French Press brewing / by Bryan Hibbard

Introduction to the French Press

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a collection of articles with basic brewing guides. This week, I am starting with the French press (or press pot). because it happens to be my favorite brewing method.

The French press as we know it today was invented in 1929 by Attilio Calimani. It consists of a glass or plastic beaker and a tight fitting plunger with a metal or nylon filter. The French press is a total infusion method that allows the coffee grounds to be in contact with the water throughout the brewing process. This produces a cup with more body but you end up with a bit of sediment at the bottom of your cup. Some people also think that the French press can muddle the more delicate flavors found in bright, clean coffees. I personally find that the extra body is worth sacrificing a bit of clarity for.

The French press is a completely manual process which allows you to control every coffee variable. The reason I love it is that you can get a near-perfect brew with very little skill or effort. It is also relatively cheap and easy to find at Walmart or Target.

Brewing Guide

  1. Begin by boiling good, filtered water. 
  2. Measure out your beans and grind to a coarse consistency. This will insure that the plunger goes down easy, and will produce a cleaner cup than a medium grind. The ratio should be 6-7 grams per 4-oz cup. Or a little less than a scoop per cup if you are using the provided scoop. 4-cup press (26 g, 3.5 scoops), 8-cup press (52 g, 7 scoops), 12-cup press (78 g, 10.5 scoops).
  3. Pour a small amount of boiling water into your empty French press to preheat the pot. Discard the water, or use it to preheat your mug. 
  4. Add the grounds, pour in hot water in a circular motion, insuring that the grounds are fully saturated.  The water temperature should be 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, or just off the boil.
  5. Using a wooden or plastic tool (a chopstick works great) stir the grounds briefly. You will likely see a medium brown foam rise to the top when you do this.
  6. Put on the lid (but leave the plunger up). Set a timer for 4-6 minutes. 
  7. Once time is up, push the plunger down slowly and try not to apply more force than is necessary. If the plunger is really hard to push down, try a coarser grind next time. The coffee is now ready to serve. If you wont be drinking it immediately, pour it into a thermal carafe to keep the coffee hot and to completely stop the brewing process. 

Cleanup is pretty easy. Most presses are dishwasher safe and you can unscrew the filter to clean parts individually on most models. And, no paper filter to throw out.