A Brief History of the French Press

Ed. 7: If you have been following this blog series over the last few weeks, you should feel a bit more comfortable with coffee basics. We have discussed geographic origins, and we have discussed various brew methods. This edition of, “What Do you Taste?,” will focus on the third and final major method of brewing on our agenda, the French Press. This method is another alternative to the traditional auto-drip machine that most people have in their homes and coffee houses. Like the pour-over methods discussed last week, the French Press does not require electricity to function. This method also produces a more traditional (and environmentally friendly) form of coffee because it does not use a paper filter.

The French press method of brewing was originally developed in the nineteenth century by accident. Before the press, coffee was simply boiled along with water. Brewers would allow the coffee grounds to settle and the precipitate would be consumable. A French man decided that he could use a screen to push the coffee grounds to the bottom of his pot in order to produce coffee faster. The Italian coffee movement elaborated on the idea and created a plunger and jug system that fit more neatly. This design has stood the test of time and exemplifies the idea that simplicity is often more desirable.

French Presses are often used in restaurants as a way to exhibit coffee as a visual attraction. Outdoorsmen and backpackers have found the French press’ design both environmentally friendly and light-weight. There is no waste aside from coffee grounds and unused coffee, and clean-up is a breeze. Simply rinse a press with water and it is good to go for another round.

Of course, the press has evolved and some press devices are lavishly decorated, while others are miniaturized for portability, but the original idea has remained for over 200 years. We recommend trying our Kenya AA Nguvu in a press pot.