or "say goodbye to your drip coffee maker for good"

i've never been much of a coffee fan. personally, tea is much more my thing. but i have to admit that Cafe Du Monde's Coffee and Chicory is rather tasty on the rare occasion i'm in the mood for it. recently, on a whim, i made an impulse buy of a coffee press with which to make my coffee. i'm never switching back.

the coffee press itselft is elegantly simple. all it really is is a glass pitcher with a lid, the lid has attatched to it a screened plunger. here's how you make coffee with a coffee press:

  1. put coffee grinds into the pitcher. use only coarse ground coffee or you'll plug up the screen or the grinds will not be filtered out.
  2. pour in hot water
  3. put on the lid but leave the plunger up. let sit about 4 minutes.
  4. stir the coffee, then with slow and gentle pressure push the plunger down.
  5. Congratulations! you have coffee! the grinds are filtered out and trapped at the bottom. the coffee is ready to serve straight from the pitcher
if you like weak coffee though this may not be your thing as in my experience it has produced for me very robust and hearty coffee. just the way i like it.

A type of coffee maker. The main components of a french press are a glass carafe, a mesh screen and a handle. Coffee is brewed in a french press by soaking the grounds in hot water in the carafe. The screen is used to strain the brew before drinking.

Other names for a french press include plunger and coffee press.

A Simple Way to Make the Best Coffee You've Ever Had.


The Real Point of this Writeup

What You Need

1. French Press

The german firm Bodum makes a variety of inexpensive models that are relativly easy to find. Check Crate & Barrell, Willams Sonoma, Starbucks or even Barnes & Noble for them. Better yet, try a local coffee or cookware shop that hasn't managed to take over every mall in the United States of America (yet). You'll want to be sure you get one with a glass carafe. (Plastic and coffee do not mix.) French presses come in a variety of sizes, choose one that is closest to the dose of coffee you (or your klatch) require for your fix(es).

2. Coffee Grounds

Conventional wisdom states that you should buy whole beans by the pound, store them in your fridge, then grind-as-you-go with an electric grinder. Conventional wisdom will server you bland coffee. Fresh grounds from stale beans do not make fresh coffee. Your fridge and freezer will leach moisture and flavor out of your coffee. Home grinders produce irregurlar-sized grounds, with plenty of little shavings that add an unpleasant bitterness to your coffee. If you have the time, buy your coffee often (at least once a week) and have it ground at the store (Those big Italian grinders produce very regular grounds.) and keep it out of your fridge (A shelf or a cupboard will do just fine.).

3. Boiling Water

There are many ways to get this. What's most important is that you begin with cold water, then bring it to a boil.

4. Spoon

Sure, you can make coffee without one, but if you use the same spoon to measure your coffee each time you make it, fine tuning the grounds-to-water ratio to your taste will be a simple task.

What You Do

First, make sure your french press is clean and dry. If you leave traces of yesterday's coffee in the coffee maker, expect today's coffee to taste a day old.

Spoon the grounds into the empty french press. Try a heaped tablespoon of grounds for each ten ounces of water.

Pour boiling water onto the grounds and place the lid on the french press.

Let the coffee brew for about five minutes, then force the mesh screen down the carafe.

Pour. Add milk and sugar as desired. Drink.

Some Considerations for Those New to Drinking French Press Coffee

Before you take a big old swig of that aromatic brew sitting in your cup take a moment to note you just made coffee without a paper filter. Yup, that's right, there are a few grounds kicking around in your cup, but they're easy enough to avoid. Just let that fresh cup sit ten to fifteen seconds while the finer grounds that made it through the screen settle before you toss it down the hatch. Don't swish your coffee around in your cup and don't drink the last eighth-inch or so of coffee.

Pay attention to your grounds. See how they smell before you brew your coffee. That smell is what your coffee will taste like. You'll find as your grounds go stale, you'll get weaker, thinner-tasting coffee.

Brewing coffee with a French press (also called a press pot) can yield an excellent cup of coffee. It is my favorite way to brew a large cup of coffee (my absolute favorite coffee drink is espresso). Due to the large amount of contact of coffee grounds with hot water, the flavor extraction, and the resultant cup of coffee, can be excellent. Due to the manual nature of the process, there are a number of errors which can be made.

The History of the French press

The history of the French press is largely lost in the mists of time. It was probably invented in France in the mid nineteeth century. Like so much of human history, however, commercial contact between people allowed this device to be improved over the years. The original French press was a metal pot into which a meshed material (often, but not always metal as well) was pressed to allow the grounds, which had been put into the pot of boiling water, to be separated from the brewed coffee. At some point, it was understood that boiling water harms the flavor of coffee, and hot water was used instead. Around 1930 or so, this design was improved upon by various Italian entrepreneurs. They made the pot out of glass, used a metal mesh filter, and created the design which we still see today. The Danish manufacturer Bodum is probably more responsible for the popularity of the French press today than any other entity. In 1974, they released the Bistro, and set the coffee making world on fire. According to the company website, they have sold over 60 million press pots.

Okay, I spent my 15 bucks, now how do I use this thing?

Brewing coffee in a press pot is a simple affair. As is the norm in coffee brewing, fresh coffee is a key factor. The other factor which is common to all methods is the grinder. A French press requires a coarse grind (fine grinds will clog the filter). As usual, the grind must be consistent. That means we need a burr grinder, just as with espresso. Indeed, if you get a really good grinder, it will be equally at home with both brewing methods. There are also less expensive burr grinders which are unsuitable for espresso, but work well for press pots.

Buy freshly roasted whole bean coffee. If you pre-grind coffee, you will lose flavor!

  1. Put a pot of cold water on the stove in a clean tea kettle.
  2. As the water approaches the boiling point, grind your beans. Grind them on the coarsest setting (you can experiment as you get better at this to find the exact level of coarseness which suits your palate).
  3. Pour your ground coffee into the empty, clean, press pot. The plunger should not be in the pot at this time. Ground coffee goes on the bottom.
  4. After the water starts boiling, turn off the stove. We don't want actual boiling water to touch the coffee. This only takes 10 seconds or so.
  5. Pour the hot water into the press pot, on top of the grounds. Use the normal ratios of 7 grams of coffee per 6 oz. of water. You can use more coffee if you like. I would not recommend less. (too little coffee will result in an overextraction. Bitter coffee alert!)
  6. Stir the resulting mixture for a couple of turns every minute or so. The total steep time should be 2-5 minutes, depending on the volume of coffee being made and the coarseness of the grind. Less coarse=Less time
  7. Take the plunge. Use the plunger to separate the coffee grounds (which float) from the brewed coffee
  8. Pour the brew into your cup. If you use cream (or half and half, or half cream, or whatever you call that stuff), I suggest putting it into the bottom of the cup before you pour in the coffee. This will help to avoid scalding it.
  9. Congratulate yourself on brewing a cup of coffee which, once you practice it, will beat out the stuff you pay 2 bucks a cup for at Starbucks any day of the week

Note that when I say the coffee is better, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Since we preserve the essential oils from the coffee, this method will beat most brewed coffee every time. It will be far superior to any paper filtered coffee, and I think even better than the gold permafiltered coffee. It is also much easier to vary the strength and taste of the finished product because of all the control you have over the process.

What else can I do with it?

This same method also works well with tea. The technique is basically the same, but you want to pour some hot water into the press pot before you put the tea in, swig it around to get the pot warm, then pour the still boiling water over the loose tea in the pot. You can get loose tea at various specialty stores, but I find the final product is superior (to other methods) even if you just cut open that bag of Lipton's you probably have in your pantry right now. I think the greater contact between leaf and water does the trick. Note that tea sinks, so it won't clog your filter. You need to stir a bit more often, I think, because of the fact that the Brownian motion isn't generating as much contact here.

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