Brewing Coffee
With a French Press Pot

red French press coffee potIf I had to recommend one brewing method that yields great coffee consistently while using the simplest (and most affordable) equipment it would be using a French press pot (also referred to simply as a press pot). As you’ll see, the method is indeed simple – basically open pot coffee with a neat way of filtering out the grounds. Even so, there are some points you need to pay attention to the get the best results brewing coffee with a French press. Here’s how to brew coffee with a press pot to get the most out of your coffee beans.

How a French Press Coffee Pot Works

The design of the press pot hasn’t changed much from it’s first introduction in the early part of the 20th century. The pot is cylindrical is shape (the parallel sides are important) and has a lid. A rod passes through the center of the lid and is attached to filter that fits snugly into the cylinder. These days the filter is most often a fine-mesh metal screen with metal supports to hold it in position and maintain a tight seal with the inside of the pot.

In use, you mix the coffee with hot water in the pot, put the lid on with the filter positioned at the top of the pot, wait the desired time, push the plunger down to force the grounds to the bottom of the pot, then pour and enjoy.

As always, the devil is in the details. These tips will give you great results the first time out.

Picking the Right Pot

Most press coffee pots are made out of tempered glass, and that’s fine. It doesn’t react with the coffee and has the advantage of watching the coffee brew and the plunger do its things. Ceramic pots work fine. You lose the view, but ceramic is also non-reactive and does a good job. You sometimes will see stainless steel pots. They are non-reactive, but steel conducts heat more quickly than glass or ceramic so the coffee cools quicker.

You’ll commonly find plastic pots, especially at the low end of the price spectrum. I recommend you stay away from them. The idea of steeping hot liquid in a plastic container then drinking it just doesn’t appeal to me. Plus the plastic scratches more easily and eventually gets hazy and stained. You can find good quality glass pots quite inexpensively (I’ll recommend some I’ve had success with). I think that’s a better option.

Quality Ingredients

I talk about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating – you can’t make good coffee with crummy water. The American Association of Specialty Coffee has very specific criteria on what constitutes acceptable water for premium coffee but the simple criteria that’s adequate for most of us is that if the water has an off odor or flavor don’t use it to brew coffee. Also, don’t used distilled water (you need some minerals in the water for best taste) or water that’s been treated with a water softener.

The only other ingredient is the coffee. I’ll leave the choice of bean and roast up to you. I think you know that whatever the producer or country of origin you want arabica beans that have recently been roasted and ground just before brewing.

Grinding the Coffee for a Plunger Pot

The grinding part raises a bit of a controversy. The usual advice is to use a grind slightly coarser than you might for making coffee by the drip method. The main reason for this is that the screen mesh is more porous than the typical paper coffee filter and could let more grounds through. That’s reasonable advice as far as it goes, but then some people let their snobby side show. They insist that you can only get properly ground coffee for a press pot by using a burr grinder.

Burr grinders are great. Good ones do a good job and one of their virtues is consistency.

However, it is entirely possible to get a reasonably even grind using the more common (and much less expensive) blade grinder. I’ve used them side by side and can produce coffee grounds with the blade grinder that you can’t tell visually from the coffee ground in the burr grinder. More to the point, I’ve made lots of good coffee using a blade grinder and a press pot.

Bottom line, if you can afford a burr grinder by all means get one. But until the coffee snobs produce a blind tasting that shows a dramatic difference in taste between burr and blade ground coffee don’t let the lack of a burr grinder keep you from using a press pot.

Heck, go ahead and use pre-ground coffee if you want.

Tips for Using the Press Pot

press pot with plunger upOK. Now you have good water and nicely ground coffee beans. All you need to do now is heat the water and mix it with the coffee, push the plunger and your done. But there are fine points that make a difference.

First, heat the water to 200-204 degrees. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, if you don’t use a thermometer you can come pretty close to the desired temperature by bringing the coffee to a boil (212), then letting it cool a few minutes. If you want to spend a little time experimenting, here’s how you can refine you technique. Consistently use the same amount of water in your kettle, then use a thermometer to check how long you need to wait to reach 204. After a while you’ll find you can dispense with the thermometer.

Here are some more details. My routine is to pour some of the boiling water into the empty press pot. This pre-warms the press pot while the water cools to brewing temperature. When the water is ready to go, empty the pot, put in the coffee grounds (according to taste, but 21/2 tbsp coffee per 8ozs water is a good starting point).

Now pour a couple of inches of water onto the grounds, swirl the pot a little and let the grounds soak about 30 seconds. This starts releasing the volatile oils and also saturates the coffee so it will be less likely to float to the top of the water.

After waiting the 30 seconds or so, pour in the rest of the water and put the lid on the pot with the plunger pulled all the way up. Many brands have a thumb screw holding the filter onto the plunger rod. If yours does, make sure it’s snugly tightened. If it’s loose, the filter may tilt and let the coffee grounds slip above it when you press down on it.

Once the lid is on all you need to do is wait.

Four minutes is a good brewing time. There’s some leeway for personal preference here. If you like your coffee on the strong side wait a little longer. Don’t overdo it, however.

Once you think it’s ready, slowly push to plunder down to separate out the grounds. Push fairly slowly and push straight down – the filter is less likely to tilt.

That’s it. The coffee is ready to pour and enjoy.

As you can see this method is quite simple. This is another situation where trying to complicate things can work against you. There are other good ways to brew coffee but you can’t go wrong with a press pot.

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Recommended French Press Pots

Most press pots are made out of tempered glass. In terms of brewing the coffee, that works out fine. However, if you don't drink the full pot immediately the coffee rapidly cools. My current favorite French press eliminates this problem. It's made out a double layer of high-quality stainless steel, making it an insulated thermos.

An added bonus of stainless steel is that it's unbreakable.

Personally, I think it looks pretty sharp as well. One of the other things I like about it is that I can use it as a pitcher on its own for any hot or cold beverage. For some reason, I particularly like using it to serve lemonade on hot summer day.

You can spend less money on a French press pot, but I don't think you'll find a nicer one.

Freiling French Press Coffee Pot

 

Click on the image or the link below for more information on the:

Frieling Stainless Steel
French Press Coffee Pot

 

 

 

   Frieling Stainless Steel French Press Coffee Pot

 

Bodum is a well-known manufacturer of of French press pots. Here's their stainless steel version as well. Which one you pick is really a matter of personal preference concerning style.

Bodum Presso French Press Coffee Pot 

 

Click on the image or the link below for more information on the:

Bodum Presso Stainless Steel French Press Coffee Pot

 

 

 Bodum Presso
Stainless Steel French Press Coffee Pot

 

 

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