You have seen it before, sitting in the middle of the table in that beautiful café you like to spend time in or on the kitchen counter as you wait for your toast to pop. An elegant dome-topped glass cylinder with a rod sticking out of the top, filled with liquid inspiration. The whole experience is graceful as a patron patiently waits for the timer to strike ushering in the moment to push the plunger down and enjoy. Sometimes in life its the simple things that can impact the most. Those simple moments that we can look upon to treasure in solitude or great company.
For many fanatic coffee lovers, the act of brewing is as much of an experience as drinking the actual cup itself. You must choose the right beans, grind them to the perfect texture and brew in a specific style. It is important to have the right type of water, making sure it is filtered and free of unnecessary minerals (soft vs. hard water) to keep the flavor unadulterated. Finally, you need to have a method of brewing that is effective and readily available to do your coffee bidding. With that in mind, one of the best ways to brew is by using the French press (or coffee press).
So what makes the French press so special?
What makes a French press special is the simplicity of its design (which has not changed much over the years). In 1852, Delforge and Mayer, two Frenchmen, are credited with initially designing the press revolutionizing the way in which we brew. But it wasn’t until an Italian inventor, Ugo Paolini, was working on a way to separate the pulp of a tomato from the juice that we see the birth of the modern press. Although his patent in 1923 was for a different purpose, Paolini saw its application in the brewing of coffee and upon assigning his patent in 1928 to two Italian designers, Atillo Calimani and Giulio Moneta, the design was refined. You can find the initial patent here. This design remained until 1958 when Faliero Bondanini filed a patent for his updated version which is now the modern form in which we see the coffee press today.
Bondanini produced his adaptation in conjunction with a French company called Martin S.A. using the name Melior to brand itself. The popularity of the French press was further escalated when European powerhouse Bodum began a partnership with the Melior brand to produce the coffee brewer. According to the Bodum website, the partnership produced a dome-shaped version similar to the Bodum Chambord- which is now one of Bodum’s most iconic products on the market.
The Bodum Chambord was designed in homage to the 16th century French castle known as the Chateu de Chambord. This iconic structure was revolutionary in its design because it was a castle built without overt defense capabilities. Looking at pictures of the castle, you can see that the corner towers gave way to inspiration. With tops extending up to a point, you can see where the Chambord style French Press mimic these architectural attributes.
Why use a French Press?
Unlike drip coffee machines, where the water is in contact with the grounds on the way out, the French Press technique calls for coffee grounds to be bloomed and steeped in hot water for several minutes. This approach allows for the depth of flavor to evolve into a full-bodied aromatic cup in just a few short minutes. It sounds technical and complicated when using coffee lingo but in reality, it is one of the simplest ways to make a great cup of coffee; hence, why it is such a classic. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for yourself. Here are 10-steps on how to make a great French Press brew.
How to use a French Press:
Here is what you will need:
- French Press (Your preferred model will do)
- Whole Coffee Beans or Medium-Coarse Ground Coffee of your choice
- Scale (Not needed if using coffee grounds)
- Grinder (Not needed if using coffee grounds)
- Water (fresh -filtered or bottled spring)
- Measuring Spoons
- Grind your coffee beans. General rule of thumb is 8 grams per cup of coffee; however, the coffee community goes anywhere from 8-20 grams on this so trial and error is recommended to get to your perfect cup. If you already have medium-coarse ground beans go to step 2.
- Prep your Press. Make sure your beaker is clean and unclogged of any debris from the last brew in the mesh filter of the plunger. Grounds from a previous brew can leave a bitter taste.
- Temper your press. Gradually filling the beaker with warm water heats up the glass by preventing any cracks or breakage. Let the warm water sit while you prepare your grounds.
- Heat water to 205o F / 96o C. This is the water you will be using for your coffee which needs to be hot but not rolling boil hot. Bottled spring water may be substituted for filtered water, if preferred. Tap water is not recommended and has been known to diminish flavor, so it is best to steer clear.
- Drain the water used to warm the beaker.
- Add your coffee grounds to the beaker measuring 1-2 heaping tablespoons per cup of water for the desired number of cups of coffee.
- Bloom your grounds. This simple step adds depth of flavor to the French Press cup. To bloom your grounds, pour some (not all) of your hot water on the grounds enough to submerge then stir. Let the submerged grounds sit for 30 seconds. This step lets the Carbon Dioxide released when hot water touches the bean to escape expelling the sour taste C02 gives. It also allows for the water that will be added to absorb the aromatics and oils released by the bean. Carbon naturally repels water so when grounds are not degassed by the blooming process it cuts the flavor profile in half diminishing your end result.
- Add remaining water and stir again.
- Put the lid back on the beaker and press the plunger down just above the water line to create a seal. Let steep for 3-4 minutes.
- Slowly push the plunger all the way down to compress all remaining grounds.
- Lastly, pour and enjoy with your desired additions.
Getting well acquainted with your french press can be transformative for not only your coffee drinking habit, but your quality of life in general. Slowing down, and taking the time to craft the perfect brew each morning can put you in a great headspace and provide the perfect start to your day.