In its most basic form, French Press coffee is a immersion brewing method that uses a carafe, a plunger and a screen which work together to mix coarse ground coffee with water between 195 – 205 Fahrenheit for 4 minutes.
Anyone who has enjoyed French press coffee will tell you that it is smooth, indulgent and rich. If paired with some crepe Suzette or a fluffy croissant, the coffee will make you feel like you are already in paradise. That should not tell you that it is hard to enjoy French press coffee on a daily basis – some people enjoy it each day. However, you should make the process easier.
Today, you are unlikely to find any other method that will work better than the French press. That alone has made it a favourite of most coffee enthusiasts and households. Even though the process takes a lot of patience than you need when using one of the drip coffee makers, you can easily master the art. You just need to find a quality French press coffee maker.
Brief History of a French Press
If it is the first time you are hearing of a French Press, also known as cafetiere in England, you might think that it is a very new art of coffee making. The origin of this method is unclear, but it has existed for over 100 years in various iterations.
Attilo Calimani patented the modern design in the year 1929. Surprisingly, Attilo was not a Frenchman – he was Italian. The current design is simple and consists of a carafe, also known as a breaker and a plunger assembly. The market offers French Presses made of glass but some producers supply those made of stainless steel, stoneware or plastic.
Types of French Press Coffee Makers
The borosilicate glass material contains boron trioxide and silica, which means that it is more resistant to thermal shock. The glass will not explode after you have poured your hot water into the French press. Manufacturers use the same material to make the glass bakeware. Unfortunately, if the French press drops on the tile floor, the glass composition will not help you.
Stoneware or Ceramic
This type of French press is beautiful but can be more pricey than the others unless you can find a deal one. The manufacturers mostly supply them in a rainbow of colors, but they also coat them internally to prevent odors and stains.
The material is dishwasher safe. Moreover, it is sturdier and resistant to high temperatures. Unfortunately, it will break if it drops on a hard floor so be careful with it! You could look at one like the Le Creuset on Amazon
If you need a French press that will not break easily, you will have to go for the stainless steel one. Generally, the carafe is vacuum-sealed and doubled – more like the heavy-duty travel mugs – so that they can keep your coffee hot for very many hours. The manufacturers supply them in polished or brushed polishes to satisfy the needs of their customers.
If you need a brushed finish style, expect to find many colors. But if you need a polished one, you should expect a mirror finish, which resembles the fine silver. The durability highly varies from one model to the other, but you should keep in mind that stainless steel will never break if it dropped on a hard floor. Take a look at the one from Secura on Amazon
The French presses from the reputable brands feature plastic carafes made of styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) and are free of bisphenol-A (BPA). The SAN material is durable and it will withstand high temperature without leaching chemicals or warping.
BPA comes with many negative effects and can easily find its way into your coffee each time you expose the plastic to heat – such as when boiling water. And because you will be using hot water to brew coffee, you will have to make sure that the material is BPA-free. Bodum makes a great French Press with this BPA free material.
What else is a French Press Made Of?
Aside from the different types of materials that the carafe is made of, The rest of the French press employs a mechanism so simple that its almost hard to believe that something so simple can work so well and is comprised of the following:
A plunger is more of a glorified way of saying a rod. The difference here is the rod is attached to a cap (or lid) on top to seal in the heat after depressing and on the other end it attaches to a filter and disc near the bottom. You will use the plunger both when brewing your coffee and when cleaning.
The plunger’s bottom end is made of a disc and filter that a spring attaches firmly to the glass. Some models come with four stainless steel filters to make that the coffee grounds will remain at the bottom of the French press when plunging assuming you use the proper grind size (coarse)
When the grind is very fine or the filters are not fine enough, you might end up with gritty coffee brews. Some people blame the metal filters for leaving cholesterol –increasing oils in the brewed coffee. If that is a concern, you can go for the paper filters or the French press bags, which will trap the oils.
How to Brew a Great Cup of French Press coffee
What is so great about using a French Press is that its so easy to make a great coffee that its almost to good to believe. So how you do it? Let me give you my general recipe on what you should do.
First, lets start with the what you need an a ideal setting:
Now lets get to the brewing, here are the steps to follow:
- As with any brewing method start with fresh whole bean coffee from a Local roaster or if your in for the long haul, from a subscription coffee service like bean box.
- Now use a ratio of 15 to 1 (water to coffee) to measure how much coffee you want. I usually use 20 grams of coffee and 350 grams of water.
- Once you have that measured out, grab your grinder and put it on a coarse setting. Now put your coffee in and grind away.
- At this point you may want to start heating up your water in your kettle and allow the temperature reach between 195 to 205 F or if you don’t have a temperature gauge, let the kettle sit for 30 seconds after it begins to boil.
- Pull out your scale and put your French Press on it and tare the scale so that it says zero. Once this is done pour in your ground coffee and verify that is says 20g (in this example) … Once that’s done, tare it again so its at zero.
- While your waiting for the water to reach the proper temperature, get your timer out and turn it on.
- Once your water is at the right temperature pour start your timer and pour in 60 grams of water. If your coffee is fresh you will see what they call “the bloom”. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then pour in the remaining water until you get to 300 grams of water.
- Put the plunger on your French press Carafe but DO NOT plunge at let the coffee brew until you get to 4 minutes.
- At 4 minutes press the French press plunger gently. Stick to the weight of your hand when pressing to get best results.
- Once you do this don’t let it sit in the carafe as it will continue to brew, besides you want to drink now anyway don’t you? So pour it in your favorite coffee mug and enjoy!
Making Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press
Making cold brew coffee with a french press is so easy I am not sure why some people overthink it and make it seem more complicated to make than it really is. To make Cold Brew with a French Press you you will want to use a more concentrated amount of coffee. I usually use a 7 to 1 ratio ( Water to Coffee).
All you do is take your whole bean coffee and grind to coarsely, then add it to your French Press. Then take your room temperature water and add pour it in the press. You will want to stir the coffee and water gently, just a couple of time in order to make sure all the grounds are saturated.
Put the lid back and plunger back on but Do not press the plunger down at this stage and place it away from heat and light for 16 hours. Once the 16 hours is up then use the weight of your hand to press down on the plunger and that’s it! You know have cold brew coffee. Told you it was simple!
You will want to pour the coffee into a decanter or some other container so it doesn’t continue to brew and when you drink it, make sure to cut it with water or ice and maybe even some milk. I like to use a 1 to 1 ratio but you can play with it to see how it tastes best for you.
How to Clean the French Press
A dirty coffee maker will always produce less then optimal coffee – regardless of the type. Therefore, you will have to clean yours properly. A French press does not stain coffee with limescale or mildew, which can be the case with some drip machines that are hard to clean.
The coffee will taste better when coming from your squeaky-clean carafe. Most of the French presses in the market are easier to disassemble for the cleaning part. To make the cleaning easier, follow these steps to clean the French press properly.
Start by removing the plunger Now, fill the carafe with warm water halfway and swish the water to loosen the coffee grounds that might be stuck.
Hold the mesh straighter over your kitchen sink. Pour the French press’ contents into it. Dump the strainer containing the coffee grounds into the garbage or better yet put them in your compost. (Here are some other ideas for your used coffee grounds)
Next, add some warm water and some dish soap and put your plunger back on. Pump severally to remove the coffee stains and oil Use your bottle brush with some baking soda to scrub the stubborn residues away. Rinse properly and use a dry soft cloth to dry. If you do not have the time to do all that, you can use the dishwasher, if the French press is dishwasher safe but what fun is their in that?
Tips for Brewing French Press Coffee
In addition to allowing your coffee to bloom for the first 30 seconds of brewing, you should do some other things to keep the French press coffee consistently tasting its best. Here are a few things to do.
- Use warm water to rinse the French press carafe before you start the coffee brewing process.
- Do not leave the brewed coffee in the French press carafe after brewing. If you don’t use it all, hen you can put it into a decanter to prevent it from continuing to brew and a bitter taste.
- Use coarse grinds from a burr grinder so that you can get optimal flavor without the need of adding grit in the cup.
- Stick to a single tablespoon of ground coffee when preparing a single serving to get the best taste. I like to use a 15 to 1 ratio (water to coffee) because if you use too a little or too much, the coffee will not taste as good as it could (or should)
- Keep the French press clean to prevent the sticking of old grounds to the bottom of the carafe when preparing the next brew.
Using a French Press is easy, fun and can produce an incredible cup of coffee. Its great way to make coffee whether you are making just one cup or for a group of people as you only have to do it once either way. If you combine the French Press with Fresh Roasted Coffee, proper grind, water temperature and right amount of coffee you will consistently have great tasting coffee for years to come.