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The History of the French Press

Early versions of the French press began showing up in the mid-1800s. In March 1852, a Parisian metalsmith and a merchant earned a joint patent for “the filtering of coffee by means of a piston.” The patent called for a rod attached to a piece of perforated tin sandwiched between two layers of flannel. The inventors explained that when the rod was pressed into a cylindrical vessel, the piston would be lowered and “filtered coffee [could be] obtained above it, perfectly clear.” However, the French press didn’t become popular until the late 1920s, when a Milanese firm patented their own version of the device. And the company didn’t stop there — they continued to refine their design. The 1935 version featured a spring that wrapped around the plunger discs to hold them flush with the cylinder. A similar version then spread throughout Europe in the 1950s and became quite popular. However, the French press wasn't well-known in America until much later. Today, while it has garnered much more popularity than it once had, the French press is often considered something of a “niche” method of making coffee in the United States and is markedly less popular than drip coffee makers or pod-style home brewers, yet still has a devoted fanbase and is often used at upscale American restaurants, too.

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