It’s been over four years since I wrote about the simple joy of brewing coffee with a French press. During that time a lot has happened in the world of coffee and every day more people discover the pleasure of brewing high quality, fresh roasted coffee at home. With all the changes taking place, I’m still a strong believer in the humble press pot as a gateway to better coffee brewing and appreciation.
In the last couple of months, two of the companies that pioneered specialty “third wave” coffee, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, were both purchased by Peet’s Coffee & Tea. If an acquisition by one of the largest coffee chains in the world is an indicator of anything, it suggests that there is growing demand and a much larger market for high quality coffee than many people realize. Following that same acknowledgement, large houseware companies have also taken notice and begun releasing new products with features that target quality conscious coffee consumers.
KitchenAid, the maker of the iconic stand mixer, is a global brand that has been selling appliances for kitchens since 1919 and they are now reaching out to the world of specialty coffee with a line of new “craft coffee” products. The range includes a sturdy looking burr grinder, a “pour over” inspired auto drip, an electric syphon contraption, a home espresso machine, and the Precision (French) Press, which I thought was the most interesting product in the new line-up. I’m typically skeptical of new coffee products made by companies outside of the specialty industry, but occasionally something will pique my interest enough for me to explore it further. So Melysa at Single Edition Media sent me the new Precision Press on behalf of KitchenAid and I wanted to share my experience using it and my thoughts about the unique position for it in the growing coffee market.
The French press was how I first began brewing coffee at home and that nostalgia is where part of my affinity for the brew method comes from. Although I now prefer the clean body and flavor profile that comes from paper filters, the press pot still produces a drink that’s more reminiscent of a cupping and provides the heavier mouthfeel that can help support someones transition to lighter roasted specialty coffees. It’s also an incredibly approachable way to make coffee without much effort. Drop in coffee grounds, pour hot water over top, wait a few minutes and press. No special filters, no special kettles, no pour over balancing acts—it’s simple and that’s why it’s still a popular way to brew coffee among so many people, even if they don’t care about the quality of the coffee itself—yet.
When I recommend how to get the best coffee experience at home, there’s a list of things I suggest having: fresh roasted coffee from a quality roaster, a good burr grinder, a brew method of choice, clean water, a timer, and a scale. By time I get to the scale, most people begin to feel overwhelmed. A scale often seems like a step too far for many people. It pushes them over the edge from an everyday coffee lover to a pretentious coffee snob. The scale tends to be viewed as an unwieldy, time consuming, and uneccessary step. Trying to explain the importance of consistency and differences in bean density and variety size will be greeted with a look of sheer confusion.
Despite the off-putting nature of using a scale, coffee professionals know how important it is for brewing better coffee and being consistent from cup to cup, the same way a good baker will measure their ingredients by weight rather than volume. The KitchenAid Precision Press has helped bridge the divide by integrating a scale and a timer into the pot itself. Meaning the only other significant tool you would need for brewing great coffee, other than hot water, is a grinder—simplifying the process.
The Precision Press is made from double walled stainless steel which adds heat insulation and prevents you from having to replace the millions of glass beakers that you will inevitably break otherwise. It has a capacity of 25oz (.74L) which falls short for larger dinner parties, but it is much more practical for every day use. The plunger, which filters the coffee, has a much more robust design than that you will see on cheaper press pots. The steel filter mesh is reinforced with a steel frame that I found reduces the sediment in the cup producing a pretty clean cup as far as standard press pots are concerned. There is also a thick rubber gasket around the outer edge of the plunger which requires a bit of finesse when you first begin to plunge, although I imagine it will break-in after more use. Overall, it filters and pours the coffee pretty well on the spectrum of products already available on the market.
The functional element of the scale is built into the base of the pot and uses 2 AAA batteries to power it. All of the controls and the display are integrated into the rubber gripped handle; with buttons for power, timer start/stop, and tare (zero). The controls are simple and easy to use and the screen is clear and legible. Holding the tare button for three seconds will change the measurement from grams to ounces and everything shuts off by itself after 9 minutes of being idle. The refresh rate of the scale is not as quick as the Acaia scale, but is still on par with most of its battery powered peers.
There are of course a few drawbacks that should be pointed out. Some of these issues could probably be amended on future versions, but I imagine it might add more cost to the current retail price ($149) and neither of them are necessarily deal breakers. My first point of concern is the use of AAA batteries. Maybe, I’ve been spoiled by the Acaia scale, but I want all of my daily use electronics to be rechargeable, preferably with a universal USB cable. I don’t want to search for a screwdriver to change the batteries in my French press just so I can brew my morning coffee.
Also, since this press pot has electronic components, it needs a bit of special attention while cleaning. The pot is not supposed to be fully submerged in water, which means that when it’s time to clean up, you’ll need to rinse it, hand wash and wipe it down with more caution than with a standard press pot, most of which can be thrown in the dishwasher. Lastly, this is more of a personal preference, the polished stainless steel exterior is lovely when you pull it out of the box for the first time, but it will never look as good ever again. Smudges galore. I would prefer one of KitchenAid’s black pearl coatings or a brushed steel finish—but that’s just the designer in me picking over the details.
Ultimately, the Precision Press isn’t meant for everyone. If you already have a functioning press pot, there’s no need to run out and replace it with one of these, just buy yourself a scale. And if you’ve already crossed the bridge to home brewing and own a scale, the Precision Press is simply an extravagance. However, if you have a friend or family member you are trying to convert in the most approachable way, with as few steps and extra devices as possible, that is where this product becomes incredibly useful. The Precision Press is meant for your parents, or your vacation home, or any other uncoordinated loved ones who have no interest in balancing a stack of items on a scale before they’re fully awake in the morning. In those situations, the Precision Press will not only be useful, but also appreciated as much as the elevated cup of coffee that it makes.