The Best Way to Make Coffee in a French Press or Cafetiere
The French Press, also known as a Cafetiere, Coffee Press, Coffee Plunger etc is a very popular way to make coffee, both at home and in restaurants and cafes. Trouble is, most people use it incorrectly, and not just the amateurs: the last pack of ground coffee I bought had the standard, but unsatisfactory, method printed on the side.
Real Coffee versus Instant Coffee
I, too, used to get it wrong. I love “real” coffee, and any freshly made coffee is vastly superior to instant (which, in my view, is not really coffee at all). Not having the space or the disposable income for one of the fancy professional espresso machines, my favourite ways of making coffee were in a stove-top moka machine, or in a filter. My Cafetiere came a distant third, yet got a fair amount of use because it’s quick, convenient, and pretty easy to clean. Despite its advantages, I was always vaguely disappointed with the result; it was somehow missing the fresh, clean bite of good coffee. Although the press kept almost all the grounds from my cup, the coffee still tasted a little flat and muddy.
Around a year ago, I was doing a little research into coffee, with a vague plan to blog about it, when I came across a method of using a coffee press that was just a little different to the usual. Intrigued, I tried it, and Voila! Pretty good coffee.
So you ask – what’s the secret? Surely, you boil water, put some scoops of ground coffee in the press, pour the water, let it brew, plunge the filter, pour the coffee. Apart from variables such as the blend and grind of the coffee (which, after all, is down to personal preference) what is there to change?
The Secret of Making the Best Coffee in a French Press or Cafetiere
The simple answer is that you don’t brew the coffee. Pour on boiling water, and plunge immediately. Why? Because unlike tea, coffee doesn’t need to brew – it releases its flavours and aromatic oils as soon as the boiling water hits it. Let it hang around, and secondary, less desirable flavour develop – that slightly flat, muddy taste I was talking about earlier. This is why the very best coffee is made in those “out of reach for the home budget” professional espresso machines – they pump steamingly hot water at high pressure right through the grounds, taking all the good stuff with them, and none of the bad. The home versions usually can’t cut it, being unable to develop enough pressure, hence my use of the moka, filter or French Press.
So now you know not to let it brew, you’re hopefully off to try the method and see what you think. First, here’s some more tips for getting the best out of your Cafetiere/French Press/Coffee Plunger.
Coffee-Making Tips for French Press or Cafetiere
- Empty the kettle of all dregs, fill with the required amount of freshly drawn water, put on to boil – this ensures that the water is oxygenated, and gives the best result.
- Meanwhile, make sure the French Press is scrupulously clean, then rinse it with hot water (from the tap, or half-boiled kettle) just in the way you’d “warm the pot” for making tea.
- Measure in your coffee – everyone’s taste is different, but for the record I use three heaped dessertspoons of medium fine ground Italian blend, for enough coffee to fill a typical mug.
- At the instant the water boils (keeping the oxygen), pour it into the Cafetiere/French Press, swirl the jug so the coffee grounds are well-distributed, then plunge immediately, and pour into your cup or mug right away. If the plunger "sticks" on the way down, don't force it, or you will most likely get boiling coffee up your arm! Instead, just withdraw the plunger a little way, then continue to plunge.
Try it, and see what you think. I am convinced that the above “no brew” method produces better coffee – and, hey, it’s as quick as using instant “coffee” (which is really coffee at all, remember?).