The French press was invented by the French in the 19th century then refined by the Italians. They added the carafe and plunger, with the last additions being done by Attilio Calimani in 1929. There has been little change since then. The French press is also known as a coffee press, cafetière coffee plunger or press pot.
Benefits of French Press Coffee
If you want to brew your cup of coffee as quickly and conveniently as drip coffee, while at the same time having coffee that tastes like espresso, then the French press is perfect for you. Indeed, coffee brewed in the French press is considered by many experts in the coffee industry to be the best “regular coffee”. The reason for this is its stainless steel filter screen: French press coffee makers does not use paper filters, like most drip coffee makers do. We all know that much of the flavor in coffee is held in the oil. However, when we use paper filters, the paper filters the natural coffee oils. This does not happen with the French press, as its filter allows colloids as well as lipids, which contain the more intense flavors, to pass into the coffee. There is, however, a drawback with this filter: you will find a little coffee sediment at the bottom of the pot, so don’t pour out the last bit of coffee from the pot.
How to choose a French Press
The first factor is the material. If you want to take your French press travelling, plastic is a good option because it is not as fragile as glass; glass is very easy to break. It is also light. If you are looking for a French press for home use, it is better to stick with glass, as plastic can affect the taste to a certain extent. Of course, you can find stainless-steel pots, or versions that are a combination of glass and stainless-steel, which are very popular these days. For home use, I still prefer the traditional glass brewers, as they just look classic and beautiful, and they brew excellent coffee. Again, for outdoor use, plastic is recommended, as it is durable and keeps the coffee hot.
Secondly, size does matter. Generally, the bigger the pot, the more expensive. However, price is not the only thing to consider. You have to decide how many people you will be brewing French press coffee for. A 34-ounce French press, which is 8 cups, is more than big enough to serve a whole family of 4-5 people plus 1 or 2 guests.
The third factor is the brand. At the moment, a popular French press brand is Bodum. The company is known to be a leading maker of French press coffee makers. I recommend buying your plunger from Bodum for the best quality and service.
How to make coffee with French Press
Watch the video below the get the basic idea.
There are 3 main steps in French press brewing: add your ground coffee, pour in the hot water and press the plunger slowly down. However, this won’t produce a good cup of coffee, so let us get into more detail.
Before the first step, your coffee beans should be freshly ground. As shown in the video, coffee beans should be ground coarse. If the grind is too fine, the filter will be clogged in most standard French pots. It is best to use the beans immediately after grinding them for the best flavor. When storing coffee beans, keep them in an air tight container in a dark place to stop them from going stale.
When your beans are ready, the next step is to make sure the temperature of the water is between 195-205 degrees F. You should experiment within these parameters if you want to find out the best temperature for you. For me, 200 degrees work the best. Don’t use freshly boiled water immediately; leave it for a minute or two to let it cool down. It is best to use fresh water that has not been boiled before for the best taste.
Before you start brewing, pour a little hot water into the empty French press to warm it up.
When you start brewing, remember to pour water evenly over the grounds. Then stir slowly to make sure all the grounds are immersed in the water. This also helps with the extraction of those delicious oils and compounds.
Steep time is important. Four minutes is a good brew time for a regular coffee, as shown in the video. For anyone who likes darker notes, it is possible to steep for up to 10 minutes. Try out different times to find the best steep time for your taste.
How to Clean a French Press
Cleaning your French press is very easy, but it takes some time. In short: first you remove the plunger and lid, then you remove the coffee grounds from the pot, wash the pot with hot water, and, finally, wash your pot in the dishwasher (if it is dishwasher safe). Cleaning the French pot in the dishwasher when possible is important because hot water alone is not enough to clean the oily residue from the plunger. If not cleaned, those oils can turn rancid over time and affect the coffee taste. If the pot isn’t dishwasher safe or you don’t own a dishwasher, make sure to use soap with water that is good and hot to clean your French press.
If are interested in other home brewing methods, here is a post about Moka pot brewing.