(Bonus!) French Press Techniques

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Your French Press cup tastes super, but you’re seeking superb. You’ve mastered the basics mentioned in our initial French Press Brew Guide, and you’re ready to take your average coffee knowledge to a new level of nerdiness. Introducing: the bonus rounds of French Press brewing.

The following suggestions are optional, of course, but may aid in turning your cup of specialty coffee into an extra special experience. Both techniques aim to control a variable of brewing that can easily go astray. As the professionals say (okay, as our professionals say. This one is from Fonté roaster, Michael), “Brewing coffee is easy. But brewing coffee can also be quite unforgiving.” Meaning, when you get it right, it’s simply delicious. But if one variable is off, it can be disastrous. The following techniques can help accomplish the aspired flawless cup.

Choose to master one technique at a time, or take the full “plunge.”

WATER BATH
Process: Brew your French Press in a bucket of brewing-temperature water.
Goal: To maintain a constant temperature throughout the extraction process
What you'll need: A container with similar depth of your carafe; more water at brewing temperature (200-205 F).

This is good to try after you’ve become accustomed to pre-heading a French Press carafe. As with all methods of brewing coffee, an even extraction is optimal. Of the variables that determine the quality of extraction, there is contact time, coffee to water ratio, grind, and—you guessed it—the temperature of water. Heat excels chemical reactions; one of the downsides of a French press is the very thin glass beaker that conducts heat “like a son of a bitch” (says Fonté Master Roaster, Steve Smith). Meaning, by the end of your steep session, water temperature is considerably different than the initial pour. The water bath is an attempt to maintain a constant temperature throughout the extraction process.

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SCREENING
Process: Pour brewed coffee through the screen as opposed to plunging.
Goal: To eliminate superfine particles from entering the pour for a more uniform cup.
What you’ll need: Nothing extra (just steady hands and patience).

A perfect grind is elusive; a slight variance of particle size is common in all brew methods. As a result, smaller particles have the potential to over extract, while larger particles have the potential to under extract. Screening coffee upon brew completion, as opposed to plunging it, is an attempt to prevent those fine, over extracted particles from entering your cup of French press coffee. The result is often a sweeter cup, particularly in the finish. “Plunging causes turbulence that makes the fines float up into the beverage. If you pour after plunging, you have a bunch of suspended fines that were small enough to pass through the filter and are over extracted bits of coffee,” says Smith. If you can figure out a way to get the beverage out of the carafe without creating that turbulence, then you won’t get those fines or a bitter finish.

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There's several other French Press techniques, but in our opinion, these are two that can enhance your cup while still preserving the main attributes a French Press delivers. Stay tuned for brew guides and techniques for other methods in the future.

Happy brewing! Oh, and remember to use fantastic coffee in your fancy French press (we've got you covered).

P.S. We're running an amazing special through January 2017—purchase a French Press and receive a free bag of our First Avenue Blend! Use code FRENCHPRESS at checkout.

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