by Joe Molloy October 03, 2022 4 min read
The humble plunger (aka French press, cafetière or coffee press) hides in cupboards and pantries in nearly every kitchen in the country. It’s often looked down upon as a brew method by coffee snobs. But when made well, the coffee plunger can make coffee as tasty as any other coffee brewer.
The French press is an excellent method, as it allows you to brew big batches of coffee that taste delicious black or with added milk.
By taking the care and attention you would with say Aeropress or pour over, plunger coffee can be delicious, clean and sweet.
The trick, like any method, is to start with good, fresh coffee, grind it right before use, have fresh hot water, use scales and a timer, and know what to do.
Both filter and espresso roasts work well. If you like a brighter, fruitier brew and drink it black, try a filter roast. If you add milk or like a stronger brew, then an espresso roast will give a big, bold cup.
Use the golden ratio we follow for all brewing, 6g coffee per 100 ml of water. Grind the coffee to a coarse grind right beforehand. Use scales and a timer and you’ll have a delicious beverage.
Here is the method we like to use. Borrowed from James Hoffman and his excellent book The World Atlas of Coffee.
Filtered Boiling Water
Bowl and two spoons
Setup: Lift the lid off your plunger and pre-heat with boiling water to bring to temperature. Discard the water.
Put the plunger on the scales.
Grind: Grind your coffee medium/coarse and add to the plunger. Use 6g of coffee per 100ml of water. (15g per 250ml for 1 cup and 30g per 500ml for 2 cups)
Brew: Add 95℃ water (a good way to do this is to let a freshly boiled kettle sit for 45 secs and then pour). Pour with vigour to make sure you get all the grounds wet. Place the lid of the plunger on top to keep the heat in, but DO NOT PUSH DOWN. Set your timer for 4 minutes.
At 4 mins gently break the crust with your spoon and move the coffee around so it falls to the bottom. Then scoop the remaining foam off with two spoons. Place the plunger back on top to keep the heat in, but DO NOT PUSH DOWN. Set your timer for another 4 minutes.
Pour: When the timer goes off, slowly PUSH THE PLUNGER DOWN. Pour and enjoy.
If you plan on adding milk to the final brew, or just like a strong, bold cup of coffee, then try our Shadow Boxer blend. If you are drinking it black but your partner adds milk, Haymaker is a great option.
If you want to try something fruitier or different, look into our single-origin coffees. We like to use espresso roasts in the plunger as it enhances the body and strength of the coffee.
Can I use pre-ground coffee? Yes, of course, but the result will never be as good as with freshly ground coffee. As soon as you grind coffee, it stales and loses its more delicate qualities. If you want a richer taste and to get the best out of your coffee beans, you need a coffee grinder.
What grind size do you use for the coffee plunger? Medium coarse but experiment and see what different effect size coffee grounds have on the flavour of your brew.
My plunger coffee tastes weak. How do I make it stronger? Start by following our recipe and see if that helps. If you aren’t using scales and a timer, then you might have the wrong ratio of coffee to water. Plunger coffee brewing should cause a richer taste and stronger cup. The metal filter at the bottom of the plunger allows more oils and tiny particles of coffee to pass through than the paper filter of an Aeropress or V60.
The next step is to up the dose. Try 7.5g of ground coffee per 100ml of water. This should give you the stronger brew you’re after.
But if that doesn’t work, then you might need to look at grind size. Experiment with the settings on your grinder to see which brings out more flavour.
Water temperature could be another factor. Use freshly boiled water and heat the coffee plunger up with some before you add the ground coffee. The hot water will pre-heat the cafetière and mean you don’t lose heat to a cold plunger.
Do I have to wait the extra four minutes? This is the big complaint we hear about this method. But if you allow the extra time for the coffee to settle, you deal with the biggest complaint about the French press, the coffee ‘sludge’ that ends up in your cup. The metal filter still allows microparticles through and even some oils so you get a full-bodied cup.
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