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.