French Press Coffee
The highlight of the year was, undeniably, the invention of the French press. Since its inception, it has gained worldwide popularity and acclaim.
This simple device uses the steeping method to brew rich and robust coffee. Original designs used cheesecloths to filter grounds but have since developed into the mesh screen we use today. The French press brews coffee by adding coffee grounds and hot water into a cylindrical pot, then allowing the grounds to be submerged for a few minutes. It then uses the mesh filter to push and hold the grounds on the bottom while you pour the coffee from the pot
The French press was invented in 1929, and in this fast-paced age of technology, you still can't beat a cup of French press coffee. No automatic, pour over, or Keurig will ever take the place of the French press is a true coffee lover's heart.
Why Choose French Press Coffee
With all of the convenience of fast, ready-made coffee at your disposal, you might be wondering why you should choose a coffee press. True, it will never be ready when you wake up in the morning, and it requires some attention, but the end result is worth your time and effort. Jump over and take a look at our favorite French presses and testing results.
The press has many qualities to recommend it. It allows the maker full control over the flavor and strength of each cup by simply adjusting brewing time, water temperature, and grind size. Allowing each individual an opportunity to experiment until their perfect cup has been found.
The lack of paper filters means more flavor and a more vibrant body. The buttery [goodness] fills your every taste bud with flavors you simply can't find in a drip pot. In fact, once you've experienced the life-altering perfect pressed cup of coffee, you'll never go back to a drip machine.
How to Make French Press Coffee
While the steeping method of brewing is simple in its explanation, it's a little more complicated in its execution. Unlike traditional drip coffee, this is not the type of coffee brewing you can set up to brew while you take a shower. Measurements and timing should be exact (at least at first). Ideally you'll want to have a scale (or measuring cup), measuring spoon, and a timer. Unlike drip coffee where you add water and push a button, this brewing method requires a little more attention. The nice thing about the French press is, once you get this method down, you can use it as a baseline to play around with grind size and brewing time to dial in the exact flavor you're looking for -- you are now in control.What you need:
- A French press
- Ground coffee
- Wooden spoon
- Boiling water
- Scale or tablespoon
Prepare the water
Set at least 8 cups of water to boil in a kettle. Temperature is crucial to the steeping process, so an investment in a cooking thermometer is a good decision. But if you're going to wing it, then clock your kettle the first time you use it. Keep track of how long it takes to come to a boil, then wait one more minute. Once the water has been boiling for one minute, it should be close to the right temperature. Take note of the time, and then you can set a kitchen timer from then on; remember, this is an exact science.
Preheat your press
Add hot water to the press to prepare it for brewing. Preheating will make sure the French press stays warm for the entire brewing process, without preheating, your hot water will hit a cold carafe, and the brewing process will be subpar.
Grind your beans
While your press preheats, grind your coffee beans. Since the French press brews coffee through immersion, chunky, coarsely ground beans are needed. If your beans are pre-ground, then let your press preheat for at least 30 seconds, but not more than a couple of minutes.
Step 4: Add coffee
Now it's time to pour out the press and add the coffee grounds. Add between 8 and 12 tablespoons, or, if you're using a scale, about 56 grams of coarsely ground coffee beans to the bottom of the carafe. The amount of coffee grounds will depend on your personal preference, understand more on where to start with your French press ratios. Be patient and measure out your grounds, don't just dump some in there. Accurate ground to water ratios are necessary for a French press. Otherwise, you might as well drink tar from the chuck wagon.
Step 5: Bloom
Pour a small portion of water into the press, in a spiral motion, covering all of the grounds. You don't want to fill the carafe completely, but you want to ensure all of the grounds are fully submerged. You'll notice the grounds seem to be getting larger or blooming. Blooming your grounds starts the flavor extraction process. Once you have all of the grounds completely wet, set a timer for 30 seconds and wait before moving on.
Fill the carafe
Fill the carafe the rest of the way with hot water and give the coffee a quick but gentle stir. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, to protect the glass pot. Put the lid on the press and, if necessary, press the plunger down a little to push the grounds that are floating on the top underwater.
Step 7: Wait
Set a timer for 4 minutes. Your coffee needs this time to brew fully.
Step 8: Plunge
Now that you've waited patiently, it's time to press the plunger all the way down. You should go gently and carefully until you've reached the bottom. You don't need to squeeze every last drop of water out of the grounds, just carefully press the plunger down to the bottom of the carafe.
Step 9: Pour
Finally, your coffee is ready to drink. Pour it straight to your mug, or into a warming carafe if you are going to save some for later. Don't leave the coffee in the press; the longer it steeps, the more bitter it becomes.
Tips to the Perfect French Press Coffee
The lack of a paper filter allows more oils and particles into the coffee, which makes a full-bodied, robust brew. Dark roasts are perfect for the French press because the immersion method of brewing reduces the bitterness many people taste in a dark roast. Any medium to dark roast will work well in your press. You want to get whole beans that are freshly roasted. Fresh coffee beans are essential to any pot of coffee.
Since the French press uses the immersion method of brewing, you need a coarse, chunky grind. If grinding at home with a blade grinder, simply grind the beans for a shorter amount of time. If you're buying pre-ground, ask your roaster to grind it up for a French press, they'll know what to do. If they don't, consider looking for a new coffee source. The grounds should be chunky but not much larger than steel-cut oats. Remember the grind size you used, so you can make adjustments later if needed. For example, if your coffee is weak, then you might need a smaller grind, or if the brew is too strong, then a larger grind might work better.
If you want to have great coffee consistently, then what you need is a food scale. For perfect French press coffee, you need 1 gram of coffee to every 15 grams of water.
You can't rush the French press process. It only takes a couple of minutes from start to finish, so don't cut corners by skipping the preheat. A cold carafe will dramatically reduce the temperature of your brewing water. High temperatures are one of the things that set the French press apart for other brewing methods. If you don't allow the press to warm up before adding grounds, you'll never be able to make a decent cup.
The first bloom is an essential step. When water first touches the grounds, it starts a chemical reaction where carbon dioxide and other gases are released from the beans. It sets the beans up to be ready for brewing when you add the rest of the hot water into the carafe. When the carbon dioxide is released from the grounds, many of them will float to the surface of the water. This is a good sign, but you will need to stir the water about 30 seconds after blooming to help settle the ground in the water. Once all of the grounds have sunk, you know your mixture is ready for the next step. Ideally, you want to try to get all of the ground wet at the same time. The closer together the beans begin the process, the more flavorful the brew will be.
Timing is everything. With the immersion method of brewing, you have to stay present during brewing. It only takes a couple of minutes for your coffee to brew fully. If you step away, you may lose track of time, and leaving coffee in the press longer than necessary ruins the entire pot. The longer the grounds steep, the more bitter the coffee becomes. That is why when your brewing timer goes off, you need to transfer the entire pot to a new container. Anything left in the press will be undrinkable. There is an outlying group of French press lovers who swear by a longer brew time. They claim a six to eight minute brew brings out the more unique and flavorful qualities of their coffee. We're not against it. We love coffee, and the perfect cup of coffee is different for every drinker. If it sounds good to you, go for it, we won't judge.
Taking the plunge has a different meaning when talking about the French press. Instead of diving headfirst, at full speed, plunging your brew should be done gently and slowly. Many people over agitate the brew when pressing down the plunger and then wonder why their coffee tastes off. The excess agitation forces bitter flavors to be extracted from the bean because all of the good stuff has already been released. The violent plunge just shakes loose the crummy leftovers. When your brew time is over, slowly press the plunger down, if it sticks or begins to tighten uplift it back up an inch or so and press down again. When you reach the bottom, stop. You don't need to squeeze out every last drop.
We all hate fines, except when it comes to coffee. Since the French press uses a mesh filter instead of a paper filter very small or fine, coffee grounds seep through and into your cup. These powder-like grounds are called fines. They give your coffee fullness and veracity. But if you would rather do without, you can always run your coffee through a fine-mesh strainer before pouring it into your cup.
French Press Science
As we mentioned, using a French press is as much a science as it is an art. And science is what really separates this coffee from its drip brewed peers. There are many variables that affect a pot of coffee, including water temperature, type of water, water to bean ratio, grind size, and the quality of coffee beans. Controlling these variables to the right degree is what we strive for with pressed coffee.
You might think hot water is hot water, but the intricacies of H2O are more complicated than that. One of the reasons French press coffee is so much more flavorful and bold than other brews is because of water temperature. When brewing a pot in the press, the water hits the grounds while it is sitting at just below boiling, which is much higher than other methods. In addition, the water temperature remains higher during the immersion system, than it does using a drip system. In a drip or pour over, the water filters through the grounds, and the slow drip cools off significantly.
Higher temperatures mean more flavor is pulled out of each bean, and it also helps dissolve some of the tiny unwanted particles too.
TYPE OF WATER
The chemistry of your water makes a difference when brewing coffee. Since coffee is already an acidic drink, using soft water, which is low in calcium and bicarbonate, can make your coffee extremely acidic, even sour. While at the same time using hard water, water high in bicarbonate can produce bland coffee.
When that extremely hot water first hits the coffee grounds, you'll see them expand or bloom. The first contact, when the grounds are completely soaked, releases carbon dioxide gases, which also release the cells of flavor that are trapped inside the grounds.
Immersion vs. Drip
Drip or pour over coffee runs hot water through grounds and out a filter. The water and the grounds have very little time together, the water skates past each bean, pulling out only a small amount of its flavor.
An immersion brew is a slower brewing process. The water fully saturates the grounds and pulls out the maximum amount of flavor before being filtered. For a little more on this see our article on French press (immersion) VS pourover (pour over).
French Press Cold Brew Coffee
Many people swear cold brew coffee is the better tastier version of traditional coffee. Many coffee shop brawls have started with words like cold brew is better. But you don't have to choose sides. We love coffee, cold brew or not; we're fans of any good cup.
Cold brew has a large following because compared to traditional brew, cold brew has less acidity. To some, this makes the flavor and smoothness superior. For many others, the lack of acidity is simply a necessity; those with acid reflux problems find they can drink cold brew without making their systems work too hard.
Cold brew concentrate is very simple to make. The only thing is remembering to prepare it in advance. It takes several hours to brew, so you need to make it a day in advance. While it takes a long time for the coffee to brew, all you have to do is set it up and leave it. When it's ready, simply pour it into a lidded jar, and you're ready to go.
How to Cold Brew
Add 8-12 tablespoons of coarse coffee grounds to your 8 cup French press. The same amount of grounds you would add if brewing a hot pot.
Add 3 cups of cold or room temperature water, this about half what you would normally add to a hot pot. If you want to make a full pot of concentrate, then double the amount of coffee grounds you used.
Gently stir the grounds and water mixture using a wooden spoon.
Place the lid and wait. You'll need to let it brew for at least 15 hours.
Plunge the grounds to the bottom, pour the coffee into a lidded jar, and you're done. You can keep the concentrate, covered in the refrigerator for about a week.
Now you have cold brew concentrate. You can either whip up an iced coffee for the afternoon or mix together 1 part concentrate and 1 part hot water to make a warm cup on a cold morning.
Cold Brew Tips
Using a French press to make cold brew is simple, but to get a good concentrate, you'll need to remember the science of the French press. Make sure your coffee grounds are chunky and coarse. You also need to make sure the coffee grounds are completely submerged for proper brewing. And don't forget your water to grounds ratio nearly doubles with cold brew in comparison to a hot brew. Click for more details on making a cold brew with a French press. Did you know you can also make espresso-like coffee with a French press too? See more on how you can enjoy strong espresso coffee with your French press here.
How to Clean a French Press
For having such a detailed and precise process for brewing, the French press has little care when it comes to cleaning and maintenance instructions.
When it says “disassemble and wash,” you sort of have to figure that one out on your own. But what really works is this quick cleaning routine.
You should do a basic clean up daily, with a more thorough cleanout once a week.
Step 1: Let it cool
You might think this is a no brainer, but every one of us a scorch mark from trying to clean out the press too soon.
Step 2: Remove the grounds
Whatever you do, don't leave the grounds in there overnight. That's just...gross. Use your hand or a rubber spatula and clean out all of the grounds. Make sure you dump them in the trash as too many grounds will clog your sink.
When you get sick of having coffee grounds under your fingernails, invest in a small mesh sieve or strainer, then instead of scooping out the grounds, you can add water to the carafe and pour them out through the strainer. The strainer will catch the grounds, and you can toss the grounds without worrying about clogging your sink. Repeat until all the grounds are cleared out.
Step 3: Soap and water
Add a couple of drops of liquid dish detergent to a full carafe of water and run the plunger up and down until super bubbly.
Step 4: Rinse
Dump out the suds and flush your press with clean, warm water until clear.
Before you give your French press a deep clean, go through the daily clean routine to get rid of grounds and easily removed particles. Next, disassemble the French press. Take apart all of the pieces that can be removed and lay them out. Then make a cleaner using baking soda and water. You want to add just enough water to make a paste out of the baking soda. Use the paste as soap and scrub each individual part of the press with it, using a cloth or a bottle brush. If you have hard water buildup, then you might need to create a vinegar bath. Using 1 part water and 1 part white distilled vinegar, soak any pieces with hard water buildup for about 10 minutes, then scrub them with the same mixture. Once the buildup dissolves, wash and rinse each piece thoroughly. Lay out all of the pieces to dry. Once they have completely dried assemble the press back together and you are ready to go.
The French press requires a little tender love and care. But isn't that true of all good things in life. Treat your French press well, and it will never let you down.