I guess I’ve been a ‘green’ coffee drinker for years… I ran across this article on MSN/Slate yesterday, called “The Great Coffee Debate” – it’s a great article about the different methods of brewing coffee and how ‘green’ or ‘non-green’ each method is. My hubby and I picked up a couple of French Coffee Presses at Starbucks when we were visiting San Francisco about 8 years or so ago – we have actually converted a lot of our coffee drinking friends over to the coffee press because it truly does make an awesome cup of coffee – very fresh, no ‘burned’ taste like you get with traditional coffee makers…

The French Press Coffee Pot is a simple design that makes excellent coffee quickly and easily. How easy, you ask? Just place the fairly coarse ground fresh coffee in the bottom of the French press pot, pour water “just off the boil” over the grounds and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, using the plunger, which contains a fine mesh filter, press the grounds to the bottom. The liquid that’s left is rich, creamy and full of flavor. The reason? The coffee oils aren’t ‘trapped’ in a paper filter, or ‘burned’ in a percolator. They float lazily up and add to the full robust flavor of your coffee – some have described the thick brew tasting like a heavy cream in the mouth.

I’m not one to enjoy extremely strong coffee – you know how those jokes are about the coffee being strong enough to strip paint off walls…my brother-in-law is more akin to drink that kind of coffee. But even he was impressed with the resulting coffee from our French Press – even though he joked that it didn’t look strong enough, since I don’t make sludge for coffee. My sister was impressed as well, she had limited her intake of coffee but started drinking it more the last time they were here for a visit because it smelled and tasted so good! In fact, after they returned to their home state, they had to hunt down their own French Press to continue the full/rich coffee experience they were introduced to at our house. Sure, it’s a little extra ‘work’ if you drink lots of coffee, you have to make a fresh pot every time you want more since the 8-cup versions really only yield 3-4 ‘regular’ size ‘coffee cups’ of coffee. But since you only have to let the grounds steep for about 4 minutes, your guests don’t have too long to wait for their cup – or second cup – of coffee. We have two of these French presses, so if we have friends over and there are a lot of us drinking coffee, we’ll have both presses working at once – that seems to work great for us.

So who invented the ‘French Press’? There seems to be a conflict on the ‘who’ of the birth of the French Press. The French claim responsibility, but the Italians do as well. Does anyone really know the true history? I read where the ‘correct’ chronology runs like this: “The French invented the press pot in approximately the 1850’s. The first pots were metal, and functioned roughly like they do today pressing coffee grounds to the bottom of a metal pot, through a metal screen (or sometimes through a loosely woven material)”.

In the 1930’s, the Italians reinvented the French press pots, using first metal, and then glass. The pot has been refined over the years to the single-chambered French press pot we know today. Well, the truth lies somewhere in between the historical accounts. I ran across a ‘Fractured Fairy Tale’ about the French Press…it’s quite entertaining!

“How the French Press Pot Came to Be”

“He wasn’t a sharp thinker. No, not the old man on the hill. But he did spend a majority of his time generating thoughts from the top of a tall hill or mountain, if you like. Every day, the old man walked slowly from his house in Provence to the top of the hill, where he sat for hours… thinking and drinking his coffee.

Through the windy Springs, hot Summers, bittersweet Falls and the snows of Winter, he made the daily trudge to his hill. In the coldest part of winter, when there was little daylight, he’d carefully carry his ground coffee, a bit of firewood, and his old coffee pot to the top of the hill where he made a strong brew to warm his bones and soul.

The old man boiled his coffee and water together in an old pot, then drank the strong, bitter liquid – a punishment of sorts – for the coffee tasted dreadful. One day, he made the mistake of boiling the water without the coffee. A simple oversight, you say? Ahh, but a fortuitous one. When he realized that he’d left out the coffee, the old man quickly dumped the fresh grounds he had wrapped in an old, soft kerchief into the boiling water. The grounds formed a thick plug of coffee at the top of his pot. ‘How will I ever drink this coffee,’ he thought to himself, cursing.

Of course, at just the right moment, a small, weather-beaten Italian man appeared at the crest of the hill, toting his wares: a large section of metal screen and an Italian flag (that’s why we know he was Italian).

The old man took one look at the screen and saw the perfect way to save his coffee. He jumped to his feet, ran to the Italian, and grabbed the screen from his hands. He carefully fit a section of screen over his pot. Using a stick, he pressed the screen to the bottom of the pot, leaving the fresh, creamy coffee in the pot.

One sip and the Frenchman knew he’d achieved greatness.

He shared his thick, tasty brew with his new-found friend, who charged him a million centimelira for the portion of screen he nabbed. Together they began a manufacturing plant in a small village of Cafe-Si-Besoin, a suburb of Bern, Switzerland where they crafted French press pots and made a fortune.”

Today, over 2.5 million French press pots are sold each year in the United States. The standard design is a glass beaker, surrounded by a metal or plastic holder. The plunger is attached to the pot lid and presses the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot. There are several manufacturers of the popular coffee (and tea) pots. All will provide you with a great pot of coffee that reflects coffee’s aroma, flavor and true taste. If you haven’t tried a French Press, go get one…and think about the old man on the hill. History tells us the coffee will be an “elixir for the soul.” So why not make your ‘elixir’ a ‘green’ one?