How to use a French Press (Bodum)

There seems to be a lot of talk — and a lot of confusion — about the best way to make coffee using a French press. For the benefit of my faithful readers (and my morning taste buds) I have done considerable research into this question, and will gladly report my findings, below.

First, a few things to note:

  • Some people are obsessed with the minutiae of coffee making, going so far as to roast their own beans. These people are clearly mad. My research does not apply to them, because they won’t believe anything I say anyway.
  • The best grind for a French press is the same as the “drip” grind that is used in drip machines. If you use a finer grind, your coffee will be muddy and it might be difficult to plunge the plunger. Too coarse of a grind will result in weaker coffee with a thinner taste and aroma.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to grind your own beans. As long as you use a good quality coffee, store it a cool, dry, and dark place (not the fridge), and use it within a week or two of opening the package, it will be virtually indistinguishable from freshly-ground. Those who disagree with me may continue to do so. Those who do not grind their own beans can rest assured that they’re not missing anything.
  • Do not call your French press a “Bodum” unless it is made by Bodum. Even then, don’t. After all, you don’t say “I watched the news on the Hitachi last night” or “please put the milk back in the Kenmore.”
  • Use cold, fresh water. Ideally, the water should be filtered. Never use water from the hot water tap.
  • Do not boil the water. It should be heated to about 95° C. Boiling water will scald the coffee and make it bitter.
  • Serve the coffee immediately after plunging. Do not let it sit in the French press as you leisurely sip one cup after another — it will quickly become bitter because the brewing continues in the mucky grounds at the bottom of the pot. If you make a large pot and intend to consume it over time, transfer it to an insulated carafe that you have “conditioned” by heating with boiling water while the coffee is brewing.

The method below applies to a standard small French press. Bodum claims this is a “three cup” press (three four-ounce servings). That’s ridiculous —- particularly since it actually holds only eleven ounces. For most of us, this is a single serving in the morning, and two servings after dinner (if you drink coffee after dinner — which I generally don’t).

Blork’s Perfect French Press Coffee

(1) For this size French press, use two standard coffee scoops of good quality drip-grind coffee. (Rule of thumb: one scoop per serving and “one for the pot.” A standard scoop is .25 oz., or 7 grams.)
2 scoops of coffee

(2) Pour in the water. It should not quite be boiling (around 95° C). Do not over-fill!
hot water

(3) Let it brew for two minutes.

(4) Stir gently, using the plastic coffee scoop. (Do not use a metal spoon, as the glass is very thin and is quite delicate when it is hot.)

After stirring, you should get a rich brown creamy froth. This is called the “bloom.” It is not the same as the crema that forms on top-notch espressos — nor is it entirely different.

(5) Wait another minute-and-a-half to two minutes. (Total brewing time: 3.5 to four minutes.)

(6) Plunge. Note: always use a hand to steady the pot when plunging!

Serve immediately, and enjoy!