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History of the French Press

One of the more common ways to spruce up your morning cup at home, this means of brewing goes by several names - the plunger, cafetière, press pot, plunger pot and of course, French Press. But why do we like it? Perhaps because it brings a feeling of café life into your home or that fact that it makes a rich, full-bodied brew. In fact, it's so common that one would perhaps not recognise it as a specialty coffee brewer. However, let's have a look at the history of this famous brewing method, and maybe we might look at it in a different light.

A (very) Brief History Of The Cafetière

It's generally accepted that the first rough design was done in France circa 1852. This design was however, without a seal inside the carafe. This design was later refined and patented in Italy between 1929 and 1933. Finally, the design we all know and love - glass vessel, round handle, steel lid - was perfected by a Swiss gentleman in 1958. And this classic design of heat-resistant glass, bakelite plastic handle and chrome finishing then spread like wild fire into the mainstream coffee world. Nowadays several variations of the French Press can be found; ceramic and steel beakers - but the main design has always endured.

But enough about history for now. Let's get into the nuts and bolts of classic brewing method!

How To Brew With The French Press

The French Press is a full-immersion brewing device and it brews full-bodied coffee with more oils and texture in the end product. The brewer (that's you) has more control over the water temperature, grind size and brewing time, which means subtle changes in each brew depending on the factors mentioned.

A general guide is to have 60g coffee to every 900ml of water, the water temperature being between 90-94C. For a small French Press, use 30g coffee for every 500ml water.

If you're really after a more scientific recipe, then here we go:

  • Grind size - medium-coarse, slightly bigger than sand granules

  • A 1:15 coffee ratio - 15g coffee for every 225g water

  • Water temperature between 90C and 94C

  • Brewing time - 4 minutes

  • Play around with the above guidelines to find your favourite brewing recipe

The brewing process

  • Pour the freshly ground coffee into the beaker

  • Slowly add the water, making sure all the grounds are saturated

  • Wait for 4 minutes

  • Stir the crust and scoop off the remaining grounds on the surface and discard

  • Wait 5 more minutes (don't worry, the coffee is still piping hot)

  • Gently plunge. Do not plunge aggressively as you'll stir the sediments and end up with ground between your teeth!

  • Pour

  • Enjoy a rich, delicious cup of your favourite brew!

French Press FAQ

  • Why is it so hard to press down the filter? Your grind profile is too fine. Try grinding slightly coarser granules. Conversely, if the filter just slides down with hardly any resistance, then your grind profile is too coarse and the taste will be different from the one desired.

  • I want more caffeine in my coffee Keep it in the French Press for longer. The longer you keep the coffee to brew, the more bitter and extracted the coffee will taste.

  • Is cleaning important? Cleaning the French press is of utmost importance, in order to get rid of all the used coffee grounds. Old coffee grounds can adversely affect the taste of your brew, so do make sure you clean out the old coffee grounds.

No, this not a French Press, but a French bulldog. Cute though!

So now you have a better idea of where the French Press came from and how to get the best coffee out of this under-appreciated little kitchen utensil. Remember to play around with the recipe until you find that brew that makes you smile!

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