French press yields a bold, full-bodied cup of joe. My husband actually prefers a French press as his first (of many) cups of coffee throughout the day, as he feels the richness that you get from the French press is the ideal way to wake up.
French press also happens to be one of the easiest methods of making coffee, with minimal effort. Coffee grounds are immersed in water and sit there as the water extracts the flavor components. Then a mesh plunger is pushed down, trapping the grounds at the bottom, allowing you to pour the coffee out.
Why Is It Called A French Press?
The coffee-making device known as the French press (or coffee press) in the United States is known as the cafetiére in England and France, and the coffee plunger in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The origins of the device itself, however, are as murky as the grounds at the bottom of the French press.
Both Italy and France lay claim to the original design, with an initial rudimentary design being patented as early as 1852 by the French team Mayer and Delforge. More than seven decades later, Italian designer Attilio Calimani was granted a US patent for a version similar to what we use today. But even more design revisions were made, and in the late 1950s, the Swiss entrepreneur Faliero Bondanini patented his own version and started manufacturing it in a French clarinet factory.
This model evolved into the Chambord, now made by Bodum. Probably the most well-known version of the French press, it can be found everywhere, from your grandparent’s house to the trendy coffee shop located in the hipster part of your town.
What Is The Best Type Of Grind For French Press?
Most French press brewing devices require a coarser ground, one that is similar to coarse sea salt. In comparison, filtered coffee has a grind that is closer to sugar or kosher salt. This is because the French press has the ground fully immersed in the water. After brewing, a mesh plunger is used to press the grounds down. A finer ground coffee would not only over-extract, leading to an overly bitter cup of coffee, but the finer grounds would also clog and potentially pass through the mesh filter, leaving gritty grounds in your coffee.
Pros of French Press Coffee
- Full body: Because the French press is brewed with fully immersing the grounds in the water, the resulting coffee is a robust and full-bodied cup of coffee. This is because the water has full contact with the coffee grounds for a much longer time than a filtered coffee method, where the water just pours through and drains out. The longer the water has in contact with the grounds, the more flavor it can extract.
- Simplicity: French press coffee is super easy to make, so easy that anyone can do it. Place the grounds in the carafe. Pour water over. Wait. Stir. Press the plunger and pour yourself a cup. It’s one of the easiest methods of making coffee out there.
- Low cost and no waste: Coffee makers out there can get pretty expensive. But a French press is a fairly reasonably priced device. Better yet, it doesn’t require paper filters, just coffee grounds. So, there’s no ongoing consumable price to the coffee, other than the coffee itself.
- Small size: Unlike large machines that take up valuable real estate on your countertop, the French press is a small device that can be easily stored in a cabinet or on a shelf.
Cons of French Press Coffee
- Coarser grind: French press requires a coarser ground of coffee than the typical filter coffee. Most pre-ground coffee is designed for filter coffee. So you do need to buy coffee ground specifically for a French press, or have a coffee grinder at home. And you have to remember to set the coffee grind to the proper setting if you happen to have multiple methods of making coffee in your household.
- Risk of over-extraction: Unlike filter coffee, where you pour the water through the grounds and it drains underneath to a vessel, the coffee grounds in a French press sit in the water. This means you have to press the plunger at just the right time. Otherwise the coffee will over-extract and become bitter. No getting distracted by Instagram or doing the dishes. Once the time is up, plunge!
- Grounds in coffee: No matter how tight your French press plunger is or how appropriately coarse the grounds are, you inevitably will get some coffee grounds in your coffee, especially the last cup. Some folks dislike this, though I’ve found letting my French press sit for a minute to cool off will have the coffee grounds settle at the bottom solves the issue. Still, for those who are looking for a clean cup of coffee, French press is probably not ideal.
- Messy: This is probably one of the biggest con for me. Once you’ve made your coffee you have to clean the press! The wet grounds at the bottom need to be dumped in the compost bin or the trash. I don’t recommend dumping them down the drain, even if you have a garbage disposal, as they can eventually settle in the pipes and clog it. And once the grounds are disposed of, the press itself needs to be cleaned, especially the mesh filter, which can often be clogged with grounds and coffee oil.
Different French Press Options
Though the classic Chambord design, sold by Bodum, is timeless, there is a wide range of French press options out there, ranging from small individual French press brew-and-go cups to larger presses suitable for a family.
The Chambord’s glass carafe lets you see the coffee as it brews, which is always nice. But there are stainless steel and ceramic cast iron French press coffee makers that look great on your countertop. Sturdy stainless steel French press coffee makers are also available, perfect for camping, travel, or clumsy people who tend to break glass carafes. Double walled and vacuum sealed French press options are great for retaining heat and keeping your coffee warm once it’s been brewed.
There are even some fun novelty French press machines like the one my husband has that looks like R2-D2! Pick the French press that you like, that fits your lifestyle or aesthetic.
More Facts and Coffee Brewing Methods
- How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
- How to Make Pour Over Coffee
- What Is Decaf Coffee?
- How to Make Turkish Coffee
Heat the water:
Heat the water to 205°F (96°). If you don’t have a variable temperature water kettle, bring the water to a boil, then remove it from the stove or heat and let it sit for 30 seconds to cool down.
Add the water, stir, and let rest 1 minute:
Place the coffee grounds in the carafe of a French press coffee machine.
Pour the water into the French press. Using a chopstick or small wooden spoon, stir the grounds in the water to make sure all the grounds are wet. Cover with a small plate and let sit for 1 minute, then stir again, making sure to break up any “crust” you see on the top of the coffee. (This crust happens because CO2 gas that is trapped in the beans is being expelled. It can also prevent the coffee from properly extracting flavor, so don’t forget to stir again.)
Cover and steep:
Let sit, covered, another 3 minutes (for a total of 4 minutes brewing time).
Then gently press the plunger down. Don’t press too hard or too fast. If the plunger feels tight, let go of the pressure a bit then press again. Keep pressing until the plunger won’t move anymore and the grounds are trapped at the bottom.
Pour into cups and serve immediately.
If you’re making more than one cup of coffee and don’t plan on drinking right away, it’s best to pour the remaining coffee into a vacuum insulated mug to prevent more extraction from the grounds on the bottom of the French press.
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