I am a self confessed coffee snob and when it comes to drinking coffee at home, I like a strong full flavoured coffee. I must admit sometimes I have to settle for an instant coffee when running late or rushing out of the door. However when time allows, I take the Cafetière / French press and grinder out of the cupboard. When I first purchased my French press I was disappointed with the results, the coffee was bitter and somewhat lack lustre. Friends of mine made the most delicious French press coffee and I was very envious, so I set about testing and trying different methods to create the perfect balanced coffee. You will find below my methodology and also what can go wrong and how to avoid it.
What is French press coffee like to drink?
A French press also known as a Cafetière makes a dense and heavy coffee with wonderful aromas.
In order to make the perfect French press coffee you are going to need a few basic bits of equipment and some ingredients.
- French Press / Cafetière
- Stove Top kettle or Electric Kettle
- Burr Grinder
- Long Spoon
- Thermometer (optional)
When it comes to coffee beans I would recommend you try a few different varieties and its always worth spending a little extra on good quality beans.
- Coffee beans
- Cream (optional)
- Sugar (optional)
Preparation Time: 4 Minutes
- Put the kettle on: You can grind the beans while waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Measure out the coffee beans: ½ a cup is good for 32 ounce / 900ml
- Grind The Beans: Although a simple process this is probably the most important step. If you have a burr grinder then set this to the coarsest setting. If you do not have a burr grinder you can use a blade grinder – however you need to ensure the grind is coarse so use short sharp pulses stopping often to shake the grinder ensuring you hold the lid on tight. The grounds should be rough and coarse. If you have fine powder you have gone too far and the coffee will not be suitable for a French Press. The ideal size would be similar to bread crumbs.
- Heat your French Press: When your kettle comes to the boil pour into your French press swirl it around and pour out.
- Add the beans to the French press.
- Water temperature: Leave you kettle and water to rest for 1 minute. The ideal temperature for coffee is 195F / 90C– boiling temperature 212F / 100C– if you really want to ensure you have the right temperature you can use a thermometer to check.
- Add water to your French press: Simply pour some of the water into your French press to cover the grounds
- Stir: Using a long spoon give the mix a really good stir, round and round and up and down.
- Wait: After you have given the mix a good stir let it rest for about 30 seconds to bloom.
- Fill you French coffee press: Add the remaining water and fill to the line.
- Put the top on: You can now get the lid of your French press, pull the handle up through the lid until the filter is under the lid and put on to the French press.
- Wait 4 minutes: Do not plunge your coffee yet! For a good strong brew you need to wait a good 4 minutes – set your timer! – You might find you want to tweak this time depending on your own personal taste or the type of beans you use.
- Plunge: Now you can press the plunger do this in a firm steady motion all the way to the bottom.
- Pour: Immediately poor into your cups. Any coffee remaining you need to pour out into a carafe. If you leave the coffee in the French press it will spoil and go bitter.
How much coffee and water do you need?
The answer to this depends on how much coffee you want to make! Or more importantly the size of your French press. The French press is designed to be filled with the correct amounts of coffee and water. You would be wrong to think that if you only want to make half the amount of coffee, you could just use half the amount of beans and water. If you did this you would find you have made a very bitter brew. The reason for this is that the plunger is designed to compress all the coffee at the bottom of the pot. If you only have half the amount of coffee the grinds the coffee would not compress, you would end up with grinds in your coffee and these would over extract and make your coffee bitter.
- 1 serving — 200ml water – 12g coarse ground coffee beans
- 2 servings — 400ml water 25g coarse ground coffee beans
- 4 servings — 800ml water 50g coarse ground coffee beans
- servings — 1l 60g coarse ground coffee beans.
Now of course this is just a basic guide there is a multitude of tweaks depending on the coffee beans you use, the hardness of your water etc and some may argue that you should weigh the beans in order to get a consistent taste. However I wanted to give a general guide to help you.
What went wrong?
So you have gone through the steps above and you have a bitter brew?
There are a few things that can go wrong when using a French press.
- Water temperature: Boiling water will scorch your grounds and warm water will not extract the coffee fully water should be 195F / 90C
- Over ground beans: If you over grind the beans you will end up with a muddy bitter drink that will only be fit for pouring down the sink.
- Old coffee grinds: The coffee needs to be freshly ground use a good quality coffee.
- Dirty French press: You must ensure that there are no used coffee grounds left in the filter see below for cleaning procedure.
Cleaning your French press
As with all brewing it is really important for your equipment to be clean if there re and coffee grounds left in the filter these can be over extracted and cause a bitter taste.
Most French coffee presses come completely apart in order for you to clean them properly.
What are the alternatives?
- Drip coffee Maker
- Instant Coffee
- Coffee Shop