The french press is one of the simplest coffee brewers out there. It’s quick, it’s straightforward, it’s consistent, and it’s delicious. However, the simplicity of the brewer often overshadows some incredible uses that don’t involve hot coffee, as well as common brewing mistakes.
Even if you’ve been brewing french press coffee for years, it’s likely you haven’t completely perfected your process or realized the full potential of your coffee maker. I want to empower you to brew the best coffee you can, so let’s see if there’s anything you’ve missed.
Let’s dive into a few common flaws, a couple helpful tips, and some alternate uses so you can get the most out of your beloved french press.
Get Your Basics Covered
For this article, I’m going to assume you already understand the basic coffee brewing principles and how they apply to your french press.
You know, things like coffee to water ratios, freshly grinding coffee, and, of course, how to use your french press. Brushing up on these fundamentals from time to time is a great way to keep your coffee tasting delicious.
Now, onto even better french press coffee!
1. Skimming The Surface Can Reduce Sediment In Your Mug
Not really fond of the muddy sediment that often finds its way into your mug from the french press? Here’s an easy trick to reduce the amount of sediment. Using a paper or cloth filter is the only way to remove 100% of it, but this helps quite a bit.
When you’re about 15 seconds away from a finished brew, grab two spoons - preferably not metal if your press is made of glass. Take the spoons and slowly skim the surface of the brewed coffee to collect and dispose of the floating grounds.
You don’t want to take more than 15-30 seconds for this trick, since those grounds that have sunk to the bottom of the press will still be releasing flavors into the water and you don’t want them to over extract.
Though you can’t collect all the grounds this way, removing a decent portion of them by skimming helps reduce sediment when you finally pour the liquid coffee into your mug.
2. You’re Ready To Make Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brewing coffee brings out unique flavors that you can’t produce any other way. The resulting cold brew concentrate can be cut with water and ice to make refreshing iced coffee. It can also be used to make creative drinks, such as cold brew coffee mocktails.
If you already own a french press, you already own a cold brew coffee maker (and maybe the best cold brew coffee maker). With a few adjustments to your brewing technique, you’ll have rich cold brew coffee in just about twelve hours.
Yes, twelve hours.
Cold water takes a lot longer to pull out all the flavors we like in coffee beans than hot water, so you may have to plan ahead a bit to make cold brew.
Here’s how it works:
- Combine 100g of coarsely ground coffee and 700ml of cold water
- Start a timer for 12 hours, but return after 5 minutes for a quick stir
- When time’s up, plunge the filter and store the concentrate in the fridge
This concentrated is brewed at a 1:7 ratio (with 100g of coffee and 700ml of water). To turn it into iced coffee, cut it with an equal amount of cold water and top with ice. This brings it to a more normal concentration of 1:14 (normal hot coffee is brewed at a 1:15-17 ratio).
It’s easy, tasty, and refreshing.
Check out our complete Ultimate Guide To Cold Brew Coffee for more information on cold brewing with your french press.
3. Don’t Squeeze The Grounds
I’ve seen it over and over again.
The timer beeps. The barista reaches for the lid and plunger. He presses down carefully and begins to pour the coffee into a mug. It’s almost full, but he still presses the plunger into the squashed grounds even more to squeeze out every last drop possible.
Bad. So bad!
The good flavors (the bright acids, sweet sugars, aromatic oils, deep notes) extract during your normal french press routine. The point of the four minute brew is to stop the brewing before all the bitter tannins extract into your mug to create over extracted coffee.
That last squeeze doesn’t just you a few more drops of coffee. It literally forces a bunch of bitter tasting things out of the grounds and allows them to drain into your mug. Yes, it actually makes your coffee taste worse.
A heavy price to pay for a few extra drops.
4. Brewing Continues After The Plunge
Many coffee shops serve french press coffee still in the press. You pour some into a mug and have to leave the rest behind. When you pour the second mug, you find that it doesn’t taste as good as the first.
Plunging the filter, even though it separates the grounds from the liquid coffee, doesn’t actually stop the brewing. There’s still a small amount of water interacting with the grounds, which means those grounds are still releasing acids, oils, bitter tannins, and such.
By the end of a regular french press brewing process, all the good flavors are already in the liquid coffee. The only things left in the grounds are dull, bitter compounds that you don’t want.
When you leave some liquid coffee in the press after you plunge, you allow it to extract more, causing the coffee to become more and more bitter.
Instead, you should always pour out all of the coffee immediately when the brewing is complete.
5. French Presses Are Great For Tea Brewing
If the world of tea calls you to explore it, you can easily use your french press as your vehicle on the journey. Teapots typically use a metal strainer that essentially works the same way as the french press filter, so you’re ready to dive in.
Just make sure to clean your french press extremely well first. Those natural coffee oils can be a bit stubborn, and trust me, they don’t blend with the more subtle, sweet notes of tea. At all.
There’s always something new to learn about the french press. It’s a simple brewer, but it has so much to offer. Do you have any special tricks or ways you use your french press? We’d love to hear about them!
Though your french press is a tool for brewing incredible coffee, it’s not the source of rich, balanced flavors. Great coffee always starts with great coffee beans.
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