How to obtain a better coffee with the French press

The French press is an icon in the coffee world. It is very well known, and for many, many years, we have been able to find it everywhere. In addition, it is very popular for being very easy to use, practical, comfortable, super versatile, and something key; it offers consistent results due to its simplicity.

It is ideal to use this coffee maker when we do not have enough time to dedicate to the preparation of the coffee or when we want to use a very fresh coffee (freshly roasted) since this immersion method is more effective than other drip methods, such as the Chemex or the Hario V60.

It is also appropriate to use it when we want to try a new bean since its process is very similar to what we do in a coffee tasting. It is a highly recommended coffee maker that cannot be missing from your coffee kit. It is ideal for beginners or for those who do not have a large budget, as we can find some very economical ones.

Which French press should I buy?

The coffee makers I recommend the most are the Bodum brand, which has been manufacturing them for over 50 years and is of excellent quality. If you take care of them, they can last for many years, and if you break or lose any of their parts, you can easily buy spare parts. In addition, they have beautiful designs.

Bodum French Press
Bodum French Press

What is the difference between a Bodum and a cheaper French press?

Durability is the number one difference; just by touching them, you can tell how robust they are. The cheaper French presses don’t last very long without breaking, be it the frame, the plunger, or the glass. Not only does this glass feel much thinner and more fragile, but it also doesn’t hold up very well to temperature, which is key.

Another big difference is the filter. The metal mesh allows more or less sediment to pass through and the external reinforcement system so that the mesh does not ride up and the coffee grounds escape through the sides.

Filter or wire mesh
Filter or wire mesh

Inexpensive stainless steel French presses can be a safer bet in durability for those who have a little more trouble taking care of them. Metals are good conductors, so they will hold up to temperature well.

Although over time, the steel will wear and become porous, and the coffee may take on a bit of a metallic taste.

What size French press should I buy?

French presses can be found in different sizes. Generally, we can find them with a capacity of 3 to 12 cups, but these cups you name are about 110 ml, as we already said in our article on how to improve Moka coffee.

The most common ones, which can be found everywhere, are the three-cup ones, which have a capacity of 350 ml, and the 8-cup ones, which have a liter capacity. The advantage is that this coffee maker does not work as in the case of the Moka, where we have to choose by capacity or number of cups.

Sizes of a French Press
Sizes of a French Press

While it is true that they are limited in size, we can prepare the amount of coffee we want in each one; the one you choose will depend on you and your routine. You can buy the one liter and make 200 ml coffee without any problem, although perhaps it will retain the temperature a little less and will be a little more uncomfortable to use and wash.

So if you prepare coffee every day just for yourself, you might be better off with the 350 ml one. What must be taken into account is that you will not be able to prepare many cups of coffee in a French press.

One of the great advantages of the press is its versatility. We can put the amount of coffee and water we want without modifying anything, neither the grinding nor the extraction time. This gives us the possibility of preparing the coffee to our taste, if you like it more intensely, you add more coffee, and if you like it softer, you add more water.

Keys for the preparation of coffee in a French press

Following are some guidelines that are key when preparing your coffee with a French press:

  • The water: Something very important at the time of making a good coffee is water. Always try to use good quality water (filtered). If the water is not good, the coffee will not be good.
  • The temperature will depend on the coffee you use; for this reason, it will not always be the same. If you like light roast coffees, the temperature will boil directly, and you can even preheat the glass. But if you like medium roast coffees, you do not need to preheat; with a temperature of 90°C, it may be sufficient. The darker the roast, the lower the temperature you will need.

Is it necessary to pre-infuse Bloom in the French press?

One thing we don’t do with the French press or any immersion method is Bloom or pre-infusion. If you are used to manual pour-over methods, you will know that a pre-infusion is always done so that the coffee beans are degassed. In this way, they are prepared for extraction and dissolve better in the water, where they will be in contact for a short time.

In the French press, the water and the coffee will be in contact for a long time, de-gasifying and preparing for extraction, so it is unnecessary to do this pre-infusion as indicated in some manual pour-over recipes.

Why is the foam removed from the preparation?

This foam results from releasing carbon dioxide from the freshly ground coffee beans. The truth is that its flavor is not good but rather bitter. In addition, there are many coffee sediments trapped between these little bubbles, so it is good to empty the surface leaving it as clean as possible so that the result of the coffee in the cup is the best.

This will allow us to taste the coffee at its maximum potential, feeling the tasting notes and not bitter flavors that will dull it. You can do the test yourself and see if you feel the difference.

Foam formed by degassing
Foam formed by degassing

Why should the plunger not be lowered during brewing?

It is because we want all the fine particles and all the sediment to fall only to the bottom of the container, so we can obtain a clean cup without foam. But if we lower the plunger to the bottom, we are reversing this, we create turbulence, and everything goes back up.

This technique is used to recreate as best as possible the same technique of coffee cupping so that the clear and bright flavors of the coffee are well felt and that it results in the cleanest cup possible.

However, some people love to have that heavy body in the coffee, that press texture which, of course, is achieved by letting more sediment through. After 4 minutes of rest, you can lower the plunger and serve if you enjoy this. Although it would be great if you do it both ways and see which one you like better.

Related: How to brew coffee with the Aeropress

Is the coffee cold after waiting so long after brewing?

Regarding the total time between the extraction time and the resting time, the question arises as to whether the coffee is still cold; the answer is no. Even after those four minutes of resting, the coffee is not cold. Even after those four minutes of resting, the coffee is too hot to drink, and we have to wait a while longer to be able to taste it. And, after those 9 or 10 minutes, it is still hot.

Preparation of coffee in a French Press
Preparation of coffee in a French Press

As I mentioned before, this will depend on the materials and the press quality. The truth is that Bodum presses are quite resistant. The ideal temperature to drink a good coffee is between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius, hot but without burning your tongue, where the flavors shine and are naturally sweet.

It would be good to taste the coffee as it cools down and see how the flavors change. Good quality coffee; the colder it gets, the more sweetness it has. A bad coffee, the colder it gets, becomes unpalatable. It is drunk almost boiling to not feel its true flavor.

Why am I not getting a good result from the preparation?

The first thing to check is the grinding. If you notice that the taste of the final coffee is very bitter, astringent, and strong, it could be that the grind of your coffee is too fine.

These granules have more surface area in contact with the water and are extracted quickly; by leaving them to rest for 4 minutes, we will over-extract them. If the coffee is over-extracted, we will obtain undesired flavors, in addition to the fact that more sediments will pass through the metallic mesh, and we will obtain more foam in the cup.

If we feel that the coffee does not taste like anything, it has no body; it is watery and perhaps a little bit sour; it could be that the grinding of your coffee is too coarse. The coffee pieces are larger, and the water does not penetrate during this time, which is why it is under-extracted.

The ideal grind is like breadcrumbs or coarse sand. The ideal is to have one’s grinder and try it until the right grind is found, obtaining a delicious coffee with many bright flavors, acidity, sweetness, and pronounced body.

Ideal grind size for a French Press
Ideal grind size for a French Press

What happens when the coffee goes straight to the bottom of the press?

On the other hand, if at the moment of placing the water with the coffee, we see that no crust is formed on the surface and that the coffee falls directly to the bottom of the press, it can be for two reasons:

  1. The grind of your coffee is too coarse.
  2. Your coffee has become too degassed, i.e. it is no longer fresh. This can happen because of poor coffee storage.

Why is there a lot of coffee sediment at the end of the cup?

Even with this cupping technique, much coffee sediment can still seep out. This can be mainly for these three reasons:

  1. The material of the press and the wire mesh. As we already said, in the economic presses, generally, the mesh can be bent a little, allowing more sediment to pass through than we want.
  2. The grinding is too fine. This causes more fine particles per se, so they can pass more easily through the holes of these metal meshes.
  3. The quality of the grinder you have. Especially the cheaper coffee grinders, such as the blade grinders, produce a lot of sediment added to the grind you are looking for. The better the quality of the grinder, the better and more even the grind will be. So less of these fine particles will be produced.

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