There are numerous different ways of preparing coffee, and individual coffee drinkers often hold strong opinions about which way is the best way. In the United States, the most popular way of brewing coffee is to use a drip coffee machine, which pours hot water over ground coffee and then filters the coffee into a carafe. In other parts of the world, and even in some parts of the U.S., this is called "American coffee" because it's unpopular elsewhere. Indeed, in the absence of drip coffee machines, the Americano espresso drink was invented to simulate American coffee. The Americano is just one of a whole world of espresso drinks, each with different modes of preparation. Whole books could be, and have been, written about various modes of coffee preparation. This article will focus on preparing coffee in a French press.
What is a French Press?
A French press is a device used for preparing a number of different beverages, but it was designed for coffee and is primarily used for that purpose. The French press consists of a cylinder, usually made of glass but also available in plastic and metal versions, along with a lid equipped with a plunger that moves a screen up and down inside the cylinder. The screen serves to filter coffee grounds by pressing them to the bottom of the beaker so that brewed coffee can be poured.
How to Buy a French Press
French presses are available in many different price ranges and quality levels and with extra features. In general, the very cheapest French presses should be avoided because, although they work fine, they do not withstand wear and are easily broken. It is not necessary to buy the most expensive French press available, however. Designer French presses are often quite expensive due to their brand name or because they are made to look out of the ordinary. These products do not offer any functional benefit over a good middle-of-the-line French press. Good quality presses can be found at kitchenware stores, large department stores, and are even available at some coffee shops.
Why French Press Coffee is Better
When you have obtained a good French press, you are ready to begin brewing French press coffee. French press coffee, while very slightly more labor intensive than American drip coffee, has several advantages over drip coffee. First, drip coffee pots often brew coffee using water that is so hot it alters the flavor, resulting in a beverage that tastes burnt and lacks the subtleties of coffee brewed with cooler water. Second, drip coffee requires that coffee beans be ground relatively finely, so more beans are required, making drip coffee less cost-effective. Third, the French press is much easier to clean than a coffee pot and will not lend any other flavors to the beverage.
Step One: Grind the Coffee Beans
Unlike some espresso drinks and other coffee beverages, French press coffee is extremely easy to make. The first step is to grind the coffee. The coffee should be quite coarsely ground; it's okay if some large chunks remain after grinding. Try using one scant tablespoon of coffee for every two cups of water the French press holds. If your French press holds 6 cups of water, use around 3 tablespoons of coffee. You may need to adjust this ratio depending on your personal preference, but it is a good place to start.
Step Two: Add Water
Place the coffee grounds in the empty French press. In order to ensure that the coffee releases its full flavor, add a small amount of cold water to the grounds and stir. Let the coffee sit in the cold water while you heat enough water to fill the French press. Do not heat the water directly in the French press. Its best to heat water in a pot on the stove or in an electric kettle. The water should be not quite boiling. The easiest way to ensure that the water is not too hot or too cold is to allow the water to boil, then take it off the heat for a minute or two just until it stops boiling. Then, pour it over the coffee grounds and place the lid on the press.
Step Three: Brew and Enjoy!
While the coffee brews, make sure that the screen of the French press is at the top of the cylinder. In other words, ensure that the plunger is all the way up. This allows the grounds to float freely in the water for correct brewing. Do not, however, neglect to put the lid on tight to prevent flavor from being lost in the steam. When the coffee has brewed for approximately five minutes, press the plunger all the way down to filter out the coffee grounds. Pour the coffee and enjoy!