How to Make an Enjoyable Cup of French Press CoffeeDec 27, 2013
There's something so appealing about the French Press. The ritual of boiling the water, freshly grinding the beans, stirring the coffee and hot water as the crema floats to the top, slowly and meticulously depressing the plunger so that the grounds do not escape through the side, and imagining oneself in a French Bistro rather than rural NY. These are all the things I love about using a French Press.
What I don't love: the taste.
So why use a French Press in the first place?
There are actually several advantages, besides catering to my delusions of grandeur. I dispensed with my drip coffee machine years ago. Despite its hefty price tag and flashy brushed stainless exterior, the entirety of its internal components were made of plastic. And that is exactly how the coffee tasted- of hot plastic. Add to that the valuable real estate it occupied in my diminutive kitchen and my status as the sole coffee drinker in our household; it only made sense to seek an alternative source of hot brew. Enter Bodum Chambord, in both personal and party size. Both easily stored in the kitchen cabinet, dishwasher safe, and entirely made of glass. But there were drawbacks. I found I just didn't enjoy the taste of the coffee. It seemed thick. Perhaps this is desirable to the coffee aficionados out there but remember, I am a coffee snob, not an Aficionado.
When you're using a French Press, you have to grind your coffee on a coarse setting, or else you'll have a mouthful of coffee grounds. Because the coffee is coarser, you need much more of it to achieve a cup of desirable strength. I own the world's worst burr grinder; half of the coffee grounds are coarse, and the other half appears more appropriate for espresso. The finely ground coffee and coffee oils pass through the metal filter, which don't get strained out the way they would when using a paper coffee filter.
It wasn't until I was trying to brew K cups without a Keurig machine (K cups are awful but they were hotel room samples and I couldn't resist- who can resist free hotel room coffee?) that it occurred to me. Why not use a paper filter in a French Press? This enables you to use regular coffee grounds as well as eliminate that thick coffee taste. Once I tried this, the coffee tasted so much better. I must add that using the K cups this way makes for a much stronger cup of coffee than using the Keurig machine. Just peal off the foil top, dump the contents of the cup into the individual size press, add hot water and stir as usual. Before inserting the plunger, remove and flatten the little filter inside the K cup and place on top of the coffee. Depress the plunger over the filter.
The best style of filter for the 12 cup press is an unbleached basket filter; you can cut them in quarters for the 3 cup press (or you could use the K cups).
Using a French Press with paper filter, rather than a traditional coffee machine, has several advantages and very few disadvantages. The French Press is less expensive in most cases. You're using a metal plunger and glass carafe only, so the hot water never comes in contact with plastic components. The press can easily be stored in a cabinet with your dishes and can be placed directly into the dishwasher. Traditional coffee pots are difficult to clean because they have a narrow mouth and wide base- not so with the press, which doesn't stain and always looks new. Pressed coffee doesn't take as long to brew.
The disadvantage of the press is that there's a higher chance of shattering. The coffee also gets cold sooner because it doesn't sit on a warmer, though I hate coffee that's been sitting on the warmer for more than a few minutes. And obviously, there are no programmable features (though, to be honest, I never once used the auto-brew feature on my old coffee machine).
That's my entirely too geeky take on making brewed coffee with a press.
So, how do you take your coffee?