Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to Use a Coffee Press

If you have ever been curious about how to use a French coffee press, today is your special day.
I have two coffee presses. Over the last six months, I've been glad I had them. For one thing, they are smaller than a coffeemaker. They do not need to be plugged in. All they require is hot water. Their simplicity, their size, and their flexiblity make them excellent choices for a time of upheaval and travel.

My larger, Italian coffee press holds 24 ounces of water. It looks a lot like the picture above. Generally I heat some water until it is just starting to boil, then pour it into the carafe over 5 rounded tablespoons of coffee. I stir and set the lid on. I wait four minutes and press down the plunger. Voila! Rich European-style brew! I get about three average-sized coffee cups from one full pot. Later, I spoon the old grounds out into the trash and wash it in a little soapy water, or just with hot water alone, and wipe it dry with a clean paper towel.

When we sold our house and moved, this was a wonderful gadget to have. After I packed away our automatic-drip coffee maker, I was still able to make great coffee with this simple device. It was a joyful luxury to get up that last, tired, foggy morning and make coffee in the empty house. My husband and son were surprised and delighted.

My smaller coffee press is used for travel, or when I want just one cup. I saw one of these on Amazon a couple of years ago and mentioned it to my husband. Knowing how I truly hate (and whine about) hotel coffee, he gave it to me for Christmas. It's lightweight plastic and a cinch to use. Most hotel rooms have a microwave. I heat the water right in the cup, stir in 2 tablespoons of ground coffee, wait four minutes, and press down the plunger. If not, I can get a cup of hot water from a fast-food restaurant and use it in the same way. Later, the grounds are scooped out and put in the trash. The whole apparatus cleans up nicely with hot tap water and a paper napkin. I used my travel press happily as we drove from Pennnsylvania to North Carolina and on that first morning in our new, temporary home.

The results of the coffee press are delicious. I am not sure who is more pleased with it -- me or my family. I never have to drink hotel coffee again, and no one has to listen to me while I do. Still, I must warn you that the coffee is different in texture than that of automatic drip coffeemakers. Without a paper filter, some of the fine particles of the coffee will be in the beverage. You will see residue in the bottom of your cup. Occasionally, if the plunger is slightly askew when pressed, coffee grounds will slip out around it and end up in your cup. To avoid this, you should pour in the hot water so that it leaves ample room for the plunger to sit evenly on the top of the coffee, and you should press the plunger down slowly at a straight, perpendicular angle to the cup bottom. Practice will help you to become confident with the coffee press.

I have taken my small, travel press with me when I visit family and friends, as well. I usually drink my coffee as mostly decaf with a teaspoon of regular brew thrown in. This renders my cup to be between 10 and 25 mg caffeine, which is just the right amount for me. I don't want to trouble other people about it, so my little press makes it all easy and doesn't interfere with the visiting.

I want you all to know that if I show up at your house with my travel press, it does not mean you have bad coffee! I just love to bring it with me.

For those of you who want a demonstration of the French press coffee technique, you can view a fun instructional video online, taught by a coffee master from Starbucks.

You can find many styles of coffee presses online. Starbucks stores sell them, too. My mother-in-law discovered our 24-ounce model at an Italian food store. You can go here on Amazon to view the travel press I use and here to view some other, larger models that look reliable. I confess that we bought my travel press on sale for about $10. I was surprised to see the current price, but I guess it must be a popular product. You may be able to find a similar one for less.

Happy Brewing!


  1. This is so informative. I've been wondering about these for use when camping. I am also particular about having my own coffee.

  2. Hey, I like the look!! :)


  3. I make my loose tea with an infuser, and take that with me on all trips! I've never tried a coffee press, but I bet my hubby would love his coffee this way.

    Thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog today. I love the inviting photo at the top of your blog. Makes me want to plop down with a cup of tea and a book. :-)


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