In our previous EazyTrends, we explored the pleasure and purpose behind brewing your own cup of coffee at home, and in this piece we shall begin our journey into the fascinating world of manual coffee brewers, with the classic French press.
Design & Origin
The French Press, also known as a Cafetiére, is a perfect gateway brewer for beginners. It is uncomplicated, versatile and nearly impossible to screw-up with. The premise is simple: mix coffee grounds and water in a beaker and press down a filter down to separate.
While the concept dates back to the 19th Century in France, the device as we know it was patented by an Italian – Atilio Calimani in 1929, Milan. Not much has changed since then, and the vast majority of brewers still employ the same design of a cylindrical glass beaker with a mesh plunger fitted into the lid.
How to use
Grind coffee beans to a coarse consistency, with each ground at least as big as a single quinoa grain. Uniformity is the key here, as finer grinds will slip through the screen, and end up as over-extracted sludge in your cup. Therefore, read our previous Eazytrend on Coffee Grinders and preferably use one that employs a burr mechanism.
Tip your grounds into the beaker, and add hot water (just off boil, or about 90 C). Stir to evenly saturate the grounds and watch them rise to the top and bloom to form a beige créma, an emulsion of fine coffee grounds, carbon dioxide and coffee essential oils; the thicker the créma, the fresher your beans are. Wait for at least 4 minutes or until the immersed grounds start settling down. Now pull the plunger up and place the lid on top of the beaker and press it down gently, I repeat, gently. Do not push it through, unless you want hot coffee all over yourself and your counter. Pour the brew into a cup and enjoy.
1. You will often end up with some fine grind, no matter how good a grinder you employ. These fine particles will clog up the mesh, stalling your press-through. Do not apply force, instead, rotate the plunger to gently dislodge the grounds and continue to press down smoothly.
2. Never leave brewed coffee in the French Press for too long, as the grounds at the bottom will continue to extract and mix with your brew, resulting in a bitter cup.
The French Press is also perfect for brewing loose-leaf tea, using the exact same procedure. You can also hack it to cold brew coffee – after tipping ground coffee into the beaker, press the plunger down to cover, and fill with cold water. Let it steep overnight in your fridge, for a gorgeous rounded cup, with minimum acidity.
You can experiment with a variety of beans with the French press as per your preference, but I recommend medium bodied beans such as the Indian varieties, Plantation A or Monsooned Malabar. Dark or espresso roasts are brimming with coffee oils and might overwhelm your palate.
While modern innovations include a double walled stainless steel beaker for durability and insulation, apart from multi-layered mesh filters for better filteration, many still prefer the charm of a classic glass and metal design. Manufacturers available in India include the venerable French brand Bodum, minimalistic Japanese brand Hario, as well as a number of Indian makers. Durability aside, look for a robust screen/mesh that fits snugly into the beaker to ensure minimum seepage of coffee grounds. Happy Brewing!
A self proclaimed food geek and coffee nerd, Amit Patnaik enjoys his time in the kitchen as much as he loves dining out. He runs the food blog Pursuit of Yummyness and contributes to The Hindu in Chennai.