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!

Brewing Methods

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  William Shakespeare

I was sent a post about alternative brewing methods by my daughter and that got me thinking….  I have seen a few alternative methods and have even seen videos on making your own.

So what methods are there?  What characteristics does each present?

Here is an informing layout I found on Pop Chart Lab’s site:

Confused much?  Let me start demystifying by briefly describing the method categories and how they relate to well-known methods.  In posts following this one, we will focus on the lesser known or alternative methods in more detail.  I am leaving out one category from the top since it is a combination of others.


Steeping


For this method, you will have a coarse ground coffee which will be steeped or soaked if you like in cold or hot water.  For cold water it could be for up to twelve hours.  No quick fix here.  Afterwards it is filtered and enjoyed in a number of ways.  Note: Cold brewed coffee will be sweeter due to its lower acidity but has higher levels of caffeine compared to some other brewing methods.  Most common example is the French press, but the Aeropress is gaining popularity.French press


Drip or pour over


Pour over coffee also starts with coarse ground coffee wich is placed in a filter, and a filter holder or ‘pour over dripper.’  Hot water is poured over the grounds and coffee filters through.  Best known example would be the filter machine.  Other manual examples are Chemex and V60.  For the Chemex and V60, the use of a gooseneck kettle is a must in order to have control over your pour.Filter machine


Pressure or vacuum


These are the same since vacuum is just reverse pressure.  For this method, hot water, is pushed through finely ground coffee under pressure.  The result will be a smaller volume, full-bodied coffee with firm acidity.  Best known example are the Espresso machine and the trusty Mokka pot, but vacume coffee makers are becoming more accessible. Espresso machine


In the coming weeks, we will go deeper down the rabbit hole.

Happy brewing