A French press, also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetière, is a simple coffee brewing device, probably invented in France in the 1850s, but first patented by Attilio Calimani in 1931.
A French press consists of a narrow cylindrical jug usually made of glass or clear plastic, equipped with a lid and a "plunger", made of metal or plastic, which fits tightly in the cylinder and which has a fine wire or nylon mesh acting as a filter. Coffee is brewed by placing the coffee and water together, leaving to brew for a few minutes, then depressing the plunger to trap the coffee grinds at the bottom of the jug.
The French press goes by various names around the world. In New Zealand, Australia and South Africa the whole apparatus is known as a coffee plunger and coffee brewed in it is known as plunger coffee. Its French name is cafetière à piston. In French it is also known by its brand names, notably a Bodum or a melior, from an old brand of this type. In the UK and Ireland the device is known as a cafetière, the French word for a coffee maker or pot.
Because the coffee grounds remain in direct contact with the brewing water and the grounds are filtered from the water via a mesh instead of a paper filter, coffee brewed with the French press captures more of the coffee's flavour and essential oils, which would become trapped in a traditional drip brew machine's paper filters. French pressed coffee is usually stronger and thicker and has more sediment than drip-brewed coffee. Because the used grounds remain in the drink after brewing, French pressed coffee should be served immediately so as to not become bitter from over-extraction. A typical 8-cup French press is considered expired after 20 minutes.
Coffee for use in a French press should be of a consistent, coarse grind. The use of a burr mill grinder gives a more consistent grind than the whirling blade variety. The ground coffee should be more coarse than that used for a drip brew coffee filter, and far coarser than that used for espresso, as a finer grind will seep through the press filter and into the coffee.
A French press is also more portable and self contained than other coffee makers. Travel mug versions also exist made of tough plastic instead of the more common glass, and have a sealed lid with a closable drinking hole. Some versions are marketed to hikers and backpackers not wishing to carry a heavy metal percolator or a filter using drip brew.
Despite the name, the French press is not noticeably more popular in France than in other countries. In most French households, coffee is usually prepared by drip brewing, using an electric coffeemaker and paper filters.
As the French press is a filterless brewing method, some compounds in unfiltered coffee are thought to lead to an increase in cholesterol. See health risks of coffee for a more detailed explanation.
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