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How to Brew Coffee in a French Press

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[Photo: Liz Clayton]

Coffee fads may come and go, but chances are no matter which way you sway with the tides of change, there's still a French press in your arsenal. Now's as good a time as ever to revisit the fine art of French press brewing: a technique of so-called "full immersion" brewing that's known for truly highlighting the aromas, and therefore elevating the entire sensory and taste experience, of your coffee.

Whether you're new or old to this kind of brewing, you may know that traditional French press brewing methods have lingered for years around the 3 to 4 minute infusion mark. Yet even this old guard of coffee preparation is not immune to new trends: recent thinking has been that increasing the steep time a few minutes actually brings "sweetness and focus" to the brew, according to Stephen Rogers of Brooklyn's Marlow and Sons, whose press pots dwell for up to 6 minutes.

Rogers has also played around with grind: old thinking was to coarsen the French press grind as much as possible, but he's found that playing with a finer grind can bring a little clarity to the oft-thought-murky method. Where you draw the line on the kitchen timer is ultimately up to you, of course—but we offer this remedial French press primer in the hopes you'll get pleasingly reacquainted with this coffee brewer again.

How to Brew French Press Coffee

1. Measure out approximately 7 grams of coffee per "cup" of your French Press pot. For a standard 8 cup pot, this means 56 grams of coffee.

2. Heat your water to a boil.

3. Grind your coffee fresh before brewing. Start with a grind somewhere between filter brew and very coarse, and adjust this as you explore your taste preferences.

4. Place ground coffee into the French press and add just-off-the-boil water, only enough to saturate the grounds initially. After 15 to 30 seconds of "bloom" time, add the remainder of the water and give a short stir. Cover pot with lid but don't press down or make contact between the screen and the water yet.

5. Set your timer for 4 to 6 minutes.

6. When the timer goes off, it's time to press down on your plunger (holding onto the pot!) If you encounter some resistance, don't force it. Pour brewed coffee into a cup—filtering through a secondary filter if desired—and drink!

Many lovers of French press employ a second filter method by pouring into a cup through another filter—this could be a flannel coffee sock, a reusable metal filter, or even a paper filter. Depending on the level of sediment and sludge you prefer, refiltering through another device can add cleanliness to the aromatic and full-bodied cup.

You may also like experimenting with the Espro press, a retake on the French press that utilizes a double-filtering system in the body of the plunger to allow for a much cleaner, clearer-tasting flavor in the final brew.

And remember! Even if you're planning on nursing that lukewarm coffee for a long time, decanting the coffee from your French press after brewing is key. Coffee sitting in a press will continue to extract from the existing grounds, creating a stronger and overextracted, bitter brew. To avoid this, try decanting into a thermal carafe, thermos or insulated mug if you're going to have some now and save some for later.

Steep, plunge, experiment, and enjoy.

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.

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