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French Press – The History & Brewing Guide

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You might know it as a cafetiére, plunger or French press, but the truth is that there have been several patents with different names and from different origins for this popular brewing device. A history lesson is in order to help understand all the bickering behind the origin of this device.

The very first French press. Mayer and Delforge 1852

The history of the cafetiere. The very first French press. Mayer and Delforge 1852. Credit: beandelivered.com

The History of the French Press

The first design for this style of brewer was patented in 1852 by the Frenchmen Mayer and Delforge. It did not create a seal inside the carafe so it was essentially not like the one you know today. The first patent of a French press that resembles what we use today was patented by the Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929.

What is arguably the most popular design was patented by the Swiss man Faliero Bondanini in 1958 and this brewer was known in France, where it was manufactured, as a ‘Chambord’. The popularity of the Chambord in France is what also gave the cafetiére its French identity. Bondanini later marketed the Chambord as ‘La Cafetiére Classic’ to the UK market. The well-known Danish company Bodum later became a distributor of the Chambord in Denmark and eventually bought the rights to the Chambord name and factory. The ‘La Cafetiére’ trademark remained in the hands of the original owners. Recent legal disputes have seen Bodum and ‘La Cafetiére’ battle it out for control of markets outside of Europe and concerns over patent designs.

So is it essentially Italian or French? I will leave that up to you to decide, but I will call it a French Press.

Deciding on the origin of this brewer is complicated, but the cafetiére is one of the simplest methods to prepare coffee and it yields an excellent cup if you get it right.

A bodum french press, cafetiere, plunger.

Bodum has tried to register “French Press” as a trademark in several territories, but failed in the U.S, and had the trademark removed in Canada in December 2012. Credit: @britney_ry

What to Expect from a French Press

The french press is a full immersion brewing device with a metal mesh filter. This guarantees one thing in particular, a viscous brew with a fuller body and increased texture due to more oils remaining in the final brew and also fewer coffee particles. I will give a fair warning for those that do not like coffee grit or a sandy mouth feel, the cafetiére is most likely not for you. The ability to control all the variables in a cafetiére such as water temperature, grind and brew time allows for refinement of brewing methods according to personal preference. Most importantly if you brew correctly you can expect to enjoy the more nuanced aroma and flavours of each coffee you brew.

brewing a french press

Mouth feel can be sandy and gritty. Credit: @katerina_obrazova

How to Brew French Press Like a Pro

There are some important variables that you want to take into consideration before you brew.

1:  Grind size

Before I go any further it is crucial that you grind your coffee with a quality burr grinder and not a blade or a blunt instrument. This brew method is highly vulnerable to over-extraction. So what’s the correct grind size? It should be quite coarse, think granules rather than sand. If the grind is too fine, the water will extract the coffee too quickly. This is not a problem with some other full immersion brewers, but the cafetiéres metal mesh filter lets coffee fines through therefore your brew will have too much grit in the cup

2. Coffee dose/brew ratio

Brew ratio is a simple formula, the grams of water divided by the grams of coffee you are going to use. A common ratio is 1:15, i.e. 15 grams of ground coffee per every 225 grams of water. Start with this ratio and then adjust by adding more coffee or using less water until you find the perfect match for your palate.

3. Water temperature

Water temperature is another variable that can be experimented with according to taste, but to begin with allow the water to rest for 45 seconds after boiling to reach an approximate brew temperature of 90 degrees Celsius (195f). A variable temperature gooseneck kettle is a good investment if you wish to control this more accurately

4.Brew time

The brewing time ranges from 3 to 5 minutes. For a darker roast, 5 minutes may be too much time; for a light roast, 3 minutes could be too short. A 4 minute brew time is a safe starting point.

5. Brew Process

Add your ground coffee into the preheated carafe. Next, add the water slowly and ensure that you saturate all of the grounds. Add double the grams of water as there is coffee for the bloom or preinfusion (e.g. 15 grams of coffee, add 30 grams of water).

Stir gently after 30 seconds, add the rest of the water and position to plunger in the carafe but do not plunge yet! Let it steep for 4 minutes then plunge with a delicate and slow motion right down to the bottom. Pour your brew into the cup carefully to not agitate the coffee resting at the bottom.

Serve it and DONE!

Pour and enjoying a french press.

Pour and enjoy. Photo: @kedai_rosetta

French Press Brewing Tips

– If it’s hard to press the filter down this means the grind is too fine; if it sinks and there is minimal resistance then it’s too coarse.

– Serve it immediately after brewing because it will continue extracting adding bitter flavors to your coffee. Pour it into another server if you aren’t going to drink it all at once.

– Make sure you clean your cafetiére thoroughly and often because old coffee grounds stuck in the filters will have no mercy on your fresh coffee. Most filters can be disassembled for cleaning.

– If the result doesn’t please you, play with all the variables! Making coffee should be fun and experimental. The best cup of coffee is the one you like; I encourage you to find it.

Purchase a French Press on Amazon here.

Plunging the french press.

Push it real good. Photo:@kristianthompson_

Article written by F. Solano and edited by A. Guerra.

Perfect Daily Grind.

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