Coffee Press: How Does It Work?

French press, cafetiere, coffee press, cafetière

Over recent years, the humble coffee press has taken something of a backseat to the kinds of weird and wonderful machines that are now household staples.  You want something that’s going to make you an outstanding cup of coffee, so you instinctively make a beeline for whatever looks most complicated and expensive.

But what many fail to realise is that if you get it right with a quality French press (a.k.a. cafetiere), you might be surprised by the results. Given the fact that these things have been tried, tested and trusted for generations, it stands to reason that they’re more than capable of getting the job done.

It’s just a case of getting the job done right – all of which comes down to you.

Coffee Press: Pure Simplicity

When you think about it, the French Press represents just about the simplest approach to producing a quality cup of coffee. It is far less complicated and convoluted than most other methods, while at the same time putting out a brew of the fullest flavour with deeper sweetness. The coffee grounds are first wetted, the water is infused and the whole thing is summarily filtered using the ‘press’ action.

So why is it that some coffee that comes out of a coffee press tastes so much better than others?

Well, it all comes down to technique – the opposite being to simply throw it all together and hope for the best. But if you really want to see and experience the kind of coffee a French Press is capable of producing, simply proceed in accordance with the following 6 steps:

    1. First of all, you are going to need relatively coarse coffee grounds. Ideally no smaller than coarse salt crystals, otherwise you run the risk of a thoroughly unpleasant final product. There’s definitely a degree of trial and error in terms of the ideal grind size – keep trying a few until you find what suits your personal palate best.
    2. In terms of quantities, you should be looking at somewhere in the region of 70g of coffee grounds for every litre of water. Once again, it all comes down to personal taste and so there really is no such thing as using too much or too little. Use this as a relatively good average to start with, before increasing or lowering quantities accordingly.
    3. Water quality is important, so you might want to think about filtering it first. However, you don’t need to worry too much about the temperature of the water – just let it stand for maybe 20 to 30 seconds after boiling, before pouring it directly onto the grounds. If you are brewing a particularly dark-roasted or decaf, maybe give it an extra 30 seconds.
    4. You can add water all at once or a bit at a time – it really doesn’t make any difference. But what does make the biggest difference of all is timing. Generally speaking, it’s recommended that you give things approximately 3 to 4 minutes before moving onto the next step. However, you’ll probably find in practice that the results are so much better if you give it around 6 to 8 minutes. Feel free to try both, but chances are you’ll then go with the latter, every time.
    5. Once the brewing cycle is complete, you’ll then need to get busy with the plunger. The key here being to take your time and do it gently, rather than rushing it and running the risk of spoiling the entire brew. In addition, the quality of the French Press you use to get the job done will also make a big difference as far as this part of the process goes. Also, the last thing you want to do at this stage is to agitate the coffee grounds – they’ve already giving you all the good stuff and right now only stand to make the coffee bitter and unpleasant.
    6. Last but not least, if you want to ensure that every cup you pour is of consistently high quality, pour every last drop of the coffee out of the French Press in one go. The reason being that while the effect may be relatively modest, leaving the liquid in contact with the coffee grounds in the bottom will inevitably lead to a certain amount of on-going brewing.

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