A French Press Makes the Best Cup of Coffee

You can spend a small fortune in the pursuit of a great cup of coffee. But if you want to experience delicious coffee simply, easily, and inexpensively, at home or at work, a French Press is the way to go. Disclaimer: I am not a coffee expert. I am not a beverage snob. Drink what you like and can afford.

When your mouth grows up

Having said that, when one’s “go juice” preferences graduate from soda (blech!) or energy drinks (double blech!), coffee is often the next step. This usually happens around the time one also progresses from (for example) light beer or white zinfandel to craft beer or red wine. Some folks never make the progression to real adult beverages, or real coffee. That woman in front of you in Starbucks getting a Caramel Mocha Frappuccino may be your grandma’s age, but her palate is still that of a 17-year old. A pity.

If you have progressed to real coffee and don’t want to spend a lot of time and money at the coffee shop, you need to figure out the best way to brew your own.

Why French Press coffee is better

Unless you want to try to make your own espresso or other coffee-house drinks, you don’t need to spend much on a great coffeemaker. Drip machines can make good coffee, but those that use paper filters deliver coffee with much of its flavor profile missing. Flavor in food generally comes from fats and oils (which are fats themselves). Paper filters soak up most of the oil in your coffee, plus they grab tiny bits of coffee grounds (suspended particulate matter) swimming around in the coffee that add flavor and mouth-feel. You don’t realize what you’re missing until you try French Press coffee.

How it works

In a French press you use coarse-ground beans. Don’t use a blade grinder as they don’t grind evenly and they heat up the beans, robbing them of flavor you want in your cup. Buy a burr grinder or grind your beans at the store. Put the grounds into the French Press carafe, add very hot water, and let it steep for 3-5 minutes. Then plunge the grounds down with the fairly course strainer, and pour yourself a cup.

The flavor difference can take some getting used to. You’ll note the aroma, see the coffee oils floating on top, and when you take a sip you’ll note the tiny bean particles as well. I fell in love the first time I tried it.

The only thing to remember as you drink is to not drain your cup to the very bottom. Some of that suspended particulate matter will fall to the bottom, and you don’t want to drink that. The first time you do will likely be the last. (It’s not that bad, just a bit startling.)

And clean-up is a snap!

A good French Press will have no or few plastic or rubber parts that touch your coffee. Those porous materials get dirty and are impossible to get totally clean, and that affects your coffee (and is kind of gross). Your entire French Press can be easily disassembled and put in the dishwasher.

So get up early, have a healthy breakfast, and enjoy some full-flavored but inexpensive coffee. And, as with all healthy mood-altering beverages, enjoy in moderation.

(photo: Shutterstock)

  • Brian Hall

    I agree Andy. I tried using a Kuerig for a while but it eventually stopped working properly. I was using the refillable K-cup to cut down on waste and cost, but it ended up being about the same amount of work as using a french press. My wife just bought me the Aeropress for my birthday. It is sort of like an inverted french press. Makes a perfect cup. Check it out at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0047BIWSK/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=lawyerist0a-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0047BIWSK

  • Tom Seeley

    French Press is the pinnacle of great coffee but disagree about the clean-up. Plus there is the time of heating the water.

    Keurig is a great compromise between exceptional coffee and drip brew. Cost is about $.65 a cup if you shop around. The brewers don’t last forever but the company will replace even after warranty expires (they must make their $ on the Kcups). At home I am on my third unit in about four years. Both times my prior units stopped working, I called the company and they replaced with few questions asked.

    TWS

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      We have a Keurig at the office, and while I agree it makes great coffee, I hate the amount of waste it generates. If it were convenient at the office, I’d probably go with a French Press or pour over brewer (the current pinnacle of coffee geekdom).

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/andymergendahl/ Andy Mergendahl

    @Brian: that’s an interesting device, but the “micro-filter” would I think steal a bit of the particulate-matter flavor. Thanks for the link.
    @Tom: I’ve used a Keurig, and while I know a number of people who rave about them, I don’t really share that enthusiasm. It’s still a drip machine. The one-cup-at-a-time design lets everyone drink what they want, which is great.
    I am just very fond of the richness of the unique brew a French Press provides, and with the simplicity and reliability of the ageless design.
    Drink what you like. Enjoy!

  • Tom Seeley

    Keurig is definitely not for all and I agree about the waste. It does come with reusable cartridge but if I’m going to do that I use pour-over drip or French Press as they are easier to deal with.
    What I love most about Keurig is convenience of fresh coffee at a push of button and fact that ea person can drink coffee roast of their liking.

  • Gwynne

    I experienced French Press coffee for the first time last year while visiting Vancouver. The place I had rented didn’t have a coffee maker, it had a French Press. I had no idea how to make coffee using one, but the Internet quickly solved that problem. As soon as I got home, I went out and bought myself a French Press, got a hand crank grinder as a gift and have been enjoying French Press coffee ever since.

    • http://Lawyerist.com Andy Mergendahl

      Another reason to love Vancouver!

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/joshcamson/ Josh Camson

    I’ve only just gotten into coffee, and I’m still using flavored KCups with my Keurig. I definitely have the tastes of a 17 year old.

    • http://Lawyerist.com Andy Mergendahl

      You are drinking coffee, so you’ve made the most important step.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Hazelnut decaf in the morning and wine coolers after a hard day’s work, amirite?

      • http://Lawyerist.com Andy Mergendahl

        Oh Hazelnut, how I do loathe thee.

      • http://lawyerist.com/author/joshcamson/ Josh Camson

        In my defense I’ve started drinking whiskey on the rocks after a hard day’s work.

  • http://www.chuangblog.com/ William Chuang

    I don’t like French Presses because they are hard to clean up, and coffee that sits around goes badly quickly. I recommend the Aerobie AeroPress. It’s a coffee syringe that makes coffee like a French Press but is much easier to clean, and can make one cup at a time really easily. The coffee it makes is great!
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0047BIWSK/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=lawyerist0a-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0047BIWSK

  • Stephanie Lee

    I used to think that French presses and what not were for coffee snobs, but a coffee-obsessed friend (who switches between drip, French press, and Aero depending on his mood) had me doubting my old drip machine, so one weekend I set up a taste test of my Krups drip coffeemaker against a French press and it was no contest – French press was SO much better. I took it another step and also got a bean grinder (I think freshly ground beans are important – even cheap beans taste pretty great when they’re freshly ground), and I’m never looking back!

    • Andy Mergendahl

      I used to think the same thing about the snob factor. I started using a French Press only because our landlord at the office tower banned electric coffeemakers (don’t ask). I also agree that, as with wine, paying more for beans does not guarantee quality. Any beans that are 100% arabica are worth a try if they are fresh.

  • Wannabe Lawyer

    One important thing a lot of coffee fanatics overlook, that’s just as important as the method of delivery (French press, etc.), is the quality of water. If the water tastes like garbage, your coffee is going to taste like garbage, whether it’s Folgers, K-Cups, or your own homegrown beans. I use filtered water with my coffee, and I have a Keurig because it’s easier than a French press…though I will invest in a French press one day to make a fantastic cup of joe.

  • Gage DeMont Hansen

    I’m a little shocked that no one has brought up, and maybe that’s because I’m more of a coffee snob than i should be, but siphons make the best coffee by far. However, they do, like french press, take longer to brew. They are a little easier to clean than the french press, but they also require a little more equipment.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Siphons definitely make great coffee, but I think it comes down to whether you want the oils in your coffee or not. I love a good, old-fashioned stovetop percolator for some of the same reasons Andy prefers a french press. You get oily, thick-tasting coffee that is full of flavor. If you want a more delicate cup, pourover or siphon are great, but it’s a very different taste.

  • http://geothermalcontractors.net/ harry

    Paper filters soak up most of the oil in your coffee, plus they grab tiny bits of coffee grounds

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Which is why coffee from a French Press tastes so much better.

  • http://www.ereplacementwindows.net/ Mae

    A good French Press will have no or few plastic or rubber parts that touch your coffee. Those porous materials get dirty and are impossible to get totally clean,

  • Daniel Foster

    Great lawyering starts with great coffee. French presses do make superb coffee– generally glass or metal models are better than plastic. Try the Espro Press or the Frieling French press. The Aeropress is also an interesting French press alternative that is easy to clean up. http://www.coffeekrave.com/best-french-press/

  • JudgeNotLestYeBe

    If you don’t like the occasional coffee particulates, don’t drink Turkish. Its basically coffee sludge on the bottom. Its good, but culturally unfamiliar to most of us.