Advise me about French Press coffee makers

I just started drinking coffee in a serious way last year, on the advice of my doctor (don’t ask). Now I am possessed by the zeal of the newly converted-- I LOVE COFFEE. Not just any coffee, though; I like the most flavorful, rich, delicious coffee possible (though I don’t like flavored coffees, just the straight-up beans).

I was told that the best way to have excellent coffee at home every time is to get a French Press. I know nothing about them, so can you guys fill me in? What is the best kind to get? How do you grind the coffee? Is there some special knowledge required? Do some coffees taste better than others in the FP? I also need to get a bean grinder, so advice about that would be welcome too.

Also, if you think that the FP is not the best way to make coffee, what is?


Don’t buy a coffee press where the plunger is a flat, plastic-edged disk. The plastic will shrink fairly quickly, and the grounds will end up in your cup. Make sure there is some sort of flexible seal at the edge – usually a tapered wire screen.

It is possible to make lousy coffee with a press. If you leave it standing too long, it will become bitter. Not “too strong.” Bitter. There’s crap continues to leech out of the coffee after the good stuff is all in solution. If you’re making more than one cup, don’t leave anything standing in the press. Pour it into a caraffe as soon as it’s as strong as you like it. Expect a bit of trial-and-error at first. An egg-timer will go a long way towards finding your ideal.

Personally, I find that the best-tasting cup of coffee comes from the drip method – although emphatically not from a “Mr. Coffee” type monstrosity. I’m talking about a single-cup funnel & filter deal. It doesn’t look anywhere near as civilized as a coffee press, and it’s a bit more labour-intensive, but I find this method makes the best coffee. All the tasty, oily goodness is up front, and the crud doesn’t have time to find its way in there.

As for beans, try to find a supplier of fair-trade, organically grown beans. Not for any political or superstitious reason, but because beans from these types of suppliers spend a lot less time in transit/storage before they find their way to you, and the difference in quality is striking. The coffee oil is visible on the surface of the beans, often in thick droplets. It’s very rare to find a mass-market bean that isn’t dry to the touch.

In my area, the best available beans are Cafe San Miguel, which you’ll find in fair-trade stores like Ten Thousand Villages. They have the advantage of being priced at about the same level as the crappy bulk-bin beans from your local supermarket, while being of the same quality as beans you’d pay between twice and three times as much for in specialty shops like Murchie’s.

LOVE the French press. We have two of them. The coffee is made instantly and with boiling water, so the flavor is intense. There are different sizes of presses, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the coffee becoming bitter. As stated before, you can always transfer it to a carafe, which is what we do for company.

Try Bodum for an inexpensive and well-made press. Bodum also makes a good blade grinder, although many will argue that a burr grinder is best. They may be right, but the cost goes up dramatically.

Try to buy the freshest beans you can find, preferably from a local roaster. I don’t recommend Starbucks, since they tend (IMO) to over-roast. You probably should start out with a nice mocha java roast rather than an espresso or other very dark roast. Darker doesn’t equal better, it just equals darker and more intense.

I like my French press, a Bodum with the spring around the edge and the wire mesh to provide a seal. I setill end up with residue in my coffee. I’m probably grinding the beans too fine.

French Press is awesome, but I dont have the time to screw around with it. And cleaning the press is DRUDGERY of the first order.

Always grind the beans as coarsely as possible. If you take them somewhere to be ground, ask for it to be ground “for French Press”, or if they don’t know what that means have it ground on the coarsest setting, which is usually a 9.

I got my mom a French Press for Christmas one year, despite her protests (“I don’t drink enough coffee!” Uh Mom, it’s a two-cup press …) and she absolutely loves it. Used it every morning up until a week ago, when it slipped out of her hands while she was washing it and the glass beaker shattered in the sink. :frowning:

I haven’t had much luck with French Presses. Too much residue in the coffee and inconsistent results if your timing isn’t just right.

I think the simple cone filter above the mug–drip method mentioned above works quite well.

But the best coffee is made using steam (IMO). This is essentially espresso, but is only as strong as regular coffee. If you are at a cafe, it is hard to get people to understand how to make this. Basically, all they have to do is make espresso, but run more steam through the grounds to make it the strength of regular coffee. Simple, but most baristas will want to make you an Americano instead. (They will make the espresso, then add pure hot water-- this is NOT the same thing!)

Anyway, at home you can make this by using an espresso maker and either use less ground beans, or use more water.

A good stand-alone espresso machine is pretty expensive so I just use a stove-top espresso maker ($15). It boils the water in the bottom compartment, then forces the steam up through the middle compartment that has the coffee in it, then collects in the top compartment as delicious coffee-strength or espresso-strength elixir!

I’ve been using Bodum for years. I love it for its simplicity of use and its efficiency. Cheap and quick way to get a great cup of coffee.

As far as coarseness is concerned, I usually grind the beads til they reach ‘medium’ consistency (not too coarse so that more of the flavour is released [at least, I think so…] and not so fine that residue wind up in your cup). I like my coffee very strong so I usually use about four and a half tablespoons per cup. There are a variety of grinders available and most do a decent job, I’d say (fairly inexpensive too). Mine is none too scientific: I normally grind beans by sound alone:D.

One final tip: use cold filtered or bottled water if you can, not tap water (it alters the taste).

I’m more confused than ever now! I have a decent enough drip machine with a gold filter, which I use in combination with a paper filter, with uneven results. Some days the coffee is great, some days not, even though I use the same method every day. It’s never as good as it always is at my favorite coffee shop, which imports free trade beans and grinds them in-house. I want to get as close to the fresh taste as they do, and thought maybe the French Press was the way to go. I only drink 2 cups a day, so I want them to be as good as they can.

If you want premium coffee then you have to not only grind the beans at home, you have to roast them there as well.

Seriously, you can buy high-speed roasters for small batch bean roasting. This allows you to buy the green beans (which keep a long time), and roast them to your preference as you need them.

When I can afford it, this is my next step. I also need a better burr grinder… mine creates too much dust to use in my french press.

You must live on a speedy schedule! Put coffee in beaker; pour boiling water on top; press. How time consuming can that be? I flush the beaker with hot water, strain the grounds through a fine sieve and chuck them. Put a little soap in the beaker, add hot water, plunge up and down with the press, everything instantly clean (or clean enough).

Is there any consensus here on which is better, drip or French Press? Why does my drip machine produce such uneven results? Really, I always use filtered water and a measuring scoop when I make coffee.

I think I will ask for a French Press and a bean grinder for my birthday, and see what happens.

I don’t know about why it would vary a great deal, but I believe automatic coffee machines produce poor results because the water isn’t properly boiled. The temperature of a solvent has an effect on what the solubility of different elements in the bean. (This is called fractionation, if I remember my high-school organic chem correctly.) The aromatic oils that make coffee such a wonderful bevvy are more easily soluble in hot hot water, while the lower temperatures yield more bitter compounds. Espresso is at the extreme end of the spectrum-- The water passes through the coffee as outrageously hot steam, under pressure, so you end up with such a different fraction that it almost seems like another substance entirely.

Auto-drip machines also tend to collect scale in the reservoir and have inaccessable parts in which crud can build up.