What Is a French Press Coffee Maker and How to Choose the Best French Pot

Bodum French press Amazon

What Is a French Press Coffee Maker

The French press coffee maker is a simple coffee brewing machine designed by Attilio Calimani in 1929. The machine is also known as coffee plunger, coffee press, press pot, cafetière a piston or cafetière (UK). The simple coffee maker brews a surprisingly great coffee, which makes it the prefered brewing device of many coffee lovers. Despite the simplicity of the device, the possibilities of modifying your brew are endless. The taste of each brew is unique, and that’s why it appeals to so many people. Follow the link for an in depth French press brewing guide.

Design and history of the French Press

Since its first design, the popular French press has undergone a number of design changes. The first design of the press, said to have been made in France, was a rudimentary form of the modern version. In 1929, it was patented by the Italian designer Attilio Calimani. Since then, it has undergone a number of design changes by Faliero Bondanini. He patented his own version of the French press in 1958. After patenting the design, he began its manufacture in a French clarinet factory (known as Martin SA) where the press gained its popularity. Household Articles Ltd., a British company, was responsible for the presses’ popularity across Europe.

The modern-day French press consists up of a narrow cylindrical beaker, made from glass or metal. It is equipped with a plastic or metal lid and plunger that fits tightly in the brewing cylinder and has a fine nylon or metal mesh filter. Variations of more or less aesthetic designs are the result of its likelihood for attractive after-dinner presentation and simplicity of its mechanism.

Preparation of French Press Coffee

To begin preparation of French press coffee using the French press, you will need water, coffee and a heat source. Sugar is not a must as it depends on your taste. The coffee grind should be adjusted to medium-coarse for a clear cup, or more fine for bolder, and more dense brews. Small grinds will not work well, as they will seep through in the coffee, through the filter. The grind has to be large to the point that the mesh filter will not get clogged. The use of a larger grind requires a longer brewing time, as compared to other methods. A good place to start is a grind size between percolator and drip. For those who like to experiment with finer grinds, there are some tricks. One trick is to let the grounds steep a bit more, before pushing the plunger down. This allows the fine grounds to expand before pushing the plunger, hence they won’t pass through.

coffee grounds and foam in French Press

The water temperature is crucial. You can make the perfect cup of coffee, if you do it correctly. The ideal temperature for brewing is between 195 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A good way to be sure is to boil water and use one of the many ‘instant read’ thermometers available from any kitchen store. Check the duration it takes to reach 200 degrees once you have removed water from the heat. In most cases, it takes between 10 to 15 seconds. Never allow the water to boil more than a few seconds as this will impact the taste of coffee you are brewing. You will be all set for the future if you know the timing. The more convenient and modern way of ensuring the proper temperature is to use a variable temperature kettle. You can take a look at our kettles review.

Step 1:

Remove the plunger and lid. For each 8 oz. of water, use two rounded tablespoons of coffee. Take note that a coffee cup usually range from 5 to 8 ounces. For a 32 oz. French press use 5 rounded scoops of coffee.

Step 2:

Start slowly adding water with the right temperature over the grounds. A gooseneck kettle can help the pouring process, giving you more precision. You will notice that some of the coffee will start floating. At this point, you can gently stir the water for a short duration so that all the grounds will sink.

Step 3:

Press the plunger just above the brew surface, and place the lid on the beaker. A large number of lids have a position you can set to ensure steam does not escape. If you have such a lid, close it. If you did not stir in the second step, you can do so after 1 minute by removing the lid, stirring briefly and replacing the lid back.

Step 4:

Steep for three to five minutes before you push the plunger. The kind of grind will determine the duration you will use; the finer the grind the shorter the brewing time. For the coarse grind, which is most often used, you should brew for about five minutes. The grinds will be pushed to the bottom by the screen. Remove the filter screen if grinds are escaping because it is tilted. Rinse it quickly and then restart pushing the plunger. It usually takes about 20 seconds. There is a resistance making it a slow push that becomes tougher as you go. Do not attempt to push the plunger too fast. Slower is better.

Step 5:

Pour in cups, add your cream and sugar if you that’s your taste. Keep in mind that there will be some grinds at bottom of the cup, meaning you should avoid going for the last drop.

Variations

French presses are self-contained and portable more than any other coffee brewers / makers. Travel mug, versions of the French press are made of heavy-duty plastic, instead of the glass. They also have a sealed lid with a drinking, closeable hole.

Some variations are designed and marketed with backpackers and hikers in mind, and they are light and compact. These are the perfect replacement for the regular drip coffee machine, or percolator when going for a hike.

Other variations, made of stainless steel, are designed to keep coffee hot, in a similar fashion to a thermos flask.

There is one particular design to use pulling, instead of pressing for separating the grounds from the brew. The coffee grounds in this case are placed in a mesh basket, and the plungers is pulled into the lid, once the brewing time is done. I  tried recently to find that product, but it looks like nobody sells it anymore. But you can French pull brew with a regular press. Watch the video below for more details:

French press coffee can also be done to create cold brew coffee, for those with sensitive stomach.

FAQ – French Press Coffee

Q – How much ground coffee to use for a cup?
A – The standard in brewing with a French Pot, is one Tbsp per 4oz.

Q – How can I wash the pot?
A – You should wash it as you would with any other glass, dish washing machine including. But if you brew two pots in the morning, like I do, washing it manually is perfect.

Q – What grind is recommended for French Press coffee?
A – The size of the ground coffee has to be coarse enough to not seep through the filter/plunger. The filter is very fine so coffee can be grounded as for a drip coffee. The important thing is to have an even grind, that means a good grinder. Too coarse, and the extraction won’t be complete, coffee too weak, and not bold enough.

Q – Is it a light roast better, or a dark one?
A – This is a personal preference, the reality is that any roast is good for a French pot. Most people though, prefer darker roasts, because they are used to them.

Q – Where can I find a good French press brewer?
A – You can buy them on Amazon. Two of the best models on the market are: SterlingPro, and Kona.  We did a review on the SterlingPro here.

Tea

A French press can also be used to make tea the same way you use it to make coffee. You can use it in the place of a tea infuser, when you want to brew loose tea. One thing you will notice, is that even after depression of the plunger, the tea will continue to steep. This will render the remaining tea in the pot bitter. You can avoid the bitterness by pouring tea into a tea-pot. The French press coffee brewer is an effective brewing machine that you can use at your convenience.

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