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How Does a French Press Coffee Maker Work?

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French press coffee makers are regarded by some as the best coffee brewing methods in the world, and for good reason. French press coffee makers are unique in that they allow you to control every ingredient manually. You are able to choose how many coffee beans to use, the water temperature, and even the brewing period.

If you have used automatic coffee makers exclusively, French press coffee makers can seem quite perplexing. Here’s the answer to “how does a French press coffee maker work?”

What Exactly Is A French Press?

A French press, otherwise known as a cafetiere, à piston, or coffee plunger, is a device used to brew coffee. It was invented by Paolini Ugo and was patented by a designer from Italy by the name of Attilio Calimani, as well as by Giulio Moneta, in 1929.

You might be wondering why the device is not called an Italian press rather than a French press. As a matter of fact, Attilio Calimani basically stole the design, which had been around for a minimum of 80 years, because a French merchant and metalworker had filed a patent design for the exact same device in 1852.

Well, it probably seems quite strange that using a French press only caught on a century later, but what is even stranger is how popular the device is today. We are currently living in an age of smart coffee making stations that are able to be controlled with the push of a button, or an app on our phones.

So why are people still choosing to use a coffee machine that needs to be operated by hand? That is precisely the point. French press coffee makers offer a sort of novelty that is hard to come by these days.

There is nothing technologically impressive about the classic French press, especially when compared to pretty much everything else in today’s tech-focused, ever-evolving world. There really is something that is rather refined and rustic about an utterly inefficient and completely manual process.

It could also be that French presses make some of the best coffee out there if used correctly.

How Do They Work?

The mechanism that operates French press coffee makers is based on a piston-like principle. To put it simply, coffee that has been ground is strained through boiling or hot water. Then, the coffee grounds move to the bottom of the coffee maker’s container or ‘pot.’ The finished product is an oily and thick full brew.

Making Coffee Using A French Press

As with any regular cup of coffee, you will need three key ingredients: coffee beans, water, and the press itself. You can also add sugar if you would like, but doing so is not necessary.

To get the purest coffee experience, do not add sugar. You can use a regular kettle or a stove as your heat source, and there are no specific requirements for that.

Step One

Add a suitable amount of water to your kettle or pot. Experts recommend that, for the best flavor and richness, one should use about 8 ounces of water for every 2 tablespoons of coffee used.

Next, heat the water using a kettle or upon a stovetop. This is obviously an essential step, as if the water is not heated correctly, the final product will not be nearly as enjoyable.

The optimal brewing temperature is somewhere between 190°F and 205°F. To be absolutely sure, you could always use a regular thermometer, or a variable temperature kettle if you have one available.

Step Two

Place some freshly ground coffee beans into your French press. You can decide how many to use. Stir them for a few seconds to ensure that all the coffee grounds have been completely dissolved in hot water.

Next, remove the plunger and place it inside of the carafe, then place the lid onto the coffee maker. This will make sure that no heat escapes the French press.

Step Three

Let the coffee grinds and hot water to sit as they are for about 5 or 6 minutes. Then gently press the plunger, so that the coffee grinds become trapped in the stainless steel mesh filter located at the bottom of the plunger.

Keep the plunger like this for approximately 20 seconds before removing it from the French press. All that’s left to do is to pour the freshly brewed coffee into a mug and add cream and sugar to taste.

Which Coffee Should You Use In Your French Press?

There is no best coffee to use with a French press. It all comes down to taste and preference. The thing that matters most is not variety, but grind type.

A French press coffee maker is best used with a coarse grind, because they won’t slip through the filter and end up in your mug, and because the larger beans are permeated better in hot water.

Large grinds absorb far more water than what finer grinds do and release much more flavor without causing over-extraction. This leaves a full-flavored brew that is not astringent or acidic in taste.

Final Thoughts

There is a kind of novelty that comes with using a French press coffee maker that can not be achieved with today’s modern ‘smart’ coffee machines, which is why they have remained so popular. Hopefully, this guide has illuminated some things about French presses that you may not have known.

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