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Press Pot/French Press Coffee


formerly grueldelux
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I've been experimenting with my coffee lately. Trying to figure out why I've been making better coffee at my girfriend's apartment with a whirly blade grinder, no measuring, and no timing, than I do at home where everything's done with laboratory precision.

I'm starting to gather that my grind is plenty coarse, and that I wasn't brewing long enough. I've always gone 4 minutes. I tried 3 minutes at the recommendation of many people and everything got exactly worse. So I went up to 5 minutes, which sounds long. Everything improved: better body, and the acidity brought into balance.

I haven't played with the grind size much ... I'm keeping things close to the coarsest setting on my Baratza Maestro burr grinder. Seems like shorter brew times give thinner body and more pronounced acidity; longer brew times more body and more bitterness.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 1 year later...

I've settled into 32-35g coffee (Intelligensia El Diablo) ground in the blade coffee grinder (I go by pitch now, about 15-20 seconds) with 500 ml of filtered water. Wet grinds; when they give off their aroma, I add the full dose, stir, and set the timer to 4:44. (No real reason except that I only have to press one button three times. I haven't had my caffeine, after all.)

So here's my question: determining the temperature of the water. How do people do that? If I have time, I bring it to the boil and set it aside for 1 minute, which seems to work. But the temp on the stove isn't the same as the temp off the stove isn't the same as the temp poured into the container....

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris,

I typically use a Thermopen to measure water temp, shooting for 202-204. Add hot water to the FP and your cup to warm. I use 2 g of coffee to one ounce of water, which is about what you're using. Add the coffee to the FP, add about 4 oz of water, let it bloom for 30 seconds, and swirl the FP to knock the bloom down a bit. Add the remaining water, and time for 3:30-3:45, then press and pour into the emptied cup.

Thanks,

Zachary

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Oh, hello french press thread!

Chris, I too use a thermapen. I measure the temperature off the heat (I remove the kettle to a spare burner and measure it there). I've considered buying one of the electric kettles that has setpoints of 1deg F, but I'm too nervous to drop $50-70 on one only to find out that they were being overly optimistic with their precision.

While I'm here, I figured I'd share two related techniques that I think really improved my FP coffee. The first is the "break and skim" technique, where you break the crust of floating grounds at the top of the press, allowing most to sink to the bottom, and then skim off the remaining foam. It turns out that this foam contains a lot of the fines, and skimming it really cleans up the taste of the resulting coffee and reduces the amount of fines in the cup. The second technique, which is related, is to treat the press much like a cupping cup, where the grounds are simply allowed to settle to the bottom and the coffee decanted off the top. In a french press, this is accomplished by breaking the crust and allowing the grounds to settle, skimming, and then not plunging the filter into the coffee. You then decant the coffee slowly through the filter into your cup or thermos, leaving the pile of grounds in the bottom of the press. Doing this again helps to clean up the cup by not stirring up the grounds, and allowing them to ask as their own filter, trapping the smaller particles.

I'm not sure how well these techniques work with blade grinders--I use a Capresso Infinity, which may be better at minimizing fines than a blade grinder. But I'd encourage your to give it a shot and see if you notice any difference. I thought the difference was huge.

Here's where I learned this stuff:

James Hoffman's French Press Technique (more info and discussion in some of his subsequent posts)

"Cupping-style" French Press technique

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Chris,

Because I'm going to use it here in a second, Max Gonzalez from Catalina Coffee in Houston taught me this one:

1. Disassemble your FP. You want the plunger and the filter screen assembly, but not the lid. Reassemble the plunger to the screen assembly.

2. Preheat water and grind coffee as usual.

3. Put the plunger into the FP carafe in the down position. Put the coffee on top of the filter assembly, fill with water as usual.

4. Pull up on the plunger, which should trap most of the grounds on the way up.

5. Remove plunger and set aside. Pour coffee.

This has the added benefit of getting the grounds out of the coffee immediately after brewing, and results in a much cleaner cup.

Thanks,

Zachary

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  • 2 weeks later...

For a non-coffee drinker who wants to offer guests an option of something a step up from a drip filter and a mug, any specific recommendations for a small volume (single serving) french press? I don't drink coffee either so I can't advise my mother on what to get, but it apparently has been requested by a couple of visitors.

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For a non-coffee drinker who wants to offer guests an option of something a step up from a drip filter and a mug, any specific recommendations for a small volume (single serving) french press? I don't drink coffee either so I can't advise my mother on what to get, but it apparently has been requested by a couple of visitors.

As I've writ many times, I use a drip filter for single cups and it's great. But a small french press (Bodum?) will do fine too.

More importantly, is your water good? Is it heated to the proper temperature? Is your coffee fresh? And are you grinding it right before you brew? Any of these is just as, if not more, important than the methodology you use to brew your coffee.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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More importantly, is your water good? Is it heated to the proper temperature? Is your coffee fresh? And are you grinding it right before you brew? Any of these is just as, if not more, important than the methodology you use to brew your coffee.

Yep, these are the questions to ask. Most modern brewing methods are approximately equivalent in the objective quality of the coffee they brew, given good ingredients and a skilled operator. The coffee each produces has a different character to it, but it's hard to say that one method is objectively superior to another.

Wholemeal Crank, Bodum makes presses at least as small at 4-4oz cups, which in practice will yield about 12-14oz of coffee. But there's no reason you couldn't buy a larger press to allow you to make larger batches and simply fill it less to make smaller batches (I do this all the time). For me, in practice, making French press coffee takes about 10 minutes of undivided attention (preheating the carafe, heating the water, grinding the beans, stirring the grounds midway through the 4 minute brew, decanting the coffee), which may make it a little less appealing than other methods while entertaining.

Pourover works well for single cups, and if your mother really wants to go coffee-geek on it, she can spring for a Hario cone, but there's some technique needed to get the most out of it. For someone that doesn't drink coffee (and thus won't have the best, freshest beans and the motivation to develop her technique), it's probably not worth it if she's already got pourover gear. Most non-Hario pourover equipment tends to limit the amount of control you have over some aspects of the brewing, which is a problem if you're striving for the best cup, but isn't an issue if you're not going to exercise the control that the Hario gives you.

Another alternative is the Aeropress [Amazon link]. It gets lots of love, it's fast, it's easy, and it's good for single cup brewing.

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Thanks for the great tips. As it turns out, she's a bit more conservative on the subject than I suspected, and already complained the the small bodum I suggested doesn't look like the chrome and glass french press she used to have. I like the mug top aeropress, looks a lot like some of the wonderfully clever and handy gadgets coming out now for preparing tea on the go, but I don't think she'll go for it.

I think she will be happiest if we just replace the traditional style french press, so it looks the same as what she's used to. The time isn't really an issue, as I think this was requested by guests who prepare the coffee themselves when they're over (my sibling and mom's best friend, IIRC), who remember the one that got cleared out with the overwhelming accumulation of my father's kitchenwares. We got a bit too enthusiastic, it seems, in our Mom-friendly kitchen makeover.

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  • 1 month later...

Any recommendations for a specific brand/model of French press? Our beloved Ikea one was recalled. We replaced it with a Bodum Brazil, but the plastic part that holds the filter assembly broke on our second use. A quick scan of other Bodum presses on Amazon showed similar problems with other models. Thanks!

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Any recommendations for a specific brand/model of French press? Our beloved Ikea one was recalled. We replaced it with a Bodum Brazil, but the plastic part that holds the filter assembly broke on our second use. A quick scan of other Bodum presses on Amazon showed similar problems with other models. Thanks!

We've had the Bodum Crema model for a couple of years, no problems or complaints, here. The only plastic parts are the ones that are visible externally; the filter+plate, shaft, and thing that holds the filter and plate in place are all metal.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I've been using the Chambord model for years; it's also got an all-metal shaft/filter assembly. I've broken a couple carafes, but I stick to glass because it doesn't scratch or hold onto oils like plastic. I'd consider one of the stainless steel models simply for anti-breakage purposes, but since I preheat the carafe and my thermos by microwaving a carafe of water, I need a microwaveable carafe. I also like to decant the coffee without plunging, and the transparent carafe helps me see the coffee and grounds as I'm decanting. I don't like that the Chambord model feels fairly unstable since it has only four points of contact with the ground, but I've never actually broken a carafe while it was in the holder, so it may be an unfounded worry.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...

I have just purchased a French press to use this fall while away from home. Imagine my surprise when I found that there are absolutely no instructions on use.

 

Quick note: I am far from a coffee purist - I just like an everyday level of decent coffee.

 

I get the general idea: put some coffee grounds into the glass beaker, add your hot water and allow to steep for a few minutes, gently press down on the filter, enjoy your coffee.

 

I like to use a fairly fine grind for my drip maker at home. Should I use a coarser grind for the press?

 

Is the ratio of water to grounds the same as for drip makers?

 

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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I like to use a fairly fine grind for my drip maker at home. Should I use a coarser grind for the press?

 

Is the ratio of water to grounds the same as for drip makers?

 

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Yes - coarser.

 

Yes - same ratio by weight.

 

http://coffeegeek.com/guides/presspot/

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I have better luck with a slightly coarser grind. The extra-fine grind I get at the grocery stores for our conical filter coffee pot tends to get a bit more sediment through the press than I like. If you're a Gevalia fan, you can check out their grind; I've had pretty good luck with that in coffee presses, so I'd say that's a good target size.

I use about the same ratio. The strength will depend on how long you let the grounds steep. Two things I think make a difference that you haven't listed: use boiling water (I'll probably get some disagreement on that) and stir the grounds to make sure they're fully wetted before they steep. I usually add most of the water, stir the grounds, then pour the rest of the water over the spoon to rinse it as I'm filling the beaker. (It saves water and cleanup.) Oh, and cap the beaker while steeping, to keep the heat in; just keep the plunger up until you're done steeping.

I like French press coffee. I'm not crazy about the cleanup, so I save it for special occasions: small batch, no electricity... ;-)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Thanks for the replies.

 

I live in southern California and have ready access to coffees from The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (they pre-date Starbucks). I used to be partial to their La Cascada but for whatever reason last summer it started not hitting the spot anymore. Now I am (when I can afford it, being long-term unemployed is a real drag) using TCBTL French Roast.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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Agree with all on the coarser grind. I wouldn't, however, use boiling water. Just add a little cold to take it off the boil before pouring it over the coffee.

 

I stir mine to infuse the coffee.

 

When you use the plunger, the grounds can cluster and make it hard to press down. I've found that the following works: press down part of the way, lift the plunger a bit, then repeat until the plunger is fully depressed.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I just made my first experimental pot. 3 Tbl grounds, approx 23 oz water, steeped for 5 minutes. What was strange to me is that the plunger had a lot of resistance for about the first 1/3 of the way down and then suddenly got easier.

 

Coffee taste is reasonably to my satisfaction based upon only having the Folgers Black Silk my son-in-law likes in the house at the moment.

 

By the way, it's almost 100 degrees here right now and that is not coffee drinking weather to me.

Edited by Porthos (log)

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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By the way, it's almost 100 degrees here right now and that is not coffee drinking weather to me.

That would be why my mother favored iced coffee at this time of year. I never could get my taste buds wrapped around it, but she claimed it was very refreshing.

My theory about the higher resistance at the top of the plunge is that there's blow-by or blow-through of the sediments, rather like a water filter that's been overchallenged. The filter gets plugged, and then holes in (or margins around) the plugging layer develop, and the resistance goes away. (I haven't tested this scientifically, but it seems more pronounced with a finer grind, and worst with coffee that has a broad range of grind size.) Was there a lot of sediment in your coffee?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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