What Makes A Good French Press?
Known for its uber-smooth brew and full-bodied flavour, using a French press gives you a great cup of coffee with little in the way of equipment or experience needed.
Of course, if you’re a self-confessed coffee snob like me you may want to get the very best out of your French Press. Here’s what I think makes a good French press:
It’s All About The Seal
A French press is an immersion brewing technique; that is, you put the grounds in the jug and add water then let it sit. A plunger pushes the ground coffee to the base of the jug and holds them there, at least in theory.
One of the criticisms of a French press is that it can be a ‘muddy’ brew. The filter is more porous than for drip brewing, and that can let grit and other particulates through.
If you buy a press with a plastic or rubber seal around the filter that can degrade over time and let even more gunk in to spoil the clarity of your brew.
Instead, choose one with a metal mesh filter which also acts as a seal. Bonus points if you can buy a replacement filter, as you can for this one by Aerolatte.
French pressed coffee is best drunk fresh (more on that in the next section) so you might want to keep a few different sizes in the cupboard. They range from single cup size all the way up to 48oz, for post-dinner party caffeination.
Serving It Up
If you aren’t going to drink the coffee immediately then consider a stainless-steel press, it will retain heat for longer and keep your brew ready to drink. You can even buy an insulated press to extend the drinking time.
However, in his video The ubiquitous but often maligned French Press, Scott Carey advocates decanting the coffee from the French press as soon as you’ve completed your brewing time.
Otherwise the water continues to take flavor from the grounds in the base, and your coffee gets increasingly bitter.
If style is important to you, you’ll be glad to know that French press’ aren’t all the same. The iconic glass jug in a gold or silver holder is still available, but designers have brought the press right up to date.
Glass, metal and ceramic presses are available, and if you like to get your geek on in every aspect of your life, ThinkGeek have an R2D2 coffee press.
Coffee On The Go
If you’re visualizing the classic French press with a glass jug you’re probably not thinking portability but you can brew this way on the go.
There are a range of French press mugs on the market but many of them don’t have great seals and just leave you with a portable mug of murky brown.
If you want portability and a brew that stays warm even on a cold day then look at this Travel Press from Bodum which has a vacuum seal.
When Is A French Press Not A French Press?
When it’s an immersive drip. The Clever pour over coffee dripper gives you the ability to brew your coffee using the immersion technique but then filter it through like a dripper. It gives you all the smoothness of a press, but without any concerns about grit, murk or bitterness. You can read my review of the Clever here.
So, what makes a good French press?
It isn’t just the press; it’s what you put into it. Do you choose filtered water or go straight from the tap? What temperature?
Which beans? Which grind? Should you go through an elaborate pouring ritual or just dump the water in? How long should you brew?
How to use your press is a post all its own, so make sure to click here to check my tutorial.