Sunday, September 12, 2010

Inspired by this morning's mediocre cup of coffee, I bring you ... 

Ode to the French Press

Now I haven't always used a French press. I actually had mine tucked away at the back of a cabinet for a while before I really started using it and realizing how much better the quality of drink is from a press than, say, a bag or a pot or something like that.

My French press, used here to brew some loose Earl Grey leaves.
A French press seems to excel at extracting every possible flavor ... nugget? ... from whatever it is you are brewing/steeping. Take for example a simple pot of coffee. I have a pretty nice coffee pot; it's from Gevalia and has a digital clock. I have used it for years and the coffee has been quite good. Then I used my French press. I have realized the 'good' coffee from my coffee pot is flat and flavorless - or at least flavor inferior. It has flavor; just bitter and bland flavor. Now my French press, on the other hand? It brews a very full-flavored pot of coffee with richness and volume. It tastes like a street cafe in Paris (because I've been there and I know! lol) or the best almost-as-strong-as-espresso coffee you've ever had. (NOTE: You can just make out the stainless steel electric kettle in the photo above which I should mention is the preferred-by-those-in-the-know method for boiling water)

The French press is really simple in design and use. Typically there's a tempered glass pot or beaker with a handle. Into the pot fits a combo lid/filter that is fixed with an extra fine mesh screen flattened between a couple metal plates (with holes, obviously) and then screwed onto the bottom of a large metal dowel of sorts which is the same length as your pot; onto the other end of this dowel is a little handle and the lid that covers your pot/beaker. Add your coffee grounds, add freshly boiled water, let steep and then slowly depress the mesh filter. A delicious pot of coffee is now at your disposal.

my Gevalia coffee maker.
I notice when I brew coffee in my press that I need fewer grounds and that the coffee is darker than a regular coffee pot (making the French press economical, too, by making more coffee from less grounds). It has this luscious almost-foam at the top that's brown and caffeinated ... and the swirl of the cream as I pour a cup? It's art, people. Nothing less than food-as-art.

Lest you think the French press is limited to coffee, let me tell you the tea it brews is equally delish! I have found that brewing a pot of loose leaf tea - just the same method as coffee - is so full of flavor and is the most respectful way to brew your loose leaves. Much better than a tea bag and even slightly better than a teapot with loose leaf tea poured over a strainer. Earl Grey is most definitely my favorite variety of tea. Loose leaf EG is in an entirely different class from the lowly EG tea bag. Poor bagged leaves, crushed to oblivion and almost completely lacking in Bergamot which makes EG what it is. It is MIA in the tea bag variety; loose leaf brings Bergamot front and center.  It's what makes EG so good, and part of what makes loose leaf so devine. It must be respected. And the French press is the perfect method to bring the Bergamot richness out, front and center. (did you know Bergamot is actually an orange?)
respect the tea leaf.
Some French presses are pretty pricey but I scored mine for somewhere around $20 and it has more than paid for itself and earned its place in my kitchen. Try TJ Maxx or Target, even eBay. Bodum brand offers lots of design options (mine is a Bodum) and is high quality but it seems other companies are offering them, too.

All this to say I will still drink a cup of coffee from a traditional brewer (for example, I still love a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks from time to time) and I will still use a tea bag (Celestial Seasonings, anyone?), but for the best flavor extraction and the best hot drink experience, I recommend the French press and I use mine whenever I possibly can.

Do you have a French press? Or just an opinion on the French press? Let me know, and thanks for reading!

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