The French Press

The first time I ever laid eyes on a glorious French press coffeemaker was in England--of all places. We were having breakfast in a hotel in London, and I was eating a profoundly overcooked fried egg while staring bleakly at the dried-looking banger sitting next to it.

Worse, I was trying to figure out how I would survive an entire day of bad food and brown teeth on just a lousy cup of tea.

I was in that very state of unbridled optimism when someone put a glass carafe next to me with a kind of a plunger thing sticking out of it. I looked up from my shriveled banger and saw that it appeared to be filled with coffee!

I stared at it for a moment in a state of mild fear and suspicion. Somehow in my pre-caffeinated haze, I figured out that I needed to push the plunger down.

I then poured myself a cup of coffee that was so good that for a very brief moment I forgot I was in England.

On my next birthday, my wonderful in-laws bought me one of my own that I now use all the time.

French press fans know that the paper filters used in automatic drip coffeemakers will strip out many of the oils and other flavor enhancers in coffee. Coffee made in a French press leaves 'em in. The result is a richer, stronger and slightly foamy coffee that is absolutely delicious.

Instead of spending a lot of time explaining how to use a French press, let me instead refer you to one of the best tutorials out there. Scroll to the bottom third of the page to see particularly clear photo instructions.

But let me emphasize three quick points:
1) It is critical that you use a very coarsely ground coffee with a French press. Fine grounds will slip through the wire or mesh filter. The result will be a coffee that I can only describe as “furry” tasting. And even with a coarse grind, you’ll always see some coffee sediment in the bottom of your cup. That's Laura’s favorite part by the way.

2) This is the type of French press we use* (see below for a graphical link to Amazon). It's more expensive (the best kind to receive as a gift...), and it has the distinct advantage of not being made of glass. Here is the more traditional style of French press* (again, see below for a graphical link).

3) I do not measure out the coffee. Ever. It doesn't matter whether I'm using a French press or whether I'm using our regular drip coffeemaker. I feel that coffee measured carefully indicates a life lived unspontaneously. So I just dump some in. And then dump some more in. And then dump a tiny bit more in just in case. We like our coffee strong around here.


* Please note: if you buy one of the items from Amazon using the links provided, I will receive a small affiliate fee.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right! Best form of coffee, the French press is.

When are you going to blog on the great health benefits ;-) of real beer? And when I say "real beer" I don't mean the big-name-brand-yellow-fizzy-water version of beer.

Anonymous said...

I hope you didn't just say that all the English have brown teeth...

Daniel said...

No, of course not ALL. Just a really high proportion of the people we happened to see that day. :)

I KNEW I was going to get called out on that!


Anonymous said...

So sorry you had to suffer through your time in the UK. The French press has been available in the states for over 25 years.

Anonymous said...


The French Press is a great way to make coffee - we use it often. So true that its far superior to the drip maker for strength and flavor.

The press still has a class problem, however. It's kind of like if the CK Master showed up in upstate New York driving a 911 Turbo. Wall Street guy, big bucks, wow, look at him... The Press has a similar stigmatic effect on friends and family. It is becoming more and more mainstream, but sometimes using it still feels like throwing a few french words around while at the corner pub with your hockey buddies. I love a Belgian Trappiste Ale, or a Franziskaner Heffe-Weissen. But sometimes you just gotta know when to go with the Genny Draft.

Not mention its French. You think you'll catch Senator Brownback drinking coffee from a French Press? No way. A Freedm Press, perhaps....

I thank CK and this blog for helping clear up the true, classless virtues of the much malinged and misunderstood French Press.

A quick plug for the old-fashioned percolator. I grew up to the sound of the percolator every morning in my home. My parents were devoted coffee enthusiasts even in the days of the coffee in the can (which contained coffee before it contained bacon grease) and always believed that the percolator was the best way to enjoy serious coffee. Well, as any child does I rejected their percolator and accused my parents of simply being Luddites. I coveted the auto-drip maker of my neighbors, with its silicon chips and LED display. Now at age 36 and a sunrise from 37, I find myself using the percolator more and more. consistent flavor; oils retained; stays hot so you don't have ever have put your coffee in the dreaded microwave. The percolator is worth a shot. And you avoid the "yuppie" looks.... That is, until you serve the croissants.

Jim Hohl said...

The first french press link is broken! I want to buy one and earn you your 4 cents, so fix it! :-)

Daniel said...

Hi Jim, thanks for letting me know... I fixed the link and it should be working now.


Stuart Carter said...

See the ever reliable cracked for "the 5 national stereotypes that are statistically bulls**t":

Owlhaven said...

Ha, you measure coffee like I do. We like ours strong too. Did you have trouble finding good coffee in Chile?