The “French press” is certainly having its moment. I’d even be willing to wager that several of you have one in your kitchen. Being a huge coffee
addict aficionado, I have several coffee making devices in my kitchen, but the French press is the one I use the most. It’s a quick, simple way to make a robust cup of coffee. And I love that I can take it with me on camping trips. Nature is always more enjoyable after you’ve had that morning cup.
19th Century Origins
While this method of brewing coffee has become really popular in recent years, it’s been around in some form since the 1850s. That’s when Henri-Otto Mayer and Jacques-Victor Delforge (a metalsmith and merchant, respectively) patented a device for “the filtering of coffee by means of a piston.” This device very closely resembled our modern French press, though it didn’t have a seal around the filter. As anyone who has enjoyed a latte or cappuccino knows, Italy has a way with coffee, and it took a Milanese design firm to introduce the all-important seal, in the 1920s..
After this development, the French press gained popularity in Europe, though it was still a novelty here in the U.S., where instant coffee reigned supreme. It certainly reigned supreme in my house, by the way. I brewed my first cup of Folgers at age 8, while my parents were sleeping (#wildchild). And if I hadn’t been bouncing off the walls with caffeine, I might have gotten away with it. But enough confession time…my tastes changed and so did America’s. Flash forward to the early 90s, when an artisanal coffee revolution was *ahem* brewing. In ‘93, famed New York Times food critic Florence Fabricant touted the “French press method.” suddenly this decades-old device was tres chic.
French Press Tips
As I mentioned, one of the biggest advantages of the French press is its simplicity. You certainly don’t have to be a trained barista to operate one. That said, there are some tips that can help you get the most out of your French press. For one, be sure to clean your French press after every use. You don’t want the dregs from the last batch ruining your next cup of coffee. I also recommend using quality water–it is an important ingredient in your coffee after all. And it might sound counterintuitive, but you should avoid distilled or completely filtered water, as you want some minerals in there to bring out the taste of the coffee.
Speaking of water, make sure you are using the right water-to-coffee ratio to get the flavor just right: 15 parts water to 1 part coffee works best. You might want to invest in a good scale at first, until you can get a better feel for the proportions. Finally, water temperature should be just below boiling–around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (or 93 Celsius, for my international readers). Follow these tips and you’ll be a French press master in no time.
Which Do You Prefer?
As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat (btw, can we all agree that’s a super creepy phrase?), and there is certainly more than one way to make a great cup of coffee. What’s your preferred method? Are you a French press person? Or do you rock the drip-over method? Perhaps you swear by your Keurig, as many of my fellow coffee-lovers do. I would love to know how you get your cup of joe.
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