My New French Press Is Not Only Beautiful, But Makes Delicious Coffee

Illustration for article titled My New French Press Is Not Only Beautiful, But Makes Delicious Coffee

When I spied this French press—AKA press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger, cafetiere (in the UK) or сafetière à piston (in France)—my heart went a-flutter. I think it's so pretty.


Much disdain for the French press coffee-making method exists around Gizmodo headquarters. So I write this post knowing I will face ridicule. But I'm a person who stands up for my beliefs. I love my press pot! I think the coffee it makes is delicious.

Some folks (Matt Buchanan) complain about a "dirty" texture and some other things. That's fair. Using a course grind minimizes grittiness. Maybe even then you'll get a slightly rough texture. I don't mind it. Actually I like a little roughness in the brew. Maybe I'm kind of a macho coffee drinker. Not that Mat and Matt are dainty! I would never say that.

The French press is simple. You put coarsely ground coffee in the bottom, pour hot water over it, give it a stir, let it steep for about four minutes, then press the mesh filter down. It was first patented by Attilio Calimani, an Italian designer, in 1929. Faliero Bondanini patented a version in 1958 that he manufactured in a French clarinet factory. The Danish company Bodum probably did the most to popularize the device. It's more work than an electric coffee maker, but in the early 90s when coffee nerddom emerged, the French press made us feel fancy.

During that era, I woke up at ungodly hours to work at a coffee shop in San Francisco called Spinelli's (it was acquired by Peet's Tully's). During training we had to taste all the coffees so we could properly describe the flavors to customers. For the tastings, Arnold Spinelli mandated that we use press pots so the flavor wouldn't be corrupted by a paper filter. Some people say there are superior methods that use residue-imparting paper filters. Maybe they're right?


I guess I'm just a French press devotee, for better or worse. When the model above caught my eye, I was using one purchased circa 1994 at a Starbucks in Portland, Oregon. It was white ceramic decorated with a reproduction of Van Gogh's "Irises." The image once covered a lid as well, but I had long since shattered that. It was high time for a new, modern and preferably droppable French press. So when my parents asked me what I wanted this Christmas, I sent them a link to the one above. And now it's mine! I couldn't be happier. I freaking love a hot cup of coffee in the morning made with an aesthetically pleasing device.

Image: WalrusHome



So, for those who are against French presses and insist on paper filter presses such as the Aeropress, I have a question (and one I feel is legitimate).

I've been told that one of the main reasons drip coffee is inferior because the paper leaches out a lot of the essential oils that bring out the flavor of the coffee.

Hence why, supposedly, the French press is favorable, because it uses a fine metal/mesh filter to separate the grounds from the liquid - correct?

A finer grind could potentially yield more surface area of the bean, which would open up for more opportunity for the oils locked within the bean to come out, but it can't really be used with the mesh filters found in most French presses, because then the grounds would pass through the filter and would sour the flavor of the coffee.

So...If I were to use a finer grind with the Aeropress, which uses paper filters to capture the puck of grounds and press the coffee through into my cup, wouldn't this paper filter leach out the essential oils of the coffee, just like the drip makers are doing, and essentially bring me back to the level of quality of the French Press, or even an inferior strength like that of a drip maker?

This is where I have a hard time understanding the "pour over" methods and other methods that use paper filters - I'm not saying that the French Press method is superior (it's a pain in the ass to clean compared to the paper filters that I just toss away, so that outweighs a lot of the positives of the French press method), but could someone explain to me how these other methods are better, and why? Or is it just a lot of marketing spin to get me to try and buy more crap in the search for quality coffee?