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French Press Coffee

My coffee tastes have changed during the course of the renovation. I’ve decided I prefer my morning latte strong, rich, and served with an ocean breeze. By someone else.

Although  I’m grateful for the use of my mom’s stove, I’m less than enamoured with its slow-to-heat elements. Without the aid of a speedy gas stove top, my normally peppy cafetiera has devolved into a sluggish stainless steel pot. Although easy to clean, my mom’s smooth electric top stove isn’t designed for this coffee system. The results? Mediocre coffee and a bad mood as a 3-minute espresso stretches into a finger-drumming 10. Of course, after several weeks of snail-paced lattes, my coffee expert friend, Kristine Hansen, reminds me that a French press is an easy alternative that requires no stove.

While I wade through the forest of boxes in my living room to dig out my Bodum, Kristine, co- author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee and Tea, has generously agreed to share her tips for using a French press.

At first, a French press can appear intimidating. There aren’t any on/off buttons and no cord to plug-in, for instance. Actually, that’s the beauty of this coffee brewer: because it’s completely manual, there is a lot of flexibility in how you take your morning cup. And the taste is so much better than what you get out of a drip coffeemaker. It’s just as good as the coffee brewed at your local cafe.

Regardless of whether you like the coffee bold or mild, here are three quick steps in how to operate a French press with success.

  1. Start boiling your water. Sorry, but you absolutely need boiling water in a French press. Hot tap water, or even microwave-d water, will only produce a flat cup that will send you running to the nearest coffee shop for a better cup.  I suggest either an electric kettle or a stove top kettle. Once it hits a rolling boil, then your water is ready.
  2. Use only whole coffee beans. And grind just before use. You may be tempted to save time in the morning and use pre-ground coffee but trust me, you will regret it. As a general rule, use two scoops of coffee beans (measured out before grinding) for each 8-ounce cup of coffee.
  3. While the water is boiling, empty out your grinder into a French press. Then, once the water has begun to boil, add the water. Do not plunge the French press just yet. Set a timer for four minutes, lock in the plunger – but do not plunge – and wait. When the timer goes off, plunge, pour and enjoy!

Also, if you want the coffee to taste even better, and stay warm longer, boil more water than you will add to the French press. Pour the remainder — what does not fit into the French press — into your empty cup of coffee. Just before you add the coffee, dump out the water. The walls of your coffee cup will already be acclimated to the hot coffee.

Got a favourite coffee system or tips? The reno won’t be over for a few more weeks, so I’m open to any and all caffeine suggestions.

Photo of coffee by the sea, © annia316. Published under a Creative Commons License.

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16 Responses to French Press Coffee

  1. Babette May 18, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Just be warned: plunger does NOT mean to PLUNGE as if you were setting off a cartoon bundle of TNT, the way Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote did…I learned this the hard way the first time I made French press when I PLUNGED that plunger…No–gently press, press, press down until the grounds are held in place….

    Mmm. This MIGHT make be dig out the French press…

    • Charmian Christie May 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

      @Babette, good point! I’ve shot hot coffee all over the place before. Funny how you forget this kind of thing.

      Wish I’d dug out the French press weeks ago. Guess I packed my brain away with the good china.

  2. Sophie May 19, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    My husband loves making his morning coffee with this French Press.

    He loves grinding the coffee beans himself & He likes it a lot!
    .-= Sophie´s last blog ..Duo of fresh fava bean spread open smoked salmon sandwich & sort of guacamole open smoked salmon sandwich topped with home grown garden cress =-.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

      @Sophie, our husbands sound a lot a like — at least when it comes to coffee.

  3. Maggie May 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    If you don’t want to use a timer, just watch the coffee grounds. When they sink to the bottom, you should be good to go.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

      @Maggie, good to know. I’m usually too foggy in the morning to time anything accurately.

  4. Daniel May 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    Four minutes! No way. I let mine steep for fifteen. It can be hard to wait that long, but the brew comes out a lot stronger, richer and tastier in my opinion. Curious what other people have to say about brewing time.

    Casual Kitchen
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..How to Get the Benefits of Organic Foods Without Paying Through the Nose =-.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

      @Daniel, I used a French press all the time when I lived in Australia and never waited more than 5 minutes. My coffee was strong enough by that point. I never waited 15. There is only one way to learn the optimum time — taste test!!

  5. Paul Synnott May 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    My sister bought me a French Press and grinder for Christmas and I love it. I just gave away my coffee maker a couple weeks ago to a friend of mine who needed one. I never use it anymore.
    .-= Paul Synnott´s last blog ..Ban Big Trucks from Wyandotte Street =-.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

      @Paul Synnott, I’m always amazed how a bad coffee system can ruin good beans. Having used the old coffee maker a few times during the reno I now realize it doesn’t make very good coffee. I was going to retire it to the basement, in case of an coffee emergency, but have rethought this.

  6. Michelle May 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    My husband adores his French Press – we have an insulated one, so if we ‘forget’ about it for a few extra minutes, it still stays hot. We also stir the coffee grounds a few minutes before we press it – just to make sure we’ve got all that wonderful fresh flavour.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

      @Michelle, oh, the insulated version sounds wonderful. I’m always wandering off and letting mine get cold.

      Does the stirring make a difference? I’ve never tried this, but it makes sense. Between Daniel’s 15-minute brew time and your stirring, I see a lot of taste testing in my future.

  7. Cheryl Arkison May 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    How timely! This is what Hubby is getting for Father’s Day. He’s finally had it with our fancy dancy drip coffee maker. And I’ve had it with him whining about being too lazy to go to Starbucks.
    .-= Cheryl Arkison´s last blog ..An Abundance of Limes =-.

    • Charmian Christie May 30, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

      @Cheryl Arkison, hope your husband doesn’t read my blog or his surprise is spoiled :-)

      As for not going to Starbucks, I’d say this “laziness” is saving you a fortune. With all the money you’ll save, that French press will pay for itself in no time. Hope he enjoys it (“it” being the coffee maker, although I’m sure he’d also enjoy the savings.)

  8. Ananya April 23, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    I myself just found out that microwave’d water just undermines the purpose of a french press. The coffee tasted exactly like it did when I got tired of my drip machine, and used to run out to coffee shops all the time. French press solved that, but without microwave-water. Back to the good ol’ kettle!

    • Charmian Christie April 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      After reading about how boiling water in a microwave can be dangerous (it can “explode” when jiggled) I stopped. I’m a kettle girl all the way.

      We have an electric model that heats on a stand that plugs into the wall. You can use it anywhere there’s an outlet. No stove required. Plus, when you’re ready to pour, your kettle is cordless.

      Thanks for sharing your tip and enjoy your kettle assisted coffee!

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