There are numerous methods to make the perfect cup of coffee, and the French press is one of the most popular ones. Why? Well, a French press is easy to use, leeches an amazing amount of caffeine from the beans, makes a substantial amount of mouthwatering coffee, and is easy to clean after. However, how did this method of brewing coffee come to exist? Who created it? And how do you use it to perfection? We’ve brought you all you need to know about the French press.
What is a french press for coffee?
A French press is a method of brewing coffee, which makes use of a glass carafe, and a mesh plunger. The ground coffee is added to the carafe with boiling water and is then allowed to brew. Once it has brewed long enough, the mesh plunger is brought down to trap the coffee grounds to the bottom. The filtered beverage at the top is emptied into a cup.
In the U.S, the contraption is called a French Press, in Britain, and Ireland, it is referred to as a cafetiere, and in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, as a coffee plunger.
There are a lot of variations in style, and material for French presses. While the basic French press is made for a countertop, travel mug versions of it also exist. Most French presses feature glass carafes, but stainless steel versions can be found in the market too.
The History of the French Press
The first idea for the modern French press was given by two Frenchmen, brothers by the name Mayer and Delforge in 1929. They created a plunger made of a cheesecloth fixed to a rod. There was no glass carafe, and the cheesecloth strainer was used in a pot, so there was a lot of difference from the French press we use today.
The first man to patent the idea of the French press in Italy was Attilio Calimani in 1933. The device was constantly perfected, until the method to create a seal inside a glass carafe with a plunger was created in 1958. The man that came up with this idea was called Faliero Bondanini. The machine became popular by the name of the company, Chambord.
Chambord manufactured and sold the French presses until they were bought by the company Bodum, which was French. Since then, the machine has been called a French press.
How Is a French Press Used?
The mechanisms are the same as the ones we’ve discussed above. The water is added with ground coffee beans and the beans are allowed to brew. The carafe should always be preheated for the perfect brewing. Once the grounds are added, add in a little water and let the coffee bloom. To allow room for the coffee to bloom, you need about double the amount of water than the amount of coffee. Leave the coffee to bloom for 30 seconds, gently stirring the mixture, and finally add in the rest of the water.
The beans and the water should be left for about 4 minutes, and then the plunger is pushed down. It is recommended you press the plunger slowly, to ensure oil the oils are leached out from the beans.
4 minutes is the standard brew time. A 5 minutes brewing time is perfect for a dark roast, and a 3 minute brewing time may lead to a coffee too light. However, the time needed also varies according to the drink you are trying to brew. A cold brew, for example, needs the coffee grounds and water to be left alone for hours before the right flavor is achieved.
Finally, you can immediately have the coffee by emptying your French press in a cup. To get the most boost from the caffeine, it is recommended you drink the brew once it’s cold. The remaining coffee should be removed from the carafe and stored in a separate vessel. Leaving the filtered coffee with the grounds can lead to over-extraction, and the coffee may go bitter.
The Requirements for Getting the Best Cup of Coffee From a French Press
The Coffee Beans
The first step is to make sure your coffee beans are freshly ground for the best flavor and smell. Freshly ground coffee beans allow for the most caffeine extraction and thus make the best coffee.
The coffee grounds should be medium coarse for the best plunge. If your plunger experiences a lot of resistance, you’ve ground your coffee too thin, and if your plunger goes down very easily, your coffee grounds are too coarse. If your grounds are too thin, the French press will filter the water too fast. This won’t allow for the complete extraction of caffeine from the beans. The fine grounds will be in the final brew because they’ll slip through the strainer. If the grounds are too coarse, there will be very little caffeine extracted, and the final result will be bland.
We recommend you grind your coffee with a high-powered burr-grinder, instead of a blunt blade. Roasting the coffee beans just before use is another good way to ensure a perfect cup of coffee.
Filtered water is the best choice for coffee, and provides the best taste and cleanest brew. How much water to add depends on your mostly preference, and it takes time and practice to find your perfect ratio of water and coffee grounds. However, till then, the rule of thumb is a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water. There are 240 g in one cup, which would mean 1 cup of water and 16 g of coffee grounds.
The temperature of the water is another big concern. Ideally, the temperature of the water should be about 90 degrees Celsius. You can use an instant-read thermometer for this, or boil the water, and let it rest at room temperature for half a minute. You want the water very hot to effectively extract the caffeine from the grounds, but not boiling.
Cleaning your French press after every use, and making sure you use a clean French press every time, is essential to making the most flavorful cup of coffee. Clean your coffee filter, and the mesh strainer carefully to remove all old coffee grounds. Those old grounds will ruin your perfect carafe of coffee because they impart their flavor and oils.
Study the instructions that came with your French press. Most French press mesh strainers are removable, and you can easily clean and reinstall them. Check if your glass carafe is dishwasher safer, and add it to the machine. You can easily clean the carafe with a sponge and dish soap too.
The Best Brands to Buy a French Press From
Espro has been producing high-quality French presses for a long time. All of their models have a characteristic bucket design, and a lot of them feature a double filter. This means the mesh filter is the most thorough at filtering your coffee of grounds and prevents any coffee buildup in your cup. The design of the filters also ensures the water doesn’t have a lot of contact with the grounds once the plunger has been pushed down. This ensures the remaining coffee doesn’t go bitter. The carafe is also dishwasher safe, so you can easily clean it. If you’re looking for a good French press from Espro, the Espro P3 is a perfect choice.
The Espro p7 is another popular option by the company, and offers better heat retention than the Espro P3, because of its steel double wall. The strainer is finer than the P3 too.
The Bodum Chambord is a French press that is difficult to defeat in terms of efficiency, ease of use, flavor, and design. It offers a glass carafe with a plastic handle and base. This allows you to easily handle, and clean the French press.
There are a lot of sizes available, and you can choose whichever meets your needs. The smallest size is 12 ounces, and the largest size is 51 ounces. The Chambord is perfect for new users because of its stainless steel plunger, and its affordable price. However, there have been complaints of the plunger of the Chambord wobbling when pressed. This can lead to stray coffee grounds in the final result. Other than this, the plunger leaves no marks behind and provides a clean press.
The Bodum Caffettiera is another good option and is significantly cheaper. This is because the top of the caffettiera is plastic, while the Chambord features a metal top.
Bodum is one of the best brands for a French press, and make sure their products are user-friendly. The company also sells replacement parts if something breaks in the French press.
Le Creuset makes a lot of good quality French presses. However, the Stoneware French press from the company is just dreamy. The stone carafe can be heated in the oven, kept in the fridge, and cleaned in the dishwasher. Your coffee is bound to stay warm in the carafe too. The French press is a little heavy though, and so should be handled with care. The good thing is, it is resistant to scratches on the exterior. You can buy the French press for 75 dollars on Amazon.
Beware of getting the stone chipped though.
The French press is one of the most popular coffee brewing methods and has gained a lot of popularity after the pandemic began. This is because it is affordable, easy to use, and requires no space or power source. There are other methods to brew the perfect cup of coffee though, and you can read more about them here- What Are the Most Popular Coffee Brewing Methods?