French Press in Action

French Press Coffee – For Those of You Who Need a Big Jolt in The Morning

Being one of the most popular coffee press techniques, the French Press method is for true coffee lovers and advocates, and especially for those who are constantly on the go. Running late for work? No problem. Slept late? No problem. The French Press coffee maker takes just a couple of minutes to deliver a tasty, crispy and a potently strong cup of coffee, which just might get you hooked for life.

The best part about the method is the fact it is a minimalistic way of making coffee. You don’t need a lot of things, except for the essentials of course.

What is The French Press?

Also known as the Melior or the Cafetiere, the coffee press machine is basically a low tech beaker, designed with a cylindrical shape, usually made of glass although it does come in plastic and steel.

Pouring French Press

The beaker is also fitted with a plunger. Acting as the prime source of filtration, the plunger’s piston is designed with mesh, allowing just the liquid to conveniently pass through, blocking everything else.

A Little Background

Over the years the cafetière à piston (its French name) has been subject to several design alterations. However, it is said that the very first of the machine’s kind was designed in France itself, back in the 1920s. It most basic form incorporated the use of a steel screen or cheesecloth with a rod attached to press the coffee grounds steeped in hot water.

In 1929, Attilio Calimani, an established and popular Milanese designer patented the coffee device and made several changes to its rudimentary design with the help of Faliero Bondanini, another designer, who also designed and patented his coffee press version in 1958.

After patenting it, Bondanini mass produced the French coffee making apparatus in a clarinet factory, which was known as Martin SA. This is where the machine began to pick up in popularity. Plus, some say that Sir Michael Caine using the machine in the movie ‘The Ipcress File’ was also a catalyst to significantly enhancing the machine’s popularity throughout the western world.

Design Variations For The French Press

Another really cool thing about the French Press machine is the fact that it comes in several variations for enhanced portability and convenience of use. And because French Press machines are designed to be increasingly self-contained compared to a majority of other coffee making apparatuses, it is easy to manufacture several different types of French Press machines.

For example, there are travel mugs that are made with tough plastic materials and are designed with steel lids and a simple drinking hole that can be closed tight. There are other versions of it that are primarily made for adventurers, outdoorsy individuals and hikers who don’t want to carry heavy coffee makers and percolators.

French Press While Travelling

Other products come designed with different insulation materials to keep the coffee warm for extended periods of time.

Another variation comes fitted with a pulling mechanism – you have to place the coffee ground in a basket that is made of mesh, when the lid is pulled, which is after you let the coffee brew for a couple of minutes, it traps everything and lets the liquid escape. Furthermore, French Press machines are often used to make cold brew coffee as well.

In comparison to the French press coffee maker, in other coffee brewing methods the quantity of the coffee you brew as well as the grind-size of the coffee beans you use will significantly affect how fast the water will steep and flow throughout the coffee grounds. This also means that your total brewing time will also be affected. This is especially a truism for the pour over, drip-brewing and espresso making method.

French Press Cup of Coffee

However, it is important to understand that both brew-time and the size of the coffee grounds aren’t always tied with one another. So, when you talk about the French coffee press, you choose either make a single cup for yourself or a lot if.

Plus, you are at complete liberty to grind the coffee whichever way you want, and on top of that, you can choose to either let the coffee ground steep in the hot water for 10 seconds, 10 minutes or 10 hours, it really doesn’t matter. Each of these variables does not considerably affect the other. But it is also important to realize that the taste of the coffee made using any of these variables might not always be great.

It is the freedom that really attracts a majority of coffee lover to use the coffee press. You can become your own coffee maestro, experimenting with different coffee grounds, adjusting the coffee to water ratio and using longer or shorter steeping periods.

A Three-Step Methodological Approach to Making Coffee

When you talk about how to make French press coffee, it is important to keep these three rules in mind, which you can also use to make coffee using another technique. Remember that there are 3 very important phases of brewing coffee; Wetting the coffee grounds, dissolution and diffusion.

  • 1. Wetting your Grounds – This is a general process of a complete saturation of the coffee grounds you select to use. You see, coffee grounds consist of cells; every one of those cells contains all the good solids, which you will need to extract to get that perfect taste. Coffee that is new and fresh also contains carbon dioxide gas trapped within each individual coffee cell, saturating coffee grounds efficiently and effectively causes a release of the gas, a process also known as ‘blooming’.
Coffee Ground Wetting
  • 2. Dissolution – This process envelopes a consistent and effective way of dissolving all the solids that each coffee ground contains. Traditionally, hot water is used to achieve a good dissolution of the coffee grounds.
  • 3. Diffusion – This is the final stage of coffee brewing, and it involves the complete extraction of water and coffee diffusion out of the coffee grounds, mixing it with the total liquid in the machine. You can also say that diffusion and dissolution are both interlinked process, which can also be narrowed down by the word ‘extraction’.

When you talk about the drip and pouring methods of coffee brewing, the liquid inside the machine, surrounding all the coffee grounds keeps on being steeped with water. You have to constantly pour hot water in glass pot so the coffee remains fresh. This is a very important consideration because replenishing the liquid with fresh hot water results in a more potent ‘osmotic pressure’, extracting all the coffee concentrate effectively from the coffee grounds.

Coffee Pouring
  • But if you constantly pour fresh hot water on the surface of the coffee grounds, it will result in over-extraction of the outer shell of the coffee grounds. This means you will not have a lot of time on your hands for brewing it – over-extraction of the surface of your coffee will add a more bitter and a bit of unsettling flavor to it.

The perfect cup of coffee involves utilizing a combination of different variables precisely in order to achieve a more favorable balance in texture and taste. You need to maximize the aroma and the overall taste of the coffee not killing its flavor.

In the regard, the French press coffee maker is perhaps the best method of brewing because it is slow – plus, because you aren’t constantly adding more water to the surface, you give the coffee grounds enough time to brew, which translates into minimal diffusion and a great overall taste.

The Fundamental Difference Between French Press Brewing And Other Methods

The coffee press is a bit different when you talk about exceptional coffee brewing. You can think of drip-brewing or pourover methods to function as a convection device, this is where the heat, which comes in the form of hot water, keeps on flowing on the surface of the coffee-grounds and expedites the transfer of energy in pourover and drip-coffee machines.

In a French Press machine, the process is a lot slower and gradual. Why? Well, that is because you will be adding more water in the pot, this drives down diffusion, giving you a slow cook of the coffee grounds.

Plus, the machine also eliminates the chances of over-extraction, brewing you a great cup of coffee with balanced flavors and caffeine. In comparison to other methods of brewing coffee, the French Press technique is a lot more convenient and ensures a quality brewing. It can also provide you with a cup of fully flavored coffee that has a sweet and syrupy texture. Yum!

Another thing, French Press coffee machines are designed to have very efficient, mesh filters that are increasingly effective at keeping all the coffee-grounds held back, however, you should expect to taste tiny bits of powdery coffee-grounds, which are known as ‘fines’, and because it is fine powder, the mesh lets it through, mixing it in the liquid.

Mesh Coffee Filter

The fines remains in the surround liquid, but please don’t worry about it too much, they can really add to the flavor, giving your coffee some much needed richness and aroma.

What Type of Coffee Beans Should I Use in a French Press?

This is a good question, when making French press coffee the foremost question that lands everybody in a conundrum is ‘what type of beans should I use for a good cup of coffee? So are some coffee-grounds better than other, especially when you talk about using a coffee press?

The answer, is no. You can choose from a wide array of quality coffee-grounds, the keyword being ‘quality’. In simpler words, you are completely free to make any type of coffee you want to.

Array of Coffee Beans

You can select coffee beans that are imported from South America or from Africa, or you could use a local brand, it really doesn’t make any difference, so far as the quality of the coffee is on par.

The right question to ask her is the type of ‘grind’ you should use in a French Press. One of the most common mistakes made by French Press coffee makers is using the wrong grind. The fact of the matter is, using a French Press you can make a good cup of Guatemalan coffee or Rwandan coffee that is IF you get the adequate coffee grind.

You will only be able to make an incredible batch of coffee if you use even and course coffee beans. Espresso grind for example, is a finely grounded and will not work in a coffee press. But if you want to experiment different variation of making coffee in a French Press, the best thing to do is grind the coffee at home and select the best tasting one.

Different Coffee Grinds

While a majority of people prefer to drink a darker, more roasted and stronger coffee, other prefer to select lighter tasting coffee grounds. It is all about preference.

The Best Way of Making Coffee in a French Press

Now that you know all about a coffee press, here is how you can successfully create a decent batch of coffee using a French Press. However, as with all other techniques of making coffee, there is always going to be trial and error. You will have to keep on experimenting by using different type of coffee and the right types of coffee grinds.

But perhaps the most awesome thing about making coffee in a French Press is the fact that it is simple and a lot more forgiving compared to a plethora of other methods. So here is what you need to do:

Step 1

Adding Grind

Using the coarsest grind you can get or grind a batch of coffee grounds yourself. In case you do grind it at home, then set your grinder on the maximum setting.

​The coffee-ground particles should look something like coarse salt or tiny, but a bit thicker pieces of oats. It is important to make a note of the size of the grind you are using so that if the brew isn't that impressive, you can always adjust it, grinding the coffee-grounds a bit finer.

French Press Coffee Grind

Adjust your grind if your coffee tastes unpleasant, has poor texture or the brew has ended up being over-extracted.

French Press Coffee Ratio

While there is a maximum level of coffee you can make in your coffee press, there isn't however anything that indicates a minimum level. This is where you should always use the right water to coffee ratio, which is the amount of water you should add per grams of coffee. The best ratio falls between 1 liter of water per 60 and 70 grams of coffee grind.

The mass ratio of making coffee in a French Press is 1:16 and 1:14. This is where you will have to decide how much coffee you need to brew so weight your coffee grounds and measure the amount of water you will be using.

Step 2

Adding water

Heat your filtered water or clean water. When using a French Press, it is important not to let your water boil so as soon as you see the water beginning to boil, take it off the stove and just pour it inside the machine.

However, if you’re using a double-insulated coffee press, it is strongly recommended that you wait around for 30 seconds before letting taking the pot off when it begins reaching the boiling point.

Step 3

Pouring water

Take out your smartphone and turn on the clock app. Begin the clock and start pouring water bit by bit, stir the solution and then let it rest or don’t, it really doesn’t make any difference. However, what makes a big difference are your actions after pouring the water inside the coffee press.

For example, if you decide to watch TV and let the coffee brew more than it should, you’d have a batch of under-extracted coffee. This is where the carbon dioxide gas inside the beans are released, causing the beans to float.

Coffee Stirring

We talked about the wetting the coffee beans earlier remember, if you fail to let the beans wet appropriately – there won’t be any point in doing the rest. So, after immediately after you pour the water in, stir the solution for about 30 to 45 seconds. Put the lid back on top after you see that coffee grounds have reached the bottom of the French Press.

Step 4

Brewing

This is where you do the experiment. Sure, you might have heard that you should let the coffee brew for about 3 to 4 minutes for adequate results, but for stronger flavor and texture, we recommend that you let it brew for 5 to 6 minutes. There is absolutely nothing wrong for pushing the piston after waiting for 3 to 4 minutes, but why not try doing both?

Step 5

Plunging

When you waited either 3 to 4 minutes or 5 to 6 minutes, it is time to press the piston and start the plunge. As the French Press method of making coffee is slow and gradual, the only way you can perfectly ruin everything is if you plunge the life out of the machine.

Plunging Coffee
Step 6

Final Steps

After you’ve plunged all the way to the bottom, and it feels tight and locked, remember that at this point there will be no further brewing. But we suggest that you pour all the water into the French Press after plunging it completely to stop the brewing process for good.

How to Make Cold Press Coffee

If you prefer cold press coffee, here is the way to do it:

  • Step 1: Grind your coffee beans till they are coarse, set your grinder on the highest setting, grind a bit, and keep checking the output before fully grinding them. The consistency of your coffee beans should match that of breadcrumbs.
  • Step 2: Clean a big mason or glass jar and put in 8 grams of coffee powder then add a liter of cold water.
  • Step 3: after pouring water, gently stir the solution till the texture becomes smooth. Leave it steeped for 20 to 24 hours. You can either place the jar in the fridge or keep it outside.
Cold Press Coffee
  • Step 4: After it is brewed take the coffee out into a large bowl and use a sieve for filtration to get rid of the bigger coffee grounds, take out the sieve and put pour the coffee back inside the jar.
  • Step 5: You will have to filter it a couple of times till you spot the thick residue at the surface of the jar. If you can’t separate the coffee grind entirely – nothing to worry about, it just means that your grind was too fine.
  • Step 6 – The coffee at this point is prepare, you could either add milk or sugar in it or drink it black, but remember to add some ice in it.

Some Common Mistakes While Brewing Coffee in a French Press

There are some common faux pass when it comes to making coffee in a coffee press:

  • Inadequate Grinding – You need a coarse grind to make a good batch of coffee in a French Press otherwise you’d just be wasting everything. However, practice makes perfect. If the beans are too finely ground, you will have a tough time properly pushing down the plunger. If the coffee beans are too coarse you will be able to push down the plunger without experiencing any resistance at all.
  • Using the Wrong Ratio – If your water to coffee ratio is too far off, you will fail to achieve the desired level of texture and flavor. So measure everything.

The Bottom Line

There you have it a complete guide to making a perfect batch of French Press coffee, keep on practicing till you manage to impress yourself.

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