This past weekend I finally replaced my French press that I had broken and I almost couldn’t contain my excitement to get it home and brew up a mug. French press is my personal favorite style of brewing coffee and I get a lot of questions on “why” and “how” when it comes to my press, so I thought I’d share a not-too-fussy guide to the French press.
First, what’s the French press? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a glass carafe that has a plunger that pushes the grounds of coffee to the bottom when the coffee is ready to be poured.
Why should I make the French Press switch?
Coffee has natural oils that give it unique flavors. A regular drip coffee maker or pour-over style brews a cup that is free of most of these oils because they are filtered by the paper filters. Because the French press doesn’t use these filters, the coffee retains these oils, making a much richer, more flavorful cup of coffee.
Now, like wine and beer, people can get very particular about their French press coffee, and there are some steps in the French press method that can make a much better cup. But, also like beer and wine, some of it comes down to taste and what you prefer. So, don’t take just any one person’s technique, some of it comes down to brewing and taste testing to find that “sweet spot” that’s just right for you.
Now for me, this is the way I like to use my press.
The first thing I always do it “warm” my carafe. Just like how you chill glasses before pouring in a martini, I like to warm the glass of the vessel I’m using to make the French press.
As far as the coffee, you want a more coarse grind for French press to prevent it from getting caught up in/not filtering through the mesh plunger. I’m not going to hound you to use freshly ground coffee, but you’re going to want to go ahead and use freshly ground coffee. A roasted bean is like a protective shell around the oils that is going to make a French press coffee so good. Once you grind the beans, the longer you wait to brew the more time things like oxygen and moisture can compromise the coffee.
Ok, so how much coffee? People get really fussy about this and some insist on whipping out the kitchen scale to get the perfect ratio. While I appreciate the commitment to coffee…this girlfriend just ain’t got time for that. I use the nifty little scoop that came with my press and use a heaping scoop per cup. If you want to get more scientific, it seems that an average accepted coffee-to-water ratio is about 1:15.
Once you have the grounds in the warmed carafe, it’s time to add the hot water. The ideal temperature for the water is about 200°, but again, girlfriend ain’t got time to be whipping out the thermometer. If you bring the water to a boil and remove it from the heat for about 30 seconds, you’ll be at just about the right temperature.
Now it’s time to add the water and wait. The time you wait is also heavily debated in the coffee world, with most people agreeing on about 4 minutes. However I prefer 6 minutes for the optimal brew. Because you’re using a coarser grind, I think this extra time if necessary to get a rich enough brew.
Note it’s important to give the coffee grounds and water mix a stir after about 45 second. If you skip this step, you’re risking a brew that is under-extracted. The release of CO2 gas during the brewing process will cause your grounds to rise and float on top. Stirring insures your fully saturating the coffee grounds and extracting all the coffee solids that you want to extract.
4-5 minute later, depending on your preferences, place the top on the carfare, press down (slowly), and pour. You want to remove all the coffee from the carafe at this point. Allowing any to stay in the press with the grinds would allow them to continue to brew, creating a bitter flavor.
So go ahead and pour that heavenly goodness into a mug and enjoy!
That’s my, somewhat, unfussy steps for the perfect French press coffee.
What’s your favorite method of brewing coffee?