Simple. Elegant. Fast. Words you might expect to see in an advertisement for a poorly built fashion watch; but this is a coffee blog so that couldn't be the case (at least not until I’ve manifested a brand deal with Fossil.) No, I’m talking about a classic method for brewing coffee at home that has a certain “je ne sais quoi.” A little bit of that “le pizzaz.” And a healthy dose of “Ooh la-la monsieur, tu est mucho attractive! Bonne journée indeed.”
I’m talking about the French Press.
Let Me Tell You About It
I’ve recommended using the french press before in my guide to getting started brewing at home but I love them so much I wanted a chance to celebrate them on their own. I really want to dig in to let you know what makes the french press so cool and why I’m so into it as well as which one I think you should buy and how to use it. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do here! Don’t try to stop me!
I think the french press is a perfect way to make coffee. It’s easy to clean and you can use it to make hot coffee, tea and even cold brew (stick around.) It’s an immersion method as opposed to percolation which are pretty big words for such a small blog. Drip coffee makers and pour overs like the Chemex and V-60 involve pouring water over coffee grinds through a paper or cloth filter while immersion methods like the french press or the aeropress require your coffee and water to sit in a vessel until you’ve finished extraction. When making a pour over by hand you need to worry about several factors like how fast you’re pouring water, how evenly you’re saturating the grinds and how quickly the water is passing through to the cup. The french press eliminates all of these variables. This takes away some ability to manipulate your extraction and develop a specific recipe but sometimes I just want to set a timer and zone out for four minutes and I am willing to make that trade.
And that four minutes is really important to me. Because as much as making and drinking and talking about coffee is my “job” and “doing my job” triggers my “imposter syndrome based fears and anxieties” which are “rooted” in the “exploitative and oftentimes dehumanizing aspects of modern capitalism” I really prefer to use it as an opportunity to kick back and relax.
My most beautiful perfectly ideal morning is one where I’m staring out my kitchen window at a light snowfall. A pot of oatmeal on the stove and a french press of coffee patiently brewing as I am wrapped up in my favourite housecoat and the melancholy songs of Haley Heynderickx’s 2018 album I Need To Start A Garden. Maybe my girlfriend is there. My cat definitely is.
But now dear reader comes the second act tragic twist of this blog post.
The Second Act Tragic Twist
I broke my french press three years ago and I’ve been too preoccupied with buying trendier brewers like my V60, Moka Pot and FrankOne to replace it. I’m a fraud. I’ve spent years lauding the power of the french press with nary a one on my shelf. Like a Western Canadian Politician encouraging people to stay home via tweets from Hawaii I have NOT been practicing what I preach. And now I’m prepared for my reputation to be shattered like so many pieces of broken glass on the floor.
But also like broken glass a person’s reputation can be swept up, placed in the trash and replaced with a brand new one.
This is a very strong metaphor.
So I’m happy to formally announce my imminent purchase of a new french press and the one I’ll strongly recommend to you.
The French Press I Think You Should Buy
But first, a little suspense:
There were three contenders for my new french press. First up was this number from Hario. The fact that it doesn’t come with a frame and is just solid glass makes it look naked to me which was a plus because I love that attitude. But the wooden lid, while fashionable, is prone to warping if left on too long after brewing which wouldn’t fit with my lazy lifestyle.
Second was the Bodum Chambord. This is the classic french press design dating back to 1958. Lots of manufacturers make similar designs but Bodum has such a commanding share of the market that many people refer to all french presses as “bodums.” I was all set to grab one of these until my girlfriend (did I mention I have a girlfriend) introduced me to her french press of choice: The Espro P3.
Whenever you’re grinding coffee, regardless of how coarsely your grinder is set, you’ll end up with some fines. Most french presses don’t filter these out when pouring and your last bit of coffee will be a little “sludgy” as a result. Espro uses a patented double filter that ensures this doesn’t happen. Plus the P3 is friggin BIG man you can fit so much caffeination in this bad boy. I’ve had arguments with my coworkers over the stylistic choices Espro has made but dangit *I* think it looks cool and it WORKS and they did NOT pay me to say that but I WISH they had.
Using Your French Press
At this point you’re 900 words into this article (my word count is always turned on) and you want to know the best way to use this thing. Great news: it’s simple as heck.
French presses come in all shapes and sizes so rather than give you an exact recipe I’m going to walk you through the process and let you take it from there. You are an intelligent, strong, capable human being and I know you can do it.
Start by weighing and grinding your coffee. Typically 18-20 grams is enough for one person but if you’re making a larger batch of coffee shoot for 55-60 grams (this will fill the Espro P3 and make coffee for three or one person all day.) You want to grind the beans fairly coarse. Think a step larger than kosher salt.
Bring your water to a boil and then let it sit thirty seconds to cool down. I like to pour some hot water into my french press and swirl it around to heat up the glass but this is optional.
Next add your coffee grinds to the press. Stir them around a little with a chopstick or a spoon to break up any clumps and level the top.
Gently pour the desired amount of water over the grinds in a circle: saturating as many grinds as possible. I like to use a ratio of 14 grams of water for every gram of coffee.
Give it one more gentle stir and cover it for four minutes. Once that time is up gently plunge the press and serve.
Take some time to drink your coffee and then rinse the press out with a little water and dump those grinds into the compost.
You Should Be Making Cold Brew
This could be you
In the summer I love having a steady supply of cold brew concentrate in the fridge and the french press makes it so friggin easy.
It’s a very similar process to above but instead of using hot water to brew coffee very quickly we’re going to use cold water to brew coffee over a longer period of time.
Using the same grind size fill your french press with coffee and cold water but this time use a ratio of 4 grams of water per gram of coffee. Stir once more, cover and let sit in the fridge for 14-18 hours. Feel free to play with longer or shorter brew times to make milder or stronger concentrates.
Once your brew time has passed plunge the press and pour the concentrate into your *most stylish* container.
Serve cold brew over ice and make sure to dilute with an equal amount of water. Then have fun with it! You can add any dairy or fruit/berry garnishes you like. Got some mint leaves on hand? Chuck em in. Sometimes as a treat I’ll mix my cold brew concentrate with coconut LaCroix. Just trust me.
You can make delicious coffee of any roast level in a french press. I’d recommend our Breakfast Blend as a medium roast and the Northender for an intense dark roast. If you’re making cold brew I’d recommend something either in the between like 38 Espresso or something with a more unique flavour profile like Costa Rica Red Honey.
Happy pressing! Or as the french say “Mercredi!”
Featured image photo credit: Maddi Tang.