Dust off your French Press / by Bryan Hibbard

You know who you are. You bought a French Press a number of years ago when it was the next big thing. You tried it a few times and got tired of it, or you decided it was just too mystifying and it gained a revered place in back of your cupboard, next to your panini press and your electronic crepe maker. You have now moved on to a K-cup maker, or maybe you just went back to your reliable Mr. Coffee. I don't blame you. The truth is, old stale coffee brewed in a French Press is still going to taste old and stale. 

But, as I maintain, the freshness and quality of your beans is the most important factor. So if you have decided to buy coffee that is within two weeks of roasting, and you are ready to grind just what you plan to use right away, suddenly you have a secret weapon. What many people don't realize, is that French Press hiding in the back of their cupboard is actually a great way to make coffee, and is also one of the easiest and most fool-proof manual brewing methods. With the right coffee, and a little bit of knowledge, you can produce a cafe-quality beverage at home.

I supply that freshly roasted coffee, along with many other great roasters in and around Houston. And now, I am going to share with you my simple method for producing amazing coffee at home using your French Press. Oh, and if you were one of those people who never got a French Press, or you gave it away, a new one is going to cost you about $20.00. And, they are pretty easy to find. Target, Walmart, Kroger, HEB, all these places have French presses for sale. I like Bodum brand, a good balance of quality and affordability.

Introduction to the French press

The French press is what is called an immersion-style brewer. It allows the coffee and water to dwell together for the entire brewing process (unlike a drip-style brewer that has water constantly passing through the bed of coffee. The coffee is steeped, like tea in an immersion-style brew. This creates a heavier body and a stronger flavor overall. It also can tend to muddy some of the more nuanced flavors, while greatly enhancing the more noticeable flavors. For example, my Mexico: Chiapas Jacinto in a drip method will have a slight floral note, along with some smokey aromatics and a chocolate base. In a French press, the chocolate notes become the main event. It is now a richer cup with the bittersweet flavor of a fine dark chocolate. I tend to like my darker roasts better in a French press than in a drip method. On the contrary, I find very light roasts can lose some complexity in a French press, but still come out very nice.

Brewing guide

French presses usually come in three sizes (3 cup, 8 cup, and 12 cup). This is the maximum amount you can make in each size (of course, you can make less and still get a great cup).

3 cup. Coffee: 22 g. Water: 340 g
8 cup. Coffee: 50 g. Water 750 g
12 cup. Coffee: 75 g. Water 1125 g

What you need

French Press
Fort Bend Coffee
Hot Water (just off the boil, 195-205 F)
Grinder
Spoon (non-metal is better so that you don't break the glass when stirring)
Timer
Mug(s) for serving

1. Heat water to boiling and grind coffee, using a coarse to medium-coarse grind.
2. Add ground coffee to the bottom of French press and add correct-temperature water in the amount listed above. Put the lid on the French press, but don't push down the plunger. Set your timer for 5 minutes.
3. After two minutes, take the lid off and stir the coffee briefly. Put the lid back on.
4. After your timer goes off, take the lid off and stir again. Using your spoon, skim off most of the foam that is on top of the liquid. This foam contains many off flavors and is normally filtered out in a drip method. Doing this small extra step will increase the clarity of the finished cup quite a bit.
5. Put the lid back on and push the plunger down. If it is hard to push down, it means your grind is too fine.
6. Serve the coffee. Enjoy!
7. Dump out the grounds and rinse. Most French Presses can be put in the dishwasher, but check the label first.

From here, you can play with the recipe a bit. Try a longer or shorter brewing time. Try a finer or coarser grind.