The Ultimate Cafetiere Technique? Try This!


When I started the blog about a year ago, I mainly brewed via cafetiere, and I was just starting my voyage of discovery with other coffee brewing methods. I didn’t have any problem with cafetiere coffee, in fact I loved it and still do, but I had my eyes opened to lots of other brewing methods such as V60, Aeropress and espresso.

Since then I still have enjoyed cafetiere / french press coffee, but not as often. I do sometimes just fancy cafetiere, but more often than not I’ll make espresso or V60 if I’m at home, and Aeropress coffee when I’m at work, just because of the time involved and the fact that I really like the other brew methods too and they happen to be quicker. I like cafetiere coffee but I enjoy Aeopress, filter and espresso just as much, so most of the time I wouldn’t feel like taking the extra time to get the cafetiere out.

But then today I saw a video from James Hoffman, entitled The Ultimate French Press Technique. Sceptically I watched it, and then thought OK I’ll give it a try, why not.

First let me introduce you to his technique.

Grind: Finer than most people would usually use, a medium to course grind rather than super course. I went for 44 on my Sage smart grinder pro, which is a much finer grind than I’d usually go for.

Water: Filtered water (via my Britta filter jug), not just boiled tap water.

Coffee: He specifies that it must be good freshly roasted coffee, and that for the best results it should be freshly ground. This makes perfect sense, no point trying out what is supposedly a technique to make the best tasting coffee, and using cheap commodity coffee from a supermarket.

Recipe: Roughly 250ml to 15g which is what I’d usually go for, I think that’s pretty standard.

Technique: Put the coffee into the cafetiere, pour in the recently boiled water, put the lid on, leave for 4 minutes. So far this seems normal except for the finer grind. Next though is where it starts to get a bit different.

Stir the coffee, and then scoop off the crust as you would do while cupping, with two spoons, chucking away the floating stuff.

Next – put the lid back on but don’t plunge, wait another 5 minutes! James argues that while this seem excessive, it’s too hot to drink after 4 minutes anyway, and that with 5 minutes longer more of the junk that would end up in your cup falls to the bottom.

Finally – after the last 5 minutes, plunge slightly… don’t fully plunge, only push the plunger down so that it’s below the spout of the jug, so that it acts as a strainer, and then carefully pour your coffee.

That’s it…

What I thought:

The first thing that surprised me was how when you’re busy, 9 minutes just isn’t long at all. I set the timer on my phone for the first 4 mins, and then the next 5, and I was blogging while I was waiting, and although this would seem to be a long time to make a coffee, it’s really not long at all when you’re busy. If you’re in a rush, on your coffee break at work for example, then yes it’s a long time when you’re stood staring at your watch, but this isn’t really a method for when you’re in a rush, it’s for when you have the time to enjoy the process and savour the resulting coffee.

The next thing that surprised me was that after 9 minutes total, the coffee was actually at about the perfect temperature for drinking, I was expecting it to be stone cold or luke warm, it wasn’t at all, it was perfect, and I like my coffee hot.

The biggest surprise though was the taste and the lack of unwanted bits! I don’t know if it’s the grind, the extra steep time or everything combined, but the coffee I’ve just had with this method was very, very good! The mouthfeel was nice and full, the coffee oils were still there, but there were no bits in my mouth that I didn’t want. There was still a tiny amount of sludge at the bottom, but minuscule, and far less than I experienced when I had a cafetiere coffee yesterday. The furry mouthfeel you can get from cafetiere wasn’t there, as there was such a smaller amount of sludge in the cup.

All in all, really impressed with this, I don’t recall having as good a cup of coffee with cafetiere previously.

I would have to experiment with different variations of this technique, with different grinds, different steep time and so on to determine what it is which makes it work. I wonder whether all parts of this method need to be used together or whether for instance just not plunging fully but doing everything else as normal would also increase the results compared to a normal technique? Whatever the case though, I find this really interesting, and it just goes to show that no techniques are etched in stone, just because most people do things a particular way doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find a better a way, or at least a better way for your particular preferences and taste.

Here’s the video:

Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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