The Portland Press: A French Press in a Jar

05.23

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The Portland Press is a beautiful and responsible new approach to manufacturing a coffee brewing staple—the French press. This is the first product from Bucket, a two person startup in Portland, Oregon who wants to manufacture products as responsibly as possible while creating relationships between customers and the craftsmen who make their products. The coffee market seems like a good place to start.

Bryan Kappa and Rob Story wanted to develop a French press that was manufactured locally using materials from the US and wasn’t as fragile as the typical French press glass that most of us have probably shattered ourselves more than once.

The Portland Press is a french press for a Mason jar, made in the state of Oregon, out of materials sourced in the USA. It’s a simple, clean, practical design made out of fundamental materials: glass, wool, steel, wood. Most importantly, the Mason jar is easy to replace if it breaks, and the rest of the Portland Press is backed with a lifetime warranty. -Bucket

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While I continue to support the French press as a simple way of introducing people to the joys of brewing fresh coffee at home, I do wish Bucket could have partnered with Espro to develop a next generation version of this lovely product.

Responsibly made also doesn’t come cheap, and $100 for a 24oz French press positions this on the high end of the price spectrum. Maybe the lifetime warranty will help offset the sticker shock or maybe the beauty of the Oregon maple lid and the wool sleeve are enough to persuade you to part with your money a bit easier.

Bucket is currently taking pre-orders at Crowd Supply.

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posted by on 05.23.2013, under Brew Methods, Design, Products

The Espro Press: The Rebirth of the French Press

03.04

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If you’re a fan of the French press, but not the fine particles that cloud your brew, the Espro Press is about to change your morning cup for the better. The Espro is a press pot that uses a dual micro-filter that’s 9 to 12 times finer than the mesh on a standard press. I first encountered the Espro Press at the Houston Specialty Coffee Event nearly 2 years ago, where I enjoyed a cup of Yirgacheffe from 49th Parallel. I was quite surprised by its cleanliness and depth of flavor, but believed I had “matured” beyond such methods.

It wasn’t until a visit to Coffee Collective in Copenhagen last year that I was encouraged to give it another look. When I saw the Espro being used on bar at Coffee Collective and after thoroughly enjoying a cup of Esmeralda Gesha from it, I realized the press pot had been reborn—renewing my enthusiasm for a faithful old brew method.

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A year ago, Espro launched a Kickstarter to fund the production of a large 30oz Espro Press—raising over $80,000—to complement its original 8oz version. This week, the Vancouver, Canada-based company is back on the crowd-funding site for help producing a new 18oz size press, which not only offers a more practical size, but will also include a few design refinements over its small and large counterparts.

The French press is one of the most common ways for people to brew their coffee at home. It was the method I first used to brew at home and it’s even the most popular way to brew among Verve Coffee employees. At one point in time, it was a preferred method of brewing coffee in some of the great specialty coffee shops before the pour over craze converted many of us to the pleasure of sweetness and clarity that paper filters provide.

While the full immersion brew method and simplicity of the French press are great, its muddiness and grit can mask and distort some of the more nuanced flavors in coffee, which is why you may have noticed them disappearing from some of your favorite cafés. But their ease of use and the ability to brew large quantities for guests is nearly unrivaled by most home brewing methods. Espro takes advantage of those positive aspects and has done a great job addressing the negatives with their redesigned filter.

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The Espro filter system is comprised of two (BPA-free) plastic frames that are wrapped with a micro-mesh and nest comfortably into each other, creating twice the filtering of a standard press. The filter then screws onto a plunging rod like other press pots so it can be unscrewed and cleaned once you’re finished. The pot itself is polished, double-wall stainless steel, which keeps things warmer longer, although I highly suggest decanting the coffee immediately after brewing to prevent over extraction (bitterness).

The filter system is a remarkable improvement over the standard French press and it’s surprising that it took so long for someone to accomplish something that seems a bit obvious. There is however one issue I have with the large size press that Espro sent me for testing—which the company says they addressed in the design of the new medium size Espro—and that’s the retention of coffee below the filter cup. Since the current filter system fits so well into the pot, and there are no holes in the bottom of it, the Espro traps a substantial amount of coffee at the bottom that ultimately goes to waste.

When brewing 750g of water in the Espro, I decanted 554g of coffee. After “rocking” the pot back and forth, the total increased to 568g of coffee. With the Bodum press however, I brewed 750g of water and was able to decant 674g of coffee—giving me another half cup of coffee. You can squeeze a bit more coffee from the Espro by slightly raising the filter or continuing to rock it back and forth, but this also risks increasing the amount of sediment that passes through, which defeats the entire purpose of the product.

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Below I’ve run an experiment to illustrate the difference between the sediment in the Espro compared with a standard Bodum French press.

I brewed coffee with each press using the same parameters and technique: 45 grams of coffee to 750 grams of water (coarse grind, 8-A on a Baratza Vario-W), a 2 minute steep followed by a stir, followed by 2 more minutes of steeping and a controlled 30 second press. The coffee was immediately decanted to prevent further extraction. I then poured the decanted coffee through a rinsed V60 paper to capture the sediment and give a visual approximation of the differences.

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Overall, the coffee brewed in the Espro had more sweetness, more clarity and more acidity than in the standard French press. The resulting cup was not entirely sediment free, but it was reduced to a small bit of mud from fines rather than a gritty mouthfeel throughout. Depending on variations in your method (i.e. the cupping method of skimming before pressing) it’s possible to further reduce the sediment.

My goal with this test was to replicate a more standard use of the press pot than to examine the most effective sediment reduction methods. I found the amount of sediment from the Espro to be similar to what you can achieve with the Able Kone, but with the approachability that a press pot offers to beginners who are looking for a less intimidating way to start brewing much better coffee at home.

Learn more at Espro or pre-order the Espro Press Medium on Kickstarter

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posted by on 03.04.2013, under Brew Methods, Misc., Products

Nau X Snow Peak: Fancy Camp Coffee

06.20

The fashionable, eco-conscious lifestyle company Nau, is no stranger to collaborations. Their latest project is a deluxe titanium coffee set designed with Snow Peak that’s sure to improve any campsite or picnic. The set includes a French press, double-walled mug, milk frother, a bag of Stumptown coffee, and a clever cutting board that encases a Japanese-made knife. It’s the brunch kit in a bag that you never knew you needed.

I’ve been a huge fan of Nau since their early days as a company—before they were almost a casualty of the economic crash in 2008. In fact, all of my outerwear comes from their collection. So if the integrity and quality of their collaborations are as solid as their own products, this is most likely an equally good investment.

With summer upon us, you will hopefully get to spend some quality time outdoors. Here in Sweden, there are 5 weeks of mandatory holiday were most of the country runs off to a cabin, boat or archipelago—but coffee is still a daily necessity.

My preferred coffee companion while traveling may be an AeroPress, but in some cases a French press may be more practical—and it’s still an appreciated brew method. My only complaint is that it comes with a milk frother instead of a hand grinder—a much more practical and necessary tool for great coffee.

Nau x Snow Peak Café Luxe Kit ($125)

posted by on 06.20.2012, under Design, Products

Brew Method: Appreciating a Simple French Press

06.08

Sometimes I forget how far I’ve grown in my relationship with coffee over the years and I often catch myself speaking to someone as if  it’s standard to grind and brew fresh roasted coffee at home. Well it’s far from standard, and I often come off sounding like a giant nerd or a pretentious jerk—neither of which are the intention. Those of us who love great coffee get very passionate about it and just want to save our family and friends from drinking anything less—to share with them the joys of truly great coffee.

Recently, I was sent a blog post that reminded me to appreciate the simplicity of the French press. While this is no longer my preferred way to brew coffee, it’s a gateway drug to coffee appreciation that shouldn’t be underestimated. I was given a vintage Chambord French press, as a house warming gift from a good friend, which introduced me to home brewing years ago. Prior to that, I was spoiled by my proximity to Intelligentsia’s Broadway café in Chicago—where I spent a lot of money on coffee, but it was always good. Even as a barista 8 years ago, the batch-brewed beverages I made, never compared to what was now possible at home, made simply with a French press.

So if you’re reading this and have yet to decide how to begin brewing great coffee at home, don’t overlook a French press. Even with all the recent talk of pour-overs and fancy Hario equipment, the French press requires no special technique, fancy kettles or paper filters. Just fresh coffee, a decent burr grinder, hot water and 4 minutes of patience.

This beautiful video and the photos above are from the original Sprouted Kitchen post that reminded me how intimidating the coffee world can be to beginners who just want to brew better coffee at home. There’s a lot of information that can quickly overwhelm consumers and most of it is unnecessary. Start simple and go from there.

Shop for French Press


Music by Forest Creatures

posted by on 06.08.2011, under Brew Methods, Misc., Products, Videos

Café Timer iPhone App

04.15

There are a number of coffee apps and timers out there, but the Café Timer is about as simple as they get. With one touch of the app icon, an illustration of a French press launches and it immediately begins counting down from 4 minutes. If you remain in the app, you’ll hear a clock begin ticking when there’s 5 seconds left, leading to an ample alarm and vibration when it’s done. If you happen to leave the app, a slightly quieter pop-up will alert you. Tapping the screen flips to a few coffee brewing tips, like using fresh roasted coffee within 2 weeks of roast date, grinding right before you brew with a burr grinder and using water below boiling (however I disagree with suggesting 190°F, it should be closer to 200°F).

While this app is primarily meant for those who use a French press, there are a few options to alter the steep time in the phone’s settings. This allows you to use the timer for other methods, like an AeroPress—sadly the illustration doesn’t change.

For $1.99 it’s more than what most people would expect to pay for such a simple app, especially one that doesn’t really add new functionality to your phone other than convenience. However, when you’re about to pour water on your grounds, it’s much easier to tap once than getting tangled up switching from your morning alarm, back to the timer in the iPhone’s default app (3 taps). You’ve probably spent $1.99 on less useful things, and if a French press is your daily brew method, it’s a nice looking alternative to the standard timer.

As a gift to DCILY readers, the app’s developer Benjamin Cullen-Kerney, has kindly donated a few free versions for me to give away to readers who help spread the word. Everyone who retweets this and/or posts it on Facebook, today through Sunday, will be entered to win a free Café Timer app on Monday. If you can’t wait that long and you’d rather buy Ben a virtual cup of coffee, go purchase the app now.

Café Timer App for iPhone

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posted by on 04.15.2011, under Design, Misc., Products