Back in August, I mentioned making changes in my daily coffee routine, which included picking up a Bodum Chambord 8-Cup Coffee Press coffee maker for $30 (at the advice of Michael Ashby) and giving it a try.
Well, after about a month and a half of using the French Press, I've become a huge fan of the coffee it produces. I think the best way to describe it is this:
"French press coffee tastes like fresh ground coffee smells."
Yep, the scent of freshly ground coffee is something I believe you can literally taste in French press coffee. And boy, it's good stuff.
I've learned that the oils of the coffee bean carry much of its delicious coffee flavor and scent. French press coffee retains these oils, while drip coffee traps them in a paper filter or boils them into oblivion. These oils, left in press-style coffee are what sets it apart.
Two other important differences are: a coarsely ground coffee bean, and water temperature that's hot but not boiling. Coarse ground coffee mainly keeps the metal filter from clogging up, though I think it may also have some impact on flavor. Meanwhile, boiling water can cause the coffee oils to scald and get bitter, while hot but not boiling water leaves the oils and their flavors intact.
If you're being tempted reading this account, the French press process is quite simple. First, heat water on the stove or in an electric kettle. Place your coarse coffee in the carafe (about a tablespoon per 4oz cup). Let the water boil, then take it off the heat until boiling stops. Pour the hot water over the coffee in the carafe and stir the coffee into the water with a plastic spoon. Put the plunger on the carafe but don't press it down yet (I do this to trap heat inside). Wait 4-5 minutes and press the plunger. Pour and enjoy!
The only real caveat to press coffee is, you'll have a little more cleanup on your hands than with a drip pot. You can't just toss the old paper filter full of grounds and rinse out the carafe like you can with a drip coffee maker. With French press coffee, the carafe and the plunger assembly needs to be at least rinsed off and dried before making a new batch of coffee, (I tend to wash everything each time). Still, the coffee you get is well worth the extra hassle of cleanup and like me, maybe you'll find the cleanup therapeutic.
The product of this combination and process is a delicious, rich and smooth cup of coffee... which is a little bit of a problem. Now when I visit my favorite local coffee shop, I'm less impressed with drip-brewed coffee. I've been utterly spoiled by my French press pot! :-)