Why You Shouldn't Push Down On Settled Coffee Grinds In Your French Press

A budget-friendly drip coffee maker, some paper filters, and a few bucks in decent-quality coffee grounds can certainly give you the caffeine jolt in the morning to get you awake and aware. But, despite its affordability and convenience, drip coffee is often seen as a last resort, just one step above instant coffee. The paper filter strips away many of the aromatic and flavorful essential oils that give coffee its unique taste, resulting in a rather sad-tasting cuppa. 

For true enthusiasts, nothing short of a French press coffee will suffice, as it doesn't have any of the above problems. Using a French press is quite simple, but there's still a bit of a learning curve. One common mistake beginners make is thinking that pressing the plunger down as hard as possible will result in a better brew. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Using too much force can actually have the opposite effect, producing coffee that's not only gritty but also bitter.

This happens because, after the coffee grounds have been steeped and allowed to settle in hot water, the coffee bed at the bottom contains a lot of fine particles. If you press the plunger too forcefully, you'll push many of these particles through the filter and into the coffee, resulting in a cup with coffee grounds floating in it that can be unpleasant on the tongue. Additionally, this can lead to a harsh, bitter taste due to over-extraction.

The keys to mastering the French press' plunger are pressure and resistance

When using a French press plunger to make coffee, remember two key factors: pressure and resistance. Proper pressure prevents over-extraction, and the resistance you encounter while pushing down signals when to stop. Once you've gone through all the French press prepping steps and the coffee grounds have nicely settled, hold the plunger and gently press it down. You don't need to treat it like it's fragile, but it's crucial that you aren't too forceful with it. 

The goal is to maintain enough downward pressure to extract the coffee without forcing the fines at the bottom through the filter mesh. This, obviously, will take quite a lot of practice and experimentation to get right, but, after a couple of tries, it'll basically become second nature. Push until you feel a slight increase in resistance, then stop. Avoid forcing it further, as this can lead to sedimentation in your coffee. 

The plunger should offer some resistance as you push down, but it shouldn't be overly difficult. If it's too tough to press, your coffee grounds might be too fine and could clog the filter screen. Conversely, if the plunger slides down effortlessly with no resistance, your grind is too coarse. Very coarse grounds won't compact well, allowing too much liquid to pass through, resulting in weak and under-extracted coffee.