News Column

Coffee is Easy via French Press

Dec. 8, 2009


Coffee is Easy via French Press
Photo by J. Nisen

Coffee is easy and convenient to make at home in a French Press. If you can spare about ten minutes, owing to the mere four-minute steeping process in your French Press, then you can make some fine coffee at home.

A few basic details.


Coffee from a French Press calls for a coarse grind, to ensure that the plunger captures as much of the coffee as possible on its way down. Using a "propeller grinder" (blade grinder) will create particulates of varying smaller sizes that the plunger can't catch; accordingly, your coffee will be gritty. Best case scenario, you have a burr grinder at home; if not, we'd suggest having it ground for you from whole beans at your local store, then using it as soon as you can. Keep the coffee in a cool, dark, dry place; we do not recommend freezing or refrigerating it. Your coffee, especially if pre-ground, will pick up and adapt foul and foreign odors.

Coffee is mostly water, and you shouldn't use anything you wouldn't drink by the glass as the key ingredient in your coffee. Filtered water, ideally by reverse osmosis, will help yield excellent coffee.

Press it!

Behold the mighty French Press, press pot, or whatever you feel like calling it. A glass carafe, some sort of handle/holder, and a lid complete with a wire-mesh equipped plunger.

We'll assume that doing this quickly is a concern, so first start your water boiling.

Then to the grinder -- grind the amount of coffee appropriate to your taste and the amount of water used. A common starting point is two tablespoons per cup of water; you can tailor it in subsequent uses to your taste.

After grinding the coffee, place it at the bottom of the carafe. After the water boils -- and try to stop it right after it boils -- wait a minute for it to cool off a touch. Then pour the hot water into the carafe, over your coffee, in a nice, even, steady pour. Try to saturate the coffee evenly. Fill the carafe -- remember, not too full, you need to leave space at the top for the lid and plunger mechanism to be inserted.

Once the water is poured, stir the coffee, which should for the most part be floating at the top. The long reach of a chopstick makes it an ideal stirring tool; some caution that using a metal spoon may contribute to micro-cracks in your glass carafe. Put the lid on. DO NOT PLUNGE YET. Wait for the coffee to steep; the general best practice is to aim for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, push down the plunger -- nice, slowly, and evenly. You want to ensure that you're capturing as much of the coffee as possible on the bottom, rather than have it end up in your mouth. Also, no need for dramatic, frantic motions when dealing with still-hot coffee. Stay safe.

Now you're ready to pour your coffee. Many French press pots have a mesh filter that lines up at the spout to help further filter missed particulates. Again, safety first; a nice, even pour into a porcelain mug (for home use) or an insulated, covered mug (for commuters) should yield some fantastic coffee. If you're typically a cream and sugar/sweetener user, you might want to try it black, just to experience the clean, deep flavor and nice mouth feel of a properly prepared French press pot.

Check out this slideshow for pics of each step and some bonus coverage.

Source: (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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