There are so many coffees to choose from and different methods of making cups of coffee, ranging from instant coffee, espresso machines, percolators to French press machines. The French press was invented in France in the mid-19th century and today is one of the most popular coffee brewing methods as it produces coffee with a wonderful aroma and rich, intense flavor. The term ‘French press’ is actually American. In France, the Netherlands, and the UK, the machine is known as a cafetière, in Australia and South Africa it is referred to as a ‘coffee plunger’ and in Italy, a cafettiera a stantuffo! One thing’s for sure if you want to enjoy an excellent cup of coffee, French press coffee is the best!
What type of coffee should I use?
Coffee connoisseurs say that using a French press ensures that you can enjoy a top-quality cup of coffee every time. Freshly ground coffee is best to use and by experimenting, you can discover the exact taste that suits you best. Medium to dark roast are the most popular coffee beans. You can also choose the fineness of the coffee grains, although most French press manufacturers recommend using medium to coarse ground coffee. These coffee grounds produce milder coffee and suit the coffee press better. Fine ground coffee is stronger in flavour, but can clog the filter. Special filter papers are available in specialist shops to solve this problem.
How do you use the French press?
The French press comprises a cylindrical jug made in stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. The first two are tough and hold their heat well, but glass jugs can be fragile.
The jug has a lid with a plunger that closely fits the inside of the jug. At the bottom of the long plunger, there is a flat, circular filter made of stainless steel or nylon mesh.
The French press works best with medium ground coffee. You will need about 30g of ground coffee per 500ml of water, but this can be adjusted to taste. The French press uses the process called ‘immersion brewing’ as the coffee grounds are steeped in hot water, rather than drip brewing, when the water flows through the coffee grounds.
This type of coffee is rich and concentrated. There is 107.5mg in every 235 ml cup, which makes a French press coffee richer than a single espresso.
How to be your own coffee barista
Although using the French press is straightforward; 90% of people who use one use it incorrectly! Here is the foolproof guide:
1. The freshly ground coffee should be measured and then spooned into the bottom of the French press jug.
2. Add hot water to the desired level. The water temperature should be hot, but not boiling, about 93- 98ºC.
3. The lid should be replaced and the plunger lowered so that it sits just above the water level.
4. The optimum length of time to leave the coffee to brew is four minutes – but experiment to find the taste that suits you best.
5. Once the brewing time is complete, very slowly and steadily push the plunger down to fully extract the oils and flavours from the coffee beans.
6. Pour the coffee into cups/mugs. If there is any spare coffee, pour it into a jug as leaving it with the coffee grounds will soon make it taste bitter.
Any special tips for making great coffee?
- Always warm your coffee press and mugs before using.
- Don’t rely on guesswork, measure the coffee and water. Many people do not use enough coffee grounds.
- The water you use can affect the flavor so if you live in a hard water area, try using mineral water.
- Use freshly ground coffee. Grind the coffee just before using it as it soon starts to oxidize and lose its flavor. It is best to grind your own coffee as and when you need it, rather than buy pre-ground coffee.
- When you have measured the coffee into the pot, pour over a little hot water and leave it to ‘bloom’ for about one minute, before adding all the water.
- When you have added the water to the ground coffee, never stir. Pop the lid on the press and leave the coffee to brew.
- It is best not to use the final 10% of coffee in the coffee press as it will be like coffee silt.
- If someone asks for de-caffeinated coffee, no problem! Spoon the ground coffee into the jug and add enough hot water to cover it. Caffeine is highly soluble, so simply leave for a few moments and then pour off the water – which now contains the caffeine. Pour the required amount of hot water into the jug and make the coffee as normal.
- Always pour any leftover coffee into a separate jug as it will become bitter if left in the coffee press.
- Always wash the coffee press and its filter thoroughly in warm water.
- If you prefer the taste of finely ground coffee, you can buy special filter papers for a coffee press which will make life easier.
What better way to start each morning than with a great cup of French press coffee accompanied by some French Toast? Bonne journée!