the origin of this device.

french press history
French Press Coffee

French Press History – The Legend Behind It

Although it is called French Press, the origin of this brewing system it’s still a mystery. Both French and Italian have argued about the origins of the coffee brewer.  According to a legend dating back to 1850s, it was a Frenchman on his daily routine, preparing a pot of coffee on an open fire, who first brewed his coffee this way, although it was rather an accident.

This Frenchman was boiling his water when he realized he had forgotten to put the coffee in. But once he added the coffee grounds they stay on the surface of the boiling pot. To save the only portion of coffee he had him, he bought a piece of metal screen from a passing-by Italian merchant. He fit the metal screen over the boiling pot, and he used a stick to press the screen down. Surprisingly the result turned out incredible, which result in the discovery of a new way of brewing coffee.

The First Patents

The first design for this style of brewer was patented in 1852 by the Frenchmen Mayer and Delforge. But this was a simpler version of the later designs patented then. The first patent of a French press that resembles what we use today was patented by the Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929. Their invention, similar to the very first designs by Mayer and Delforge, was characterized as a vessel adapted to contain a liquid.

french press history
Cafetiere by Mayer and Delforge, 1852

If we briefly look into the patents registered in the United States, we will see that many enhancements to the original brewing device had a patent applied for. All were of a similar principle, making some additional changes to the basic design of the French Press. But the next significant redesign was achieved by Faliero Bondanini.

The most popular design was patented in 1958 by the Swiss man Faliero Bondanini. It was known in France by “Chambord“, place where it was manufactured. The popularity of the Chambord in France is what also gave the cafetiére its French identity. Bondanini later marketed the Chambord as “La Cafetiére Classic” to the UK market. The well-known Danish company Bodum later became a distributor of the Chambord in Denmark and eventually bought the rights to the Chambord name and factory. The “La Cafetiére” trademark remained in the hands of the original owners. Recent legal disputes have seen Bodum and “La Cafetiére” battle it out for control of markets outside of Europe and concerns over patent designs.

french press history
Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta’s invention design, 1958

The Birth Of Coffee Culture

They were creations like the previous ones, done by those such as Attilio Calimanon and Faliero Bondanini that really introduced the art of selling coffee machines into the realm of the new breed of distributors. From the mid-1950s to the early 1990s came an exciting new breed of distributors. From coffee machines to craft beer and organic coffee. Consumerism culture had firmly taken hold.

The French Press Coffee Maker was given different names across Europe and the Societe des Anciens Etablissements and Martin S.A. were able to distribute a brand of French Press called the Chambord in different parts of Europe. This model is easily recognized by its a glass vessel, steel lid, and round handle of the rod. The company Martin S.A. produced it until 1991 when the company was bought by the Danish Bodum Holding. Bodum has since 1991 kept the Chambord design alive in its range of household products, making it one of the most recognized home-brewing coffee devices.

There was another, almost twin, design at the same time as the Chambord became popular, back in the 1960s. Martin S.A.’s investor Louis James de Viel Castel had another company based in Britain, called Household Articles Ltd., which produced a coffee maker under the name La Cafetière. In 1991, when Martin S.A. was bought by Bodum, de Viel Castel lost his right to distribute his product in France under any names.

Competing to bring out the best in home coffee brewers, La Cafetiere and the Chambord were the two leading French Press brewers at that time. The manufacturers of these remarkable brands embarked on the next discerning quality adventure, by ensuring that there was consistency on their sides.

french press history
French Press Morning Routine

The Beginning Of Specialty Coffee Brewing

The French Press is a recognized coffee equipment in any family breakfast table. But this incredible coffee equipment can be the starting point for the specialty coffee aficionados. Imagine the French Press as an entry level to coffee brewing. If used properly, this old equipment can produce tasty brews if certain steps are taken care of.

To explain how you can get the most of your french press we leave you with the iconic James Hoffmann.

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