The French press is the best way to make coffee — and also makes a great holiday gift

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Matthew DeBord/BI

I drink coffee. A lot of coffee. In fact, I’m pretty sure that life without coffee wouldn’t be worth living.

But we don’t have to live a life without coffee, and in my own time on this earth, I’ve generally made my coffee in three ways: with an automatic drip coffeemaker, with an espresso machine, and with a French press.

Automatic drip isn’t that great, from my perspective. The flavors just aren’t rich enough. Espresso is great, but it’s an approach to making coffee, and I’ve come to prefer a nice big cup. Also, I don’t think home espresso machines have enough oomph to produce a truly excellent espresso.

That leaves the French press. It’s so simple, yet there are some little tricks. And for what it’s worth, I think owning a French press is a great move for anyone who loves coffee. Because they’re inexpensive – far less costly than a good espresso machine or a quality drip coffeemaker – they make a terrific gift.

Here’s why the French press is, in my opinion, the way to go:


I get up at about 6 or 6:30 each morning. The first thing I do is make coffee. Here’s my setup: French press, coffee mugs, thermos, whole bean coffee, and a grinder. I have a smaller press for when I want just a cup or two for myself. I’ll be making coffee for myself and my wife.

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I’m a big fan of Peet’s and have been for years. It’s good quality at a good price, and I can always get French Roast in whole beans. Obviously, you can spend more and get better beans. That’s your call.

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My coffee-fanatic pals like burr grinders for precision, but I’m OK with a spice grinder. Technically, it doesn’t grind — it chops. But burr grinders aren’t cheap.

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In go the beans.

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For French press, you want a coarse grind, but this is a bit too chunky.

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This is about right.

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The ground coffee goes into the press. The pot has to be very clean.

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Meanwhile, my cold water has been boiling away. I don’t use filtered water. I have this crackpot theory that the filters remove some of stuff in water than coffee flavors adhere to.

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The water must be boiling vigorously, and I pour from a bit of altitude to get some air into the mix.

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This creates a “bloom” before the water and coffee are stirred. Look at that frothy deliciousness! The aroma is also beginning to wake me up. I’m one of those people who can’t speak or listen to anyone until I’ve had some morning java.

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Stir with a chopstick. I actually got this one in Hong Kong.

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Now it’s all rich and blended.

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Put the top on — but don’t plunge yet! I like to wait about four minutes.

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While I’m waiting, I meditate by looking out my back door …

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… or at some of the artwork my kids have made.

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Time’s up! Plunge!

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The French press doesn’t keep the coffee hot, so we use a thermos pitcher. I actually have a smaller press that is semi-insulated, and you can buy fully insulated models. But I prefer the simple-press-and-thermos combo.

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Two mugs, all ready to go. A quick tip here. If I’m thinking ahead, when I pour the boiling water into the press pot, I’ll add some to the mugs to warm them up.

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I take mine black with a LOT of sugar. The next cup gets much less sugar, however. I just need that early kick. I have been cutting back the sugar quotient of late, however. As the weather cools down, I like my coffee to taste more bitter.

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For the missus, a bit of milk and one teaspoon of sugar.

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Mmmm. Now I can face the day.

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