If you want to taste coffee in a whole new way, try making it with a French Press coffee pot. Most people are used to their coffee being brewed in an electric, drip coffee maker a la Mr. Coffee. This method has one flaw in the brewing process that takes away from the true essence of coffee: the paper filter. The paper retains some of the coffee essence, and deprives you of coffee’s true potential. Granted, we cannot simply dump ground coffee into a cup, pour in hot water and start drinking; the grounds must be separated from the liquid that is consumed. Coffee grounds are bitter, gritty, and stick to your teeth. The French Press method removes the grounds, but lets all of the flavor of the coffee come to life.
Although French Presses come in various shapes, sizes, materials and manufacturers, the Chambord model by Bodum is a good example of a ubiquitous style found throughout the industry . The handle attaches to the holder for the glass carafe. The carafe holds the coffee and hot water. The carafe looks like a beaker from a chemistry lab, with a spout for easy pouring. The “pressing” apparatus of the French Press sits atop the beaker. It consists of a dome which covers the coffee as it brews. The plunger is a skinny metal post with a plastic ball at the top that slides through a small hole in the middle of the dome. At the bottom of the post is the filter, a wire mesh disk.
A quick note about ingredients. A cup of coffee is made of coffee beans and water. Therefore, start with freshly roasted whole beans ground just before brewing. Whole beans maintain their freshness twice as long as ground coffee. The water is just as critical: make sure it is cold, fresh, and filtered.
Let’s assume a 12 oz. cup is being prepared. Using 1-1 ½ tablespoons of whole beans, set your grinder to coarse. This produces the largest grounds possible, and allows water to extract the maximum flavor from the coffee. It also reduces the amount of smaller grounds that will end up in the bottom of the cup.
Dump the ground coffee into the carafe. Before adding hot water, take a moment to inhale the aroma of the dry coffee. The aroma of freshly ground coffee will take you to a better place.
Next, heat your water (12 ounces). The optimal brewing temperature is 195-205 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, simply bring your water to a boil and wait thirty seconds.
Pour the water into the beaker and stir for a couple of seconds. This will agitate the mixture and allow the coffee to brew more completely. Place the plunger apparatus on the carafe, but do not depress. Set a timer for four minutes. This amount of time allows all of the flavor and oils to be extracted perfectly from the coffee.
At four minutes press down the plunger completely, then pour the freshly brewed coffee into your mug.
Look at the coffee before adding any condiments. The coffee will appear more complex (richer) than if it were brewed in a drip coffee maker. There will even be a thin layer of crema (light brown froth) resting on top of the liquid. Put your nose close to the cup and breathe in the aroma. The smell is stronger, more pure than if the coffee passed through a paper filter. Taste the coffee before adding sugar etc. When you reach the end of the cup you will notice some residue. These are simply micro-grounds that made it through the mesh filter.
You can purchase French Presses that double as travel mugs. There are also double-walled glass, and stainless steel thermal units as well. Some are beautifully crafted and look like museum pieces. The reason for this is that coffee made in this manner is the height of the coffee brewing experience. So, if you love coffee, you owe it to yourself to purchase a French Press and make the best-tasting coffee in the easiest possible way. Prices start at around 13 dollars for a two cup (12 oz.) unit.