The Story of the Mason Jar French Press
Updated: Mar 8
Several years ago, Newell - the company that makes Ball and Kerr brand Mason jars - came out with a cylindrical 24 ounce wide mouth jar.
Perfect for a French press, right?
If you say the phrase "Mason jar French press," people immediately understand the value proposition; the carafe on a French press breaks easily, is hard to replace, and is often almost as expensive as the whole press itself. Mason jars are rugged, inexpensive, and easy to find. It seems obvious to make a coffee press out of a Mason jar!
So, why don't we see a whole mess of them on the market? Well, there are few reasons.
Mason jars are obviously designed for canning, not French presses. The tolerances of the interior dimensions don't have to be precise. So variations within and among jars occur.
This is a problem if you want to create a French press plunger assembly that can operate effectively in any of these jars without getting stuck.
The plate has to be small enough to fit without getting stuck when hot, and the spring has to be big enough for proper filtration to occur.
Heat is problematic for another reason. The lid and spout are probably going to expand and contract different rates.
Material choices have to be made with functionality primarily in mind.
So, you probably don't want to use certain materials, like wood or siliconized rubber. Funnily enough, the only two other attempts to make a Mason jar French press used those exact materials.
The first Mason jar French press was made entirely in the Pacific Northwest. It had a spout made of maple, an organic wool cosy, and a locally manufactured plunger assembly. The price? Almost $100! Not ideal for a device that has a $2 jar at its core. The maple, of course was prone to cracking, and the price made an impractical device even more so.
The next attempt used a lid and spout entirely made of chunky siliconized rubber. It also used an off the shelf plunger assembly that made it impossible to use the full depth of the jar. Aesthetics aside, it was awkward to use, leaked profusely, and the plunger often got stuck.
Needless to say, neither product worked well nor lasted long. This is where Sussen comes in. There seemed to be enough interest in the concept to make it worthwhile. I figured it could be done successfully if appropriate attention were paid to design.
I certainly don't have the skill for that. So, I reached out to Ratio Product Lab here in Atlanta for help designing a Mason jar French press that would meet five criteria:
The spout and lid assembly had to tolerate the temperature differential without leaking or cracking.
The spout had to be solid stainless steel.
The plunger assembly had to work in any 24 ounce Widemouth Mason jar and reach the full depth of the jar down to the 2 ounce mark.
It had to be artfully designed and functional.
There had to be a social benefit.
I wanted there to be a social good component - some element that would allow us to harness the power of capitalism for social good, and create a sustainable economic opportunity for people who need it. But I wasn't expecting Ratio to provide that.
Through a fortuitous connection made at Ratio, though, we were able to establish a partnership with Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee's Do Good Initiative.
Through them, we're working with the entrepreneurial women of The Nziza Collective in the Kivu Lake area of Rwanda to make a hand-crafted cosy for each press.
The cozies are made using traditional basket weaving methods and just happen to be water repellent. One cosy represents three days wage to one of these women.
This isn't charity; it's a potentially sustainable business opportunity, and an additional stream of income for these women and their families.
The result of that design process and that relationship with The Nziza Collective is a press that's sustainable, sensible, and made with social purpose.
It's not just a Mason jar French press, it's The Kivu by Sussen. We call it The most practical glass coffee press available.
The Kivu by Sussen is currently available on Indiegogo. We're aiming to raise enough money to cover tooling expenses and production of 2000 units, which is $65,000. This will enable us to provide you with The Kivu at a reasonable price. Contribute as little as $35 and get your own Kivu press when the campaign ends and the units are manufactured. The campaign starts February 18, 2020 and lasts 40 days.
Want to know more about THe Nziza Collective? I interviewed Jonny Golden from the Do Good Initiative a while back, and posted that HERE.
Thanks again for your interest and support!