Many coffee connoisseurs believe that French press coffee is the best way to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee. While the right blend or single origin roast is of utmost importance, there are several other factors that will affect the overall taste of coffee that is made using a French press, or push pot, as it is sometimes called.
There are two ingredients involved in making French press coffee: water and coffee grounds. The entire point of drinking coffee using a push pot is to get coffee in its purest form, so make sure those two ingredients are high quality.
Select high quality beans. It is important to select coffee blends that are made of the highest quality beans and have been expertly roasted. The best way to find great coffee beans is through one of your local coffee shops. Frequently, they buy their beans locally or roast their own beans.
Use fresh coffee beans. It is critical to use beans between three to ten days old. Beans less than three days old have a ton of CO2 and they produce an effect called “bloom” on top of the coffee being brewed. A bloom is a layer of foamy, brown suds that form as a result of that CO2 trying to escape the water and coffee. After three days, the CO2 has dissipated enough that the risk of a bloom forming is much lower. After ten days, the coffee beans are no longer considered fresh and should not be used, especially in French press coffee.
Use bottled or filtered water. Water, the other ingredient, is of equal importance. If the water you use to brew your push pot coffee is at all hard or has a lot of chlorine or other mineral build-ups in it, the coffee will end up tasting acrid. If at all possible, it is best to use bottle water or water from a water cooler. This water will produce the purest flavor when combined with the coffee. If you prefer to take a greener route, attach a filter to your water faucet or fill a pitcher with a filter attached. The more chemicals and minerals you can get out of the water, the better.
Make sure your grinder is set to the thickest grind when using a French press.
If you get your beans ground at the coffee shop, make certain the barista knows you will be using the grounds in a French press. Grounds used in a French press are much more coarse than standard coffee grounds.
If you will be using your own grinder to make the grounds for your French press coffee, a good grinder makes all the difference in the world. If you use a blade grinder, you will end up with grounds that are uneven and have finer particles that will not be trapped by the filter. These fine grounds will wind up in the coffee brew and ruin the overall taste of the coffee by making it gritty.
Using a conical burr grinder will ensure that you can get a coarse, consistent grind for your coffee beans. Even then, it is important not to skimp on your grinder if you are serious about getting the best possible French press coffee. Test out the grinder before you invest in it and make sure the grounds come out even.
Because most French presses consist largely of glass, it is a good idea to pour some warm water in the press before you shock it with near-boiling water. Putting warm water in the pot raises the temperature of the glass and lowers the risk of the glass cracking. If you like, you can also preheat the cup with warm water so that your cup of coffee will not cool immediately when it comes in contact with the cool ceramic material.
You should use about one heaping tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee for every one cup of hot water. This measurement is not set in stone and can be tinkered with slightly if you want even stronger coffee.
Scoop the coffee grounds into the press pot first. Then add water that was boiling. You want to let boiling water sit for a few minutes so that it can get to the idea temperatures between 195° and 205°F. Some water coolers have a hot water dispenser. This is the right temperature to use for the coffee, so you can use hot water from the cooler if you are using a French press in a breakroom with a water cooler.
When you begin pouring the water into the press, pour just enough to cover the grounds initially. This will saturate the coffee and allow it to expand properly before the rest of the water is added.
Add the water until the pot is about two-thirds of the way full and begin to stir the grounds and water together. This will aid in the extraction process and result in more flavorful coffee.
This step involves waiting and counting. Place the lid on top of the French press and start timing how long the coffee steeps. Typically the optimum amount of time to steep coffee in a standard press pot is about three minutes. For smaller pots, two minutes is best and for larger pots, wait around four minutes. The longer you let the coffee steep the stronger it will be.
After the coffee has steeped for the appropriate amount of time, press down on the plunger to begin to filter the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee. Press down steadily, since pushing unevenly could result in hot coffee sloshing everywhere.
Once the plunger has reached the bottom of the pot, the coffee is ready to be served. Traditionally, French press coffee is drunk black to best taste all of the flavors and natural oils in the coffee. Sugar and cream mask those flavors. The remaining coffee left in the pot is only good for about twenty minutes so either share your coffee with a friend or discard the remaining brew.
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