How to make French press coffee the très magnifique way.
Ah, the French press. The French press was my very first brewer back in college, and I have a soft spot for it. But this brew method goes way further back than my school days. The French press was patented by a Milanese designer named Attilio Calimani in 1929. In 1958, it was refined by a Swiss man named Faliero Bondanini, who manufactured his design in an old French clarinet factory under the brand name Melior. Still, the French don’t even call it a French press — to them, it’s a cafetière! Around the world it’s known as a cafe press, plunger, or press pot, but the tenants of brewing remain the same.
Most of the questions I receive ask me to compare French pressed coffee to other brew methods, so let’s see how our trusty French press stacks up.
French Press vs Drip
French press is one of the easiest brew methods to make: grind coffee, pour water, wait four minutes, plunge, and serve. Voilà! But drip coffee is even easier: grind coffee, add to basket, flip a switch, you’re done!
Both brew methods have the ability to make a lot of coffee at a time, so both are good for parties, or mornings when you need a little extra help getting out the door.
However, if you like your coffee a bit thicker, with a bigger body, French press is the brew method for you. Because French press is an immersion method, it allows for a lot more silt in the brew and a stronger tasting cup.
French Press vs Pour Over
French press is an immersion brew method, which means that all of the water that ends up as coffee stays in contact with the grounds for the entirety of the brewing time. Pour overs have “pulses” of water that each extract different elements of the coffee.
Pour overs can be much more customizable because of this, but it can end up being really tricky, and much more experimental. So, if that’s how you approach coffee, then pour over is the one for you!
French Press vs Chemex
You’d be hard pressed (pun intended) to find a coffee drinker who loves French press and Chemex equally.
Chemexes create very clean, clear coffee. When I ran QC at a roastery, I used a Chemex when I was trying to taste whether or not a roast profile worked best for a certain type of coffee. I was able to taste nuance of the green coffee and if the roast was well executed. Chemexes are great for clean-tasting coffees with light and clear bodies.
It’d be pretty impossible to do the same with a French press, which is known for a thick, silty brew with strong, intense flavors. This isn’t to say one is better than the other, but the two yield entirely different results.
French Press vs AeroPress
These brew methods, while very different in size, are probably the two closest on this list. Both are full immersion brew methods that create powerful coffee. An AeroPress is a smaller, plastic chamber that uses a plastic gasket to create pressure when you plunge the water through the coffee. It yields a smaller, more intense coffee than the French press and its paper filter helps catch additional sediment, for a slightly cleaner cup.
A French press definitely makes more coffee than an Aeropress, but it generally isn’t as good for camping and travel as its little plastic buddy. So, if you’re going for volume, go for a French press. If you’re looking for a brewed coffee that can resemble the intensity of espresso, I’d recommend the Aeropress.
I love French press coffees — there’s something nostalgic that brings me back to studying in college on crisp fall days. So I tend to go for more classic flavor profiles when I choose coffees for my French press.
To satiate my wanderlust, I tend to gravitate towards the Comforting & Rich Taste Type.
Irving Farm Blackstrap ($15)