Was French Press Coffee Really Invented in France?

The name “French Press” alone gives us the impression that it was invented in France. The French Press is also known by other names such as press pot, coffee plunger and cafeti­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ére to name a few. Having so many names gives a lot clues about its history.  A product can only acquire that many names when it has been popular for a long period of time and in many areas. When you pour a cup of coffee from a French Press coffee maker, the taste from it is the same as its history – rich and flavorful. To truly appreciate French Press coffee, a person must go back in time and look at its history.

The Flavorful Taste of French Press Coffee

Taste and flavor are important for coffee lovers. For having a unique taste, French press coffee stands out with its exquisite and freshly brewed coffee grounds. The coarse coffee grounds in French press coffee are in direct contact with water, creating the rich and intense flavor that coffee lovers enjoy. People can determine the strength of the French press coffee by the amount of ground coffee used when making it. Be sure to serve the coffee right after pressing it to avoid the coffee grounds from seeping into the coffee and ensuring the taste will remain rich and fresh.

History of French Press

The first design of the French Press coffee maker was patented by the Frenchmen Henri-Otto Mayer and Jacques-Victor Delforge in 1852. The coffee maker they made had no seal inside the carafe, so it was not the like ones we see today. As the manufacturers were not able to produce a compact fit of the filter within pot.  It met only limited success. This flaw gave other designers the opportunity to develop it and make it their own versions.

During 20th century, two men named Attilio Calimano and Giulio Moneta filed a patent for the coffee press in 1929. They were Italian designers who adapt the first design. Calimano and Moneta gradually perfected their design by adding refinements.  Their design included a metal pot with a plunger operated mesh strainer using a rubber seal around the edge to scrape the inside of the pot and a flexible spring that is wrapped around the plunger discs to hold them flush with the cylinder.

The French Press coffee maker then underwent a period of development from the mid-1950s to 1990s.  It was Faliero Bondanini, a Swiss, who had great success. He went on to file a patent with his own version of French Press coffee maker and that approved in 1958. His simple design ensures that the coffee maker is easy to clean, has a much better filter fit that traps the coffee sediment at the bottom and the sieve works great to prevent the ground coffee beans from being poured into the cup.

Production of Faliero Bondanini’s Design

Faliero Bondanini’s design was ultimately produced in France and was called a “Chambord” coffee maker.  It became popular in France and its popularity gave the French press its French identity. Although it took many years before the Chambord was available all throughout Europe, it was the company Societe des Anciens Etablissements Martin who ultimately distributed it. The French press coffee maker was given different names in different parts of Europe where it was being used – the reason why it has long list of multiple names. When the Chambord was successfully mass produced, this brewing device became European household name.

Chambord’s Rival

Another popular French press coffee maker during those times was named “La Cafetiere.” It was produced by the British firm, Household Articles Ltd.  Household Articles Ltd. was owned by Louis James de Viel Castel who was also a major investor and manager of the Societe des Anciens Etablissements Martin.

Societe des Anciens Etablissements Martin’s Chambord and Household Articles Ltd.’s La Cafetiere were the two major French press brewing devices at that time. Though both parties were highly competitive, there were definitely similarities between the La Cafetiere and the Chambord.

The Fight for Chambord’s Rights and Victory

Chambord’s distributor in Denmark was the well-known Danish tableware and kitchen company named Bodum Holding. Eventually, the rights of the Chambord’s name and factory was bought from Societe des Anciens Etablissements Martin in the year 1991 by Bodum Holding. The Danish company made acquisition of patent designs and for control of markets outside Europe from Household Artcles Ltd. But Louis James de Viel Castel insisted to Bodum Holding that the coffee maker must remain with the Household Articles Ltd. production line.

An agreement reached between Bodum Holding and Household Articles Ltd. that Louis James de Viel Castel was being restricted from selling French Press coffee makers in France under any label including Chambord. He was also prohibited from distributing the coffee maker using through channels that Societe des Anciens Etablissements Martin had used during the period of 1990 – 1991.

These requirements did not deter Louis James de Viel Castel – he came up with the idea of facilitating Bodum Holding’s Chambord sales under his company Household Articles Ltd. The partnership became successful for both companies. The brand is now sold globally.

Chambord Today

Bodum Holding has remained one of the major manufacturers of coffee makers. Their coffee makers are sold under the name and design of Chambord.  You will find many coffee makers that are branded as Bodum Chambord. Its name is a symbol of excellence and high-quality for passionate coffee lovers who are willing to spend their hard-earned money to buy a state-of-the-art coffee maker. So in some respects given its history the Bodum Chambord is considered to be the original French press coffee maker.

Today’s French Press

While one can argue that the French Press coffee maker was French in origin, it certainly had strong input from Italian and Swiss innovators as well!  It certainly became a popular type of coffee in France.  The French press coffee maker might not be the fastest to make a cup of coffee, but the exquisite flavor it provides will keep people coming back for more.

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