Coffee Notes, by Jay Spencer Seiler

How to use a French Press.
November 23, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , ,

I have a french press that I use to make coffee in the office. It brews a nice cup and many people find that it is preferable to other coffee brewing methods. I got this little instruction set from Albert T. on the Wake Up Vibes Coffee blog

French press is a one of the best ways to make coffee, it’s quick and relatively easy to use and makes beverage that has rich and full flavor that is often higher in quality than drip machine can produce. Also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetiere, it is a device that most often has glass carafe, filter plate and a plunger attached to the lid. There are variations to this, but we’ll get to that later.

How to use the French press?

* For a French press use coarsely-ground coffee, it won’t be caught in the filter. If the beans are too finely ground, some of it may not be caught by the filter and will end up in your cup. Also, it can block the filter, so it’s hard to press the plunger down. It’s suggested to use burr grinder for grinding the beans, because it creates equal sized boulders. Blade grinders tend to create dust and boulders are varying in size, so the taste of coffee suffers.

* Lift off the plunger and add coffee grounds to the carafe. In average you can use about one rounded tablespoon per 6 oz. of water.

* Pour in the water. It should be little bit below the boiling temperature. Pour it slowly and evenly, so the water can mix with the grounds. Don’t overfill the press, the water level should be below the edge so it won’t overflow when you insert filter. You have to be careful with this, since the water is very hot.

* Stir with the wooden spoon or chopsticks. Don’t use metal spoon to avoid damaging or breaking the glass.

* Put the top on and don’t press down yet, leave the filter up.

* Let it steep for about 3-4 four minutes. Generally the steeping time is smaller for small presses and longer for bigger presses.

* Now, press the plunger down. Do it slowly and with equal pressure. If you press too fast the water might splash out and burn you.

* Pour the coffee into the cup.

French press coffee is meant for using right after it’s ready. Don’t let it sit out, because the coffee will cool down and the taste will also be affected.

As for the amount of coffee grounds and steeping time you can and should do some experimenting yourself, so you can find the best options to suite your taste.

How to choose a French press?

First of all – capacity. There are various sizes available starting with single serve and going up to 12 cups (maybe there are even bigger ones, but I haven’t come across them yet). So, if you are using it mainly for your personal use the small press will be enough, if you’re using it for making coffee for several people go for a bigger size and for gatherings/parties a 12-cup version is often a good choice.

Stronger glass version is recommended as it doesn’t break so easily. Also I suggest to get one where you can change the glass carafe, so if you happen break it, you can replace it and don’t have to buy whole new press. If you want to take your press along with you on travel pick the one with plastic body or get the travel mug version of a French press which is also available.

There are also French presses that are insulated or have double walled glass so they can keep the coffee warm for a couple hours. This is an option to go for if you need to keep coffee warm for longer time, since the coffee in regular French press cools down rather soon.

Jay here:
A word of warning and an interesting story to boot. If you are using the french press in the office as I do you are probably boiling your water right in the glass carafe using the microwave. This is all well and good BUT make sure that the water boils to the point where the surface tension of the water is broken. I once brought the water to an “almost” boil and when I reached in to grab the carafe it literally exploded in a blast of boiling water. It scalded my arm quite badly. This does happen, see here and here Better yet of course use a teapot or different container to boil your water. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Some examples of French presses:

Bodum Chambord Coffee Press

This is pretty classic French press in 3-cup size (4, 8 and 12 cup versions are also available). It has replaceable glass carafe and chrome-plated brass frame.

Bodum Columbia Thermal 48-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press

This is stainless steel French press with insulation that holds 12 cups of coffee and keeps it warm for up to two hours.

BonJour 8 Cup Rhone Ribbed French Press, Double Wall Glass

This French press has double walled glass, so it also keeps coffee hot longer and is more resistant to the shock and breakage.