What Grind Size Should I Use For A French Press?

What Grind Size Should I Use For A French Press?

The French press is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make a decent cup of coffee, even for amateurs.

But what happens to a decent cup of coffee when you adjust the size of the grind during the brewing process?

This may run counter to what we think, but in this article we will examine whether it is possible to finely grind the powder of a French press pot.

The Unchanging Rule

The world of fine coffee often adjusts extraction times, grind levels and other variables in order to achieve the most appropriate brewing method for a particular coffee. However, these variables are usually only tested with artisanal brewing, espresso and ale-press brewing methods, which are always overlooked in the French press.

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It is generally accepted that French presses are best brewed with coarsely ground coffee grounds, which are allowed to steep for 3 to 5 minutes before being pressed into service.

Of course, there are three variables that can be tested in a French press, and these three variables are interrelated, so if you adjust one, you may also need to adjust the other two.

Why Is A Coarse Grinder Usually Used?

It may seem strange to buy an expensive grinder just to run a coarse grind test in a French press, but if you want good quality coffee, think in this direction.

Inconsistent grinding can lead to both coarse and fine grinds. An inferior grinder will produce a lot of fine powder that can be sifted through a sieve, but if not, it will result in a coffee full of unpleasant and bitter flavours.

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When you use a coarse grind, you are less likely to have a lot of fine powder, which means you are less likely to have a full-flavoured, unpleasant cup of coffee. If you use a good quality grinder or sieve after grinding, you can solve the problem of fine powder from the grind.

The French press is an immersion brew, which means that the beans are in contact with the water for longer than other brewing methods. To avoid over-extraction, a coarser grind is often used.

In the case of hand-brewed coffee, a finer grind is used so that the water doesn't run through the powder too quickly, but this is not an issue with French press so we have more freedom to experiment. Of course, we also have to take into account that if we reduce the grind, we must also adjust the extraction time to avoid over-extraction. However, we are not limited by the problem of manually pouring water through the powder bed.

The Fine Grinding Debate

The reason for using a finer grind is to speed up the extraction of flavour substances, as the powder has a greater surface area in contact with the water, allowing the soluble substances of the coffee to dissolve in the water more quickly.

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Matt Perger, founder of Barista Hustle, says the most important part is that the size of the grind doesn't really change what is being extracted. It only changes when the substance is extracted, because that's all the coffee beans taste like. That's all that can be extracted. The size of the grind only affects how much of the flavour will be dissolved in the water.

Matt stresses that more flavour will be extracted if you leave the water in contact with the coffee for longer, and we can do this by extending the extraction time, but as the hot water cools during the brewing process, this may not be as effective as using the same extraction time for a fine grind.

One concern with using finely ground coffee powder in a French press is that the resulting coffee may have an unpleasant flavour, as the finer ground powder will penetrate the filter of the French press. Nevertheless, a better quality French press will keep the medium-ground powder from penetrating the filter.

James Hoffman, author of The World Map of Coffee, recommends using a French press with medium ground coffee powder, stirred for four minutes and poured for five or seven minutes, claiming that the French press is the most error prone brewing device and that the longer steeping time allows for easy access to the full extracted flavour of the coffee.

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However, James also recommends trying a finer grind until the bitterness appears. If the coffee produces a bitter taste, it is important to grind it a little coarser to get a good flavour from it.

If grinding too finely means avoiding over extraction, too much bitterness will be extracted and the coffee will not taste good.

How Do You Use A Fine Grind?

This is part of the brewing process that we mentioned at the beginning, where we conduct grinding trials.

Coffee Beans

James recommends using an electronic scale to help you know how much coffee and powder you are using and to adjust the quantities if necessary. Use a good grinder to grind the powder to a medium to coarse consistency.

If clarity of flavour is important to you, try sifting out the fine and large particles before brewing. The authors recommend using a 600 micron or 800 micron mesh to help reduce steeping time, as removing large particles means a more even extraction process, but this method of sieving out the powder can lead to more waste.

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Brewing Method

When using this method for the first time, use hot water at around 93°C. If you do not have a thermometer, allow the water to boil for about 30 seconds.

After stirring the coffee and mixing the powder with the water, put the lid on the press and press down gently so as not to touch the powder.

After three to four minutes of soaking, almost all of the coffee ground has been soaked. At this point you can look carefully at the ground and the water before pressing the plunger.

Leave some space between the coffee grounds and the filter, as the remaining grounds will be over-soaked and release impurities.

Be careful when pouring the coffee so that the grounds do not seep through the filter and drip into the cup, resulting in a poor tasting coffee.

After performing the normal brewing method, check the difference by repeating the same action but using a finer powder.

To find the right size for your press pot, grind it finer than you are used to and compare the two," says Matt Perger.

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Adjusting The Water Temperature When Grinding

When adjusting the size of the grind, also consider the temperature of the brewing water, as a finer grind will increase the surface area of the powder and therefore speed up extraction.

When using a medium grind, try lowering the water temperature from 93°C to 91°C and increase the brewing time slightly. This may result in a cup with a strong flavour without the bitterness of over-extraction.

If using a lower temperature of water for a coarse grind, this may result in an under-extraction unless the brewing time is extended. The key is that variables are interrelated, so if you change one variable you may have to adjust another at the same time.

Some people prefer to brew with near boiling water, while Matt Perger says he prefers to brew at a high temperature. When the coffee is good, it is important to control the temperature so that it is not too high and produces a burnt bitter taste, or too low and results in insufficient extraction.

There are many different forms of brewing coffee, but the most important thing is to mix the extracts well and it is important to balance these variables.

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What Kind Of French Press Should I Choose?

One thing to keep in mind about glass French presses is the heat loss in the water during the brewing process.

If you want to try the variables of a French press, try using a ceramic press or adding a thermal jacket to the outside of the glass press. Stainless steel French presses also provide good insulation, but the authors believe they can add an unpleasant metallic flavour to the coffee.

Understanding extraction allows you to experiment with brewing, and there are a number of ways to try using a French press and any other brewing equipment.

If you use a good quality grinder, you can let the powder steep as much as possible and then slowly press it at the end of the barrel, you generally won't get an unpleasant tasting cup of coffee.

Don't be afraid to try new figures, adjust the size of the grind, the temperature of the water and the brewing time to find out what you like and don't like about the brewing method.

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