The recent hand-brewed coffee renaissance has, without a doubt, transformed the potential we see in making coffee at home—or anywhere. But one method of brewing that's fallen by the wayside is the French press, that familiar, rich and silty mode of brewing whose popularity has somewhat plunged.
Even those who don't make French press probably still have one clanging around their kitchen somewhere: it's a reliable, affordable, entry point into home brewing that most of us have fooled around with. And in a restaurant environment, there's almost no better way to serve coffee after a meal. But in the era of fancy kettles and pourover madness, the good ol' French press has lost prominence on kitchen counters—indeed, it's even been accused of being worse for your heart than paper-filtered methods. Can't French press catch a break?
If the real question is taste, the people at Espro, a Canadian coffee equipment manufacturer, have reinvented the classic device with a sexy, double-filtered twist that focuses on just that.
The stainless-steel, double-walled, multi-stage-micro-filtered Espro Press (from about $70) is designed to bring out the best of a French press brew—its highly aromatic, richly flavored cup—while minimizing that sludge factor people either love or hate. The durable construction (no glass carafes to shatter in the sink) makes it a no-brainer for travel or sleepy mornings, while the sophisticated filter technology inside makes it a contender amongst the best methods reigning right now in terms of delivering flavor.
New York City barista Jordan Barber won the 2012 North East Regional Brewer's Cup competition using the Espro Press, which he employed to bring out the maximum sweetness and flavor of his coffee, a Kenyan coffee from the Kieni region, roasted by Denmark roaster The Coffee Collective.
"I'm a huge fan of full immersion brewing," said Barber, referring to the most basic mode of brewing in which you simply place coffee grounds in water—just like in the coffee "cuppings" professional tasters perform to evaluate quality.
"To maximize sweetness in a coffee, especially as it cools, full immersion is the way to go," continued Barber. "Really it's just clarity of cup."
A longtime fan of French press, Barber preferred the Espro for its ability to brew a clean cup that preserved the coffee's natural sweetness and acidity. "It is substantially cleaner. You get less silt in the bottom, so you don't have that chalky French press taste, but you do have the benefits of full immersion, which is awesome." In the Espro, once coffee is steeped it is poured out through a sequence of finely woven filters, first entering a basket-shaped chamber and then being passed through a second, disk-shaped screen, before leaving the spout.
Barber prefers to use his Espro in a method similar to coffee cupping—23 grams of coarsely ground coffee with about 14 ounces of water, steeped for four minutes in the Espro Press. At four minutes, Barber breaks the crust that has formed on top of the coffee, skims the floating grounds off the top, and lets it sit for a minute or two longer, then plunges the press and pours the coffee out through the double-microfilter, minimizing any remaining silty grounds from entering that final cup. And if the judges' final say is right—it's inarguably delicious.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.