French press coffee is tough to beat. It's rich, thick and tastes better than a $4 cup from a coffeeshop. It's relatively cheap to get set up with a french press, throw in a coffee grinder so you have fresh beans, and you're set.
The only problem is it requires attention. It isn't difficult by any means, and only takes 5 or 6 minutes. But as we all know, a minute is never more precious than in the morning. French press coffee is extremely popular with Primer's readers. In a recent poll on Twitter and Facebook readers overwhelmingly said they favored the classic press pot as their preferred brew method.
But, several of you responded with a caveat: French press on the weekends, drip on the weekdays. Drip coffeemakers, especially those with programmable timers, are the most convenient because they run in the background while you're showering and getting ready for work. When you're ready to drink coffee either with your RSS feeds or while you're running out the door, it's there waiting for you.
So why not just drink the drip coffee? Well, you can. If you like drip coffee, do it. It's easy and convenient. French press coffee does have some benefits however. Since a drip maker uses a paper filter, all of the oils are lost from the coffee beans. These oils are part of what gives French press coffee its unique, rich texture. French press coffee is considerably less bitter, allowing the use of a darker roast to get a fuller flavor.
The issue is just the amount of hands-on work a French press requires. Wait for the water to boil, grind the beans, fill the pot with the beans and water, let sit for 4 minutes, stir, press, drink. You've got to stick around the kitchen to get the job done.
Unless you're willing to MacGuyver up a solution.
I recently purchased a programmable Black & Decker drip machine at Wal-Mart for around $16 on sale. This is how I wake up to delicious French press coffee, with the added incentive of ruining it if I wake up too late. Here's how I do it.
Step 1: Fill the drip machine with water
The night before, fill the machine with water, just like making a normal pot of coffee. I have a 6 cup French press so I fill the water up to “6” on the drip machine's caraffe.
Step 2: Grind your beans and put them in the drip maker's caraffe
This is really the only hiccup in my process. Many folks who drink French press coffee like it because the beans are ground right before brewing. With this method, we're grinding them the night before, so they'll be sitting all night. Honestly, I haven't found there to be much difference, and it still beats regular drip coffee.
In this step, we're setting up the coffee to brew right in the hot water, just like when brewing a press pot. This yields a more consistent brew, lessens the burnt flavor, and retains the oils.
Step 3: Set the timer
I like to set the timer about 4 minutes before I want to get out of bed. That way, I can walk right into the kitchen with a perfectly brewed pot.
Step 4: Brewing
When the timer goes off, the machine will start dripping hot water right though the empty basket and into the caraffe with our ground beans. When the machine stops, the beans will have had enough time to completely extract all of the flavor. But, if you hit snooze a time or two, your coffee will be way over-brewed. It's a good incentive for getting out of bed the first time.
Step 5: Pour the brewing beans and water into the French press
Pour everything into the French press, beans and all. Place the plunger on the press and strain immediately. The coffee will have had enough brew time while the water dripped.
Step 6: Enjoy!
Have any tricks for improving the process? Share your thoughts in the comments!