Why Press the Coffee?
Just as coffee drinkers are a dime a dozen, true coffee fanatics are a growing breed. No longer satisfied with just any old cup o' joe, discerning taste buds seek out a true coffee experience, preferring quality and flavor over quantity as traditional machines only drip boiling water over the grounds and leave much of the actual coffee behind. To get that perfect cup, many aficionados shun the average drip machine in favor of the standard coffee press. Sometimes referred to as French presses, these simple-to-use devices were once considered the only way to brew an acceptable cup, but bean selection plays a part every bit as much as the press does in making great coffee.
It's all About the Bean
In order for the press to do its job, you have to have the right kind of bean. Flavor is a matter of preference, but darker roasts usually are favored among the press faithful. Some die-hards roast their own beans or have them custom roasted in specialty shops, but most brands available on grocery shelves offer a decent degree of quality. The important thing is to buy whole beans and grind them yourself instead of buying powdery preground coffee. The coarseness of the grind is an integral part in pressed coffee flavor, so you should use a small homemade grinder with a coarse grind setting. Luckily, the electric versions aren't expensive and are sold in most department stores.
Coffee presses are sold in size according to the amount of cups to be brewed, which, of course, affects price. A standard 8-cup offering from a manufacturer such as Bodum retails at around $20. A glass pot is preferred over a plastic one, and most feature dishwasher- friendly stainless steel lids. To get started, set your grinder to coarse and grind your desired amount of beans for 5 to 6 seconds to match the desired number of cups. Usually 1 even tbsp of ground coffee mixed with about 4 oz. of water (filtered works best) equals 1 measured cup. Pour the boiling water in the press carefully to saturate the grounds, and then stir briskly with a plastic or wooden spoon for a few seconds.
The Finished Product
Let the coffee steep in the press for 4 minutes. You'll notice "foam" at the top; that means you've done it correctly. Now comes the actual "pressing" part of the process. The large chunks and shards of the ground beans have acted like sponges during the steeping, soaking up the boiling water and slowly releasing flavor. The press's job is to extract the fullest amount of this liquid coffee flavor by "wringing" out the grounds, again like squeezing a sponge. By attaching the lid and slowly pressing down on the handle, you're literally pressing out the water from the grounds. Slowly pull the handle back to its beginning position and remove the lid, and the coffee's ready to be served. The spent grounds can either be discarded or recycled as compost.