I have long been a fan of the French press. I was introduced to it in grad school where one of my office mates had one on her desk and I was taken by its simplicity (and good brewing). After years of using a French press myself, I only recently came across an oddity about them. I was frequenting a coffee shop in Athens this summer while my wife was away at a conference and happened to notice what I thought was a single cup French press. I thought this would be great for making my morning cup of coffee. My wife doesn’t drink coffee and I’d still have my larger press if I had guests over. Not wanting to worry about how to get the press home, I noted down its information and started searching for it online after our return from our summer travels. Thing is, it’s listed as a 4 cup press.
This led me to do a little research and discover that “cups” in coffee presses are 4 ounces, so that this smaller 17 oz coffee press is intended to make 4 cups. In fact, the large press I’ve been using to make 2 cups of coffee is marketed as an 8 cup press. I’m not brewing espresso here, I’m brewing coffee that I will add just a little creamer to, so why a 4 ounce cup? A little more digging found a site stating that “Many presses measure cups in 4 oz (about 125 ml), also called a Tasse.”** Tasse!?! More searching comes up with two definitions of “tasse”:
- One of a series of overlapping metal plates in a suit of armor that form a short skirt over the body below the waist (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tasse)
- Tasse can be seen as a straight-sided Futura, a design useful wherever Futura and its derivatives might apply. (http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/tasse)
Clearly neither of these is referring to coffee. Then, as is often the case, it’s Wikipedia to the rescue: “A tasse à café, French for coffee cup, is a cup, generally of white porcelain and of around 120 ml (4 fl oz), in which coffee is served.” And here I thought the “French” in French press was just a misnomer to get us Americans to buy something we thought was cultured. I do have to wonder, however, how many times a “4 cup” French press has been ordered and returned by a baffled consumer. C’est la guerre.