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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

01.15.2001

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the art of using a french press 
by Corey S. McFadden |
1 2 3 4 
continued from page 2

Caveats:
1.
Water temperature must not be too high or too low. The general consensus is that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is 195-200įF. Basically you want the temperature to be just below boiling. I can't stress this enough. If it's too hot, it'll scorch the beans and the brew will be bitter. If it's too cool, it won't brew properly and youíll be drinking weak, lousy coffee. Use a good kitchen thermometer to make sure youíve got it just right.

2. The beans must be ground slightly coarse. If the coffee is ground too finely, it will be difficult to press and might result in hot water being squirted everywhere. Also, youíll end up with a lot of sediment in your coffee. But itís important not to leave the grinds too coarse either. The flavor will be much better if the grind is just coarse enough to avoid passing through the filter.

Most sources recommend using a burr grinder (one that can accurately and consistently control the grind) rather than a spinning blade grinder, which has a tendency to produce randomly sized particles. Alternatively, if you're not planning to store your coffee for more than a couple days, get your beans ground at the coffee shop. Be sure to tell your coffee monger you've got a French press; they'll know which setting to use.

3. When itís time to press, do so very slowly with minimal pressure. If you encounter a lot of resistance, donít give into that urge to press hard. Too much force will cause a spray of boiling-hot water to spurt out and burn you. I've even read one report of a French press actually exploding -- the guy apparently figured that the best way to combat resistance was pressing down with all of his strength! -- sending hot water and shards of glass everywhere.

4. Pour out the coffee as soon as itís finished brewing. If you leave the coffee in the press ó let's say you're going to have a second cup ó it will over-brew and become bitter. (The grounds under the plunger will continue to affect the coffee.) The best solution to this problem is to immediately pour all of the brewed coffee into an airtight thermos, which will keep the properly-brewed coffee nice and hot until youíre ready to drink it.

5. Don't fill the press all the way to the top. You must leave at least a half-inch between the top of the water and the bottom of the press.

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