Some time ago I began experimenting with grinding my own beans and brewing them in a french press. Results? Fantastic! I much prefer this to what I previously made with an automatic machine.
French presses (also known as a cafetiere or plunger pot) are inexpensive to buy and a very economical way to enjoy an excellent brew…and on a budget!
If you’re curious and would like to give it a try…here’s a tip sheet giving instructions on how to use one.
First a few notes:
- Use a coarse ground coffee since a finer grind could clog the filter and make it difficult to “plunge”. If you’re grinding your own, play with the settings a bit and you’d be surprised how much difference in taste there can be from one setting to the next.
- Boil water in a kettle but let it sit for approximately 2 minutes before pouring over grounds, it will be too hot and will scorch the ground beans if poured right away (resulting in a bitter tasting batch). This is another spot that can be experimented with, try making a pot with water that has sat for 1 to 2 1/2 minutes and you’ll notice a difference.
- If using a glass carafe, check for cracks or chips first. If you spot any, replace it since the glass can shatter when it comes in contact with the boiling liquid.
- Fill the cafetiere with hot water while you’re waiting for the water to boil, this heats up the carafe and helps keep the brew warm for a longer period of time. Dump right before making a new batch.
- Pull up the handle and remove plunger.
- Place 1 tablespoon of coffee per 4 ounce cup into the bottom of carafe…I prefer 2 TBS / 8 oz cup each time. I like my brew good & strong so you may want to experiment with this amount to discover your preference, obviously less coffee = less strong. The type of bean, roast and grind fineness will also determine measurement. The only way to discover your ultimate cup is to experiment.
- Pour hot water (first boiled and cooled as noted above) over grounds, watch that there’s about an inch or so headspace at the top…read directions for amount of space your particular unit requires.
- Stir a few times with a bamboo skewer, a chopstick, or thin wooden spoon (a metal knife or spoon can break the hot glass). You’ll notice a foamy “bloom” form at the top, the heat from the liquid is starting to work its magic.
- Return plunger unit to carafe, but don’t push it all the way down just yet, let it rest at the top during brewing time (making sure the spout opening is turned to the side so it’s closed off).
- Brew 3 minutes or so for a small pot or 5 to 6 minutes for a larger pot (I have a 5 cup french press and leave it for 6 minutes). You can play with this time a bit to see what your preference is, again it depends on a few different factors (type of beans, grind, water temperature).
- Check to ensure the spout opening is closed and pointing away from you, hold the handle of the press with one hand and rest the other hand on top of the plunger. Apply an even pressure to the plunger, slowly forcing it down until it reaches the bottom. If this process becomes overly resistant part-way through, lift it up about an inch or so then try again. Do not use extreme force since the hot liquid could erupt out of the vessel and burn you.
- Once it’s at the bottom, turn the lid so the spout is open and pour yourself a mugful :). Turn in “closed” position after pouring, this will help keep things warmer a bit longer.
Did you know: A french press can make tea as well, just replace coffee grounds with tea leaves (experiment with steeping time).
How about (packaged) regular coffee or espresso instead?
- Not really since the grinds aren’t coarse enough.
Why does it taste so much better?
- Because there’s no paper filter, much of the flavor and many of the natural oils from the beans are retained.
Can you reuse the grounds?
- Well you could but…Blah! No, the flavor is dulled when they are used twice…toss them and use a fresh batch each time.
So important! When you keep all parts clean, there will be no transfer or bitter residue/buildup. All that’s needed is to rinse out the parts after each use and then at the end of the day, a good soak in a hot soapy sink will do the trick. While soaking in the sink, dunk the plunger in the carafe a few times to flush any residue out of the filter. Allow to air dry.
As you can see there are a few variables involved when coaxing that perfect cuppa…and it all comes down to your personal preference. If the first batch doesn’t ring your bell, keep at it, tweaking measurements, temperatures and coarseness. When you hit it, the success will be worthwhile because you’ll be cranking out coffeehouse calibre cups in the comfort of your home at a fraction of the cost. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!