The Cafetière aka The French Press



French Press?  Sounds like the paparazzi, but it is probably one of the most accessible brewing methods.  In it’s simplest form it is a tubular container with a removable metal filter used to press down on the coffee.  This is the first in the series of blogs about alternative brewing methods from the steeping group.  This is the brewing methods that is the Jacuzzi group where coffee  chills in the water for a while.

It has had a bad rap, as producing harsh, murky or bitter coffee.  Here is a guideline to making good French press coffee. I searched wide and far on the wild, wild web and have distilled the best advice I could find. Following this guideline, should produce a full-bodied, robust coffee with intense flavors.


What you need

WhatYouNeed

  1. A French Press.  Any french press will do, but the best value for money is most likely a Bodum.
  2. Coffee beans. Ideally, you should grind it yourself, but if you do not have a grinder, purchase the coarsest coffee grind you can find.
  3. A grinder.  A decent burr grinder will do, but not the whirly blade type grinder please.  If not, see point two.
  4. Water.  Filtered water since anything else could affect the taste.
  5. Timer.  I know I am walking a thin line here with the hard core coffee crowd, but since it’s not a science class, I am sure after timing things once or twice you won’t need it any more.
  6. Scale.  As with the timer, I believe that this is an aid for getting your brew right and not the rule.

Method

Hand drawing a black process diagam

  1. Get your water boiling.  Boil more water than is needed as you want to warm up your press.
  2. Fill your French press.  This is to heat your press.
  3. Set your timer.  You have a relaxed one minute to prepare your coffee while your water is cooling slightly.
  4. Weigh (for starters) your coffee.  This is where you experiment, but start off on 1:10 ratio on weight between coffee and water.  This works out around a teaspoon (+) per cup.
  5. Grind your coffee.  Use a coarse grind setting. When you finish by pressing down on the filter, too little resistance will indicate too coarse grind and too much resistance will indicate too fine a grind.
  6. Empty the press.  At a minute, your boiled water would have cooled down a tad and will not lead to over extraction.
  7. Add the ground coffee to your French press.
  8. Pour water.  If you are using a scale, set to zero and pour ten times as much water by weight as the ground coffee you added.
  9. Stir.  At about forty five seconds from the time water was added, give a firm, but not over vigorous stir.  We don’t want to damage our press now, so use clean wooden or bamboo spoon.  This will release the trapped carbon dioxide from the coffee crust and most of the coffee should drop to the bottom.
  10. Press down to filter.  At about four minutes from the time water was added, press down slowly on the coffee.  Some people suggest breaking the crust and scooping it off before pressing down.
  11. Enjoy.  Use the coffee straight away or decant since over extraction may take place otherwise.

Don’ts

Donts

The biggest mistakes you can make are the following:

  1. Using boiling water. This will guarantee over extraction and the harsh bitter coffee that goes with it.
  2. Too fine grind. Once again, over extraction as well as a murkiness in the coffee.
  3. Too long time before pressing down on the coffee. At the risk of sounding like a broken record… over extraction.
  4. Not using the coffee straight away. I refuse to say it again, so I will only add that your coffee will cool down too much.

Hope this was not too much like school, but once you follow these easy steps, it should be simple enough that you do not even have to think about it.  Remember, life is to short for bad coffee!

Here is a cool video on the French Press from Stumptown Roasters.  Happy brewing!

2 thoughts on “The Cafetière aka The French Press

  1. Pingback: An evening brewing black | Boxer Brew Coffee co

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