In today’s article, we will compare two coffee brewing devices with distinct approaches towards the brewing process; the French Press and the Coffee Percolator. Each piece of equipment has its own unique features and benefits and thus, this article will highlight the pros and cons of both to help you decide which device is more appropriate for your taste buds.
Known by many names such as cafetière, сafetière à piston, Cafeteria, press pot, coffee press, or coffee plunger depending on which part of the world one is using this pot, the French Press is not really as commonly used as other kinds of coffee-making apparatuses (which will be discussed in later articles). Nonetheless, the French Press provides many a unique characteristics which many coffee aficionados find highly useful.
To begin with, the French Press is basically a cylindrical container, commonly made of glass, and a lid with a movable plunger right in the middle. One end of the plunger contains a fine mesh, circular in shape, which takes the shape of the circumference of the container. The cylindrical container also has a beak through which the freshly-brewed coffee passes through.
Achieving the right quality of coffee using this device begins with the coffee beans themselves. French Press brews require a coarser grind of coffee beans because the mesh will be unable to sift through the coffee bean and water mixture, leading to a very strong and poor-tasting brew. Relatedly, the liquid will become much thicker, causing the user to push harder on the plunger and consequently increasing the risk of injury.
It is highly recommended that the grind be somewhere between the size of steel cut oats and coarse salt. Also, users should take into consideration the size of their French Press. The rule of thumb is 2 grams of coffee per ounce. For example, a 30 ounce French Press should ideally contain 60 grams of coffee.
The ground coffee is placed inside the container. One then pours an amount of hot water on the beans, enough to submerge it. The mixture is given half a minute to allow the coffee to saturate, a term called offcasting. Once the 30 seconds has passed, the user then proceeds to fill up the container with water. Remember, another golden rule in this method is the 1:10 coffee to water ratio. This means that for every gram of coffee, there are 10 grams of water. In our example, we would then use 600 grams of water.
Once all the water has been poured into the container, let it sit for 3 to 3 and a half minutes. This amount of time enables the coffee to extract the full flavour from the coffee beans. The user then places the lid with the mesh or filter. The plunger is then pushed down towards the bottom until all the beans have been collected. With the extraction process done, the brewer can now serve the fresh coffee.
As discussed above, using the French Press isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty easy, actually. Still, a fresh cup may still not turn out the way you like it primarily due to three common mistakes.
Firstly, one may not grind the beans properly. For novice brewers, this is an error which can only be avoided through practice. A smart tip is to notice how easy/difficult it is to push down the plunger. A grind too fine will require excess push and you’ll notice it. A grind too coarse will cause the plunger to go straight down without the least bit of effort.
Secondly, many people are unable to follow the ratios. Remember, 2 grams per ounce and 1:10 coffee to water ratio. Of course there is a little room for alteration but anything in excess will surely ruin the taste of the brew.
Lastly, users forget to transfer the coffee out of the press and into the cup immediately. Keep in mind that as long as the coffee is still in the pot, the beans are still being brewed. As a result, this may cause the brewed coffee to taste bitter.
According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of the word percolate is to pass slowly through something that has many holes in it. From this definition, we get an idea of how a Coffee Percolator works.
The percolator was the most commonly used method of brewing coffee in the United States, until the Mr. Coffee drip coffee machine came out in the market in the 70s and killed it. In fact, the term “cup of Joe” originated when famous baseball player Joe Dimaggio endorsed the Mr. Coffee product. Since then, it was a rare sight to see people brewing through percolators.
Basically, the ground coffee, course like in the French Press, is placed on an elevated filter with a column in the middle. This column is where the steam generated by the boiling water underneath the elevated area where the coffee is placed. A spreading plate, a tin sheet of metal to facilitate the spread of condensation on to the ground coffee beans, is placed on top of the chamber where the coffee is.
Eventually, the water will pass through the coffee beans and back on to the hot body of water, essentially turning it into coffee.
From a yield standpoint, the percolator is much better since it can make more cups of coffee as compared to the French Press since the pot used in percolating is much larger. This makes it more convenient to make numerous cups of coffee and in a shorter amount of time as well.
Taste-wise, it really depends on the drinker. Between the two, percolators produce a more robust, stronger taste of coffee since the roasted beans are essentially being roasted again by being placed in what is basically a pressure cooker. This then contributes to a stronger taste. Meanwhile, the beans of French Press brews are not subjected to the same amount of heat and time in the percolator process.
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