The Simple Sophistication of the Coffee Press

coffee-cupWhat if I told you about this amazing coffee machine that made a perfect cup of coffee? If you think you’ve heard it before let me tell you about the features that it possesses. This machine is capable of making multiple cups of freshly brewed, perfectly flavored, full-bodied coffee. This machine uses a technique called immersion in which the coffee granules are saturated in water and the caffeine, flavors and aroma are extracted to perfection with minimal technique. A built-in filter makes sure that coffee grounds do not mix up with the liquid when you pour that piping hot cup of coffee out. As an added bonus, this machine can also make an excellent batch of cold brew without purchasing any add-ons. The entire package contains a hot brew machine, a cold brew machine, a filter and a container for liquids.

If this sounds like one of those too good to be true as seen on TV infomercials, don’t worry, it isn’t. If you are a coffee aficionado like yours truly and really value the magnificence of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee every morning, afternoon and night then this contraption may already be sitting in your kitchen counter along with other trivially important stuff like the frying pan. If you were thinking of some complex, expensive, industrial-grade machine earlier to do all those tasks, it isn’t, it’s a simple little machine that looks like a little pitcher. I’m talking about the simple and elegant coffee press.

Photo by: wickenden via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA
Photo: wickenden via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

The coffee press, sometimes called the French Press not because it also makes French Fries, is a simple coffee brewing apparatus that is comprised of a vessel to store the water as it steeps in coffee granules and a filter that allows the coffee and its essential oils to pass through. An earlier version of this fine piece of equipment was invented in 19th century coffee-crazy France as a means of creating a great cup of coffee though a forgiving technique. Through the years, the design of the press developed, primarily through its piston and screen filter. Ironically, a Milanese firm patented the French Press in the 1920s, when the brewing machine became immensely popular. Thanks to history though, the French are credited with its creation through the name we know today. This is unless you’re in Great Britain. The Brits, still probably sore about losing America because of French help plus all their bitter rivalries and wars with France, refuse to call it the French Press and call it the cafetière. I don’t know, that still sounds pretty French to me though. Maybe they should’ve called it the Queen’s Press or something.

The press brews coffee through a process called immersion in which the ground coffee is in direct contact with the water through a process called steeping. Without a complicated control panel or “preferences” interface the output of coffee can vary based on altering 3 variables when brewing. The temperature of the water, the ratio of coffee to water, and the steep time or how long the coffee is in contact with the water. Tweaking these variables can give you a hot, strong cup of coffee or a hot, weaker cup or a cold brew, smooth coffee that is perfect for iced coffee.

Photo: ali via VisualHunt / CC BY
Photo: ali via VisualHunt / CC BY

To better understand how it works out, here’s a little science lesson. The hotter the water, recommended from 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, the quicker the extraction of the coffee flavor and caffeine. This is why the recommended amount of time when using hot water is about 4 minutes, this gives a good balance in the cup of coffee we make in the press. Using colder water or tepid water prolongs the extraction time, which is why making cold brew coffee takes anywhere between 12 to 24 hours. The coffee to water ratio also plays a vital part to the strength of the coffee with a generally accepted ratio of 1 part coffee to 16 parts water for hot water. If you’re adventurous and feel like you need strong coffee to put some hair on your chest, you can prolong the steep time with hot water to 6 minutes to produce a bitter, over-extracted coffee.

By the way, all of these factors were well researched back in the 1960s. It seems that to win the Space Race against the Soviet Union, the perfect coffee needed to be made first by the Coffee Brewing Center led by Dr. Ernest Earl Lockhart. A lot of the things we know about coffee today are because of the experimentation and research done by this noble institute, which goes by the name Coffee Brewing Institute today. I just thought it was worth mentioning this fun fact because these men and women are the heroes who have made our mornings good. Say a little thank you when that hangover goes away after a night partying out.

So there you have it, a wonderful innovation and work of science is just marvelously sitting there in your very own kitchen. The French Press is a great option for people who want a full-bodied cup of coffee flush with its flavors and oils in an affordable and simple package. Just add water.

Photo credit: Anne Worner via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

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