French Press: Beginnings and Advancment

French Press? I talk a lot about it and I even have a link up to “Coffee Kid” where Mark Prince talks about his discovery and progression of the world of specialty coffee. Mark has a lot to say about the subject and I highly recommend you read his “progression” because it seems to be almost a mirror image for everybody in the world of coffee. The names and places seems to be different, but the ones of us who have turned into true specialty coffee hounds, critics and passionate nuts seem to have relatively similar stories.

Those stories seem to quickly gravitate towards one method of coffee brewing above others: The French Press. Mr. Prince says in his disposition that “The Bodum press pot was my real introduction to quality coffee in my own country.” As it was my true introduction, as well. My mother-in-law purchased a Starbucks branded Bodum Press at her local $B and gave that to me for Christmas. As I sit here typing, it is four inches from my arm! As much as I love espresso and as well as my commercial two group Italian made Faema running off of 220v on my kitchen counter makes that espresso, I will always be forever indebted to and in love with my French Press. I have two different models and the second model is a Bodum “Young Press.” It is great for the truck as it has a neoprene and/or plastic cover that just works well for travel. I actually picked the Young Press up at my local Target (I haven’t ever seen Wal-Mart offering presses of any kind).

Finally, as my journey has continued, I find myself intrigued with tweaking my press experience. I currently grind with a KitchenAid Proline Grinder which was also at the suggestion by Mr. Prince. He swears by the grinder for anything excluding espresso grinding. It just won’t “put out” that fine quality without some severe modification (said that for you Tommy). Well, after almost two years with the grinder I too swear by the grinder. I can’t recommend it enough and at the price for a brand new one of $159.95 you can’t beat that with a stick. I paid $200 for a “reconditioned” unit.

While I have been well pleased by the performance of my KA PL grinder and my French Press I know this can get better. What I mean is I simply can’t just “leave well enough alone.” I am a natural tinkerer. One who looks at the Peterbilt and has to make it seem to “do this or do that.” Dropping this and exchanging out that! I modified my grinder to make an even better grind (again, thanks Tommy) by simply taking “plumber’s tape” and wrapping the burr carrier shaft a couple times. It really made a swell difference in the consistency of the grind.

But, finally, there has to be more done. Just as if when your grinding for espresso the grind must be “right” in order to make the right cup of espresso and finally the right latte or cappuccino. To “tight” and your going to be bitter and slow and and too loose and your going to be “sour” and fast. Well, with French Press, ANY DUMMY can make a decent to very good cup of coffee in four minutes flat! But, if you want to tweak it, you start thinking about the grind and how that effects the coffee. You start thinking about the amount of coffee in relation to the amount of water. Common sense tells you that too much coffee and the right amount of water makes bitter coffee. Too much water in the right amount of coffee makes watered down and bland coffee.

In steps Jim Hoffman to rectify this. Jim is the 2007 World Barista Champion (WBC). Jim is a fantastic teacher of how coffee should be prepared, no matter the application.

Here is my next step in my “coffee evolution.” I must get a gram scale to properly prepare whatever the method of brewing coffee. Whether we are discussing French Press, vacuum, or espresso or even old fashioned “drip” and the list goes forward. I think that is what I am going to ask for Christmas. Some fantastic tulip shaped 6 oz cappuccino cups and a good gram scale that will work with “tare” weights, as well.

In the mean time, enjoy this short video on Jim’s french press method. It is a learning experience. I mainly stick to Mr. Prince’s method: Boil your water and as soon as it is boiling pour it over the fresh (seconds old) grinds in the press. Let it steep for two minutes and stir. After two more minutes (4 minutes total) you push the shaft on the press and pour yourself a cup :). Real easy!

Videocast #2 – French Press Technique from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.


One response to “French Press: Beginnings and Advancment

  1. I’d also highly recommend a nylon filter that you insert into the bodum plunger to create a 4-part filter. This this has seriously improved the tasted, and especially the mouthfeel of my coffee. I get a much creamier consistency and brighter more complex flavors and aromas.

    The reason is that it allows only the finest particles through. The leftover sludge at the bottom of the cups is much closer to what you’d get from a Clover than what you typically get from a French Press. It also, ultimately allows you to go with a finer grind getting that much more of a range of possibilities to play with.

    I picked up mine for $7 or so at Sweet Marias, but I imagine you could probably find them elsewhere around the wide world of the internets.

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