Many coffee lovers collect quite a few brewers in their lifetime. Some even have more than one coffee pot at a time, each for different occasions and uses. One method of brewing coffee that has a bit of mystery around it is the French Press. Since the mid 1840s, the French Press has been one of the least used brewing methods that produces some of the best tasting coffee. The relatively unknown French Press has gone unnoticed by most coffee drinkers, with the exception of really hard-core drinkers. Luckily, the French Press is not hard to use and most coffee drinkers who discover its rich brewing never go back to drip coffee.
When you first look at a French Press carafe, you might be shocked to learn that the coffee grounds are exposed raw to the water during brewing. Many first reactions to this are shocking- that the coffee will be too strong or have sludge. On the contrary, a well-made French Press brewed pot of coffee rarely is too strong, bitter or has sludge.
The French Press round glass carafe comes with a plunger that has a thin screen filter that separates the grounds when its ready for drinking. The French Press works by exposing ground beans to pure water for several minutes, and then the plunger with a metal screen separates the grounds. No paper is used and the grounds are exposed wholly within the water.
The first step to using a French Press correctly is using a coarse, even grind. Always begin with fresh coffee beans that have been roasted in the past 10 days. When you grind your beans, ensure you are using the coarsest setting you have and make sure your grinder is clean and well maintained. If your grinder produces a lot of dust and uneven cut of the beans, then you have a poor quality grinder. Using a low quality grinder will cause your French Press coffee to have sludge after brewing since dusty particles will be trapped in the water. This is why many French Press coffee brews are not well made.
Next, place approximately 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds per 4 ounces of water used in your French Press. Since the grounds are exposed raw to the water, most coffee drinkers use fewer grounds to accommodate for the stronger taste. Then, fill your French Press with near boiling water. The grounds will immediately froth a bit as the beans release CO2. Stir gently to expose all the grounds to water, and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Then, very gently, plunge the screen down over your grounds in the water and press. The grounds will be separate at the bottom of the press and you’ll have very nice coffee at the top.
The key to great French Press coffee is beginning with good quality beans and using an even coarse grind. If you have too much sludge at the bottom of your coffee cup when you’re done drinking, you know you have either too fine of a grind or you need a better grinder. Once you have mastered the art of using a French Press, you’ll probably never go back to washed out drop coffee.