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Can you make cold brew coffee in a French press?

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

During what will forever be known to us in the Beancraft office as The Cold Brew Pot Drought of 2021, we have been forced to get creative to get our cold brew fix.

With Hario Cold Brew pots out of stock, it occurred to us that the French press has a similar enough structure to a cold brew pot that it might yield serviceable cold brew coffee.

Think about what happens in a cold brew pot. The ground coffee is suspended in a basket which is then submerged in water. 15 hours later, the water has extracted deliciousness out of those beans, and you have yourself some cold brew coffee.

But if it’s as simple as immersing coffee in water and letting time and cold do the rest, could you not achieve the same result with a French press? Add coffee, pour in cold water and stick it in the fridge. Then, 15 or so hours later, push down the plunger and pour yourself a cup.

Simple enough, right? That’s exactly what we did.

Of course, an experiment like this would require willing participants to blindly taste test, and an observer to brew the coffee and record results. The rest of the Beancraft team were kind enough to volunteer as guinea pigs. Rest assured they were not privy to the setup or the brewing so their answers were free from bias.

Embracing my new role as field researcher, I made some cold brew coffee in a Bodum Chambord French press and using the same recipe, made some cold brew in the 500ml Hario pot to act as the control. 

Grind size French press
Coffee Heritage blend
Quantity of coffee 40g
Quantity of water 500ml
Duration of brewing 15h

 

Each setup used the same coffee blend, grind size, quantities of coffee and water, and brewing duration — ceteris paribus and all that. The idea is to change only one variable at a time, otherwise you won’t be able to definitively attribute a difference in the final result to a specific factor. Remember, the variable we're changing here is the brewing method and nothing else. 


Find the results below.

Elle
Guessed wrong ❌ 
Verdict: They both taste the same.
Rod
Guessed right 
Verdict: Original cold brew is nicer, less bold, more subtle on the palate. It would be lovely with milk.
Anee
Guessed right 
Verdict: Original cold brew is sweeter. This is because of how it is immersed — suspended in the middle of the water rather than allowed to settle to the bottom as in the French press.

 

In conclusion, yes, you can certainly make cold brew coffee in a French press. A better question would be: should you? We personally wouldn't, unless we’re really craving cold brew and don’t have a cold brew pot on hand.

But we also wouldn't judge you too harshly if you did, because 1: cold brew pots won’t be in stock until August, and 2: the French press method wasn’t bad at all, just different.

There isn’t just one way of consuming coffee, and it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.

If you’ve been following along at home and find yourself with little to do, I highly encourage you to give the people around you unlabelled cups of mystery coffee to taste test.

See if you get the same results as we did, or simply think of it as a trust exercise. Who knows, you might even like French press cold brew better than OG cold brew. Either way, let us know what you think.

 

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A Fuss-Free Guide to Making Great French Press Coffee

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

In the course of researching and testing French press recipes, we at Beancraft have gained an appreciation for the whole spectrum of human thought on coffee. There are those erudite individuals amongst us who insist on using precisely 660 millilitres of water heated to exactly 93.5 degrees Celsius, but there are also those special characters who simply dump an unknown quantity of ground coffee in their French press, fill it with boiling water, immediately jam down the plunger and call it a day. 


We’ll be honest: we don’t use a thermometer to make our coffee every morning. But we also don’t compromise on coffee quality; in fact, we’ve based our livelihoods on it. Over the years, we’ve discovered that there are some things that can make or break your cup of French press coffee, but none of them require special equipment (apart from a French press, of course). And so, we present to you our Fuss-free Guide to Making Great French Press Coffee. 

  1. Preheating matters 
    Our first order of business is to fill the French press with hot water. We won’t be using this water for brewing. We’re using it to bring up the temperature of the carafe so that it doesn’t cool down the coffee we will soon be brewing too quickly. Think of this as preheating an oven: inconvenient, but a step you definitely shouldn’t skip (unless you have a ceramic French press, which is better at retaining heat than the usual metal or glass). 

  2. Water is half the battle
    It’s paramount that the water you use for brewing is clean, fresh and soft. We’re going to immerse our coffee in water, so if the water you use is hard or unfiltered, the resulting coffee won’t taste good. Make sure to boil the water and let it sit until it reaches 96°C (as promised, no thermometers necessary; just let it sit for about a minute). If the water is too hot, your coffee will be burnt; if it is not hot enough, the coffee will suffer under-extraction.

  3. Grind size is king
    We know we keep repeating ourselves, but it really is true. The grind size of your coffee can make or break your cup. For the French press, you’ll need your coffee ground to the size of coarse rock salt. We’ve put together a handy grind chart to better illustrate this. 

  4. Get the ratio right
    Our preferred ratio is 35 grams ground coffee to half a litre of water. This is what we would recommend if you’re just starting out with the French press, but once you get the hang of it, feel free to vary ratios.

  5. Set a timer
    Yes, we said no special equipment, and no, this does not count. Have your phone ready, and as soon as you add the water to the ground coffee in the carafe, start a 4-minute timer. At the 1-minute mark, give the mixture a stir. You want to break up the crust at the top. This causes the larger particles of coffee to sink to the bottom, which means less sediment in your final cup. Attach the lid but do not push down the plunger yet.

  6. Serve immediately
    After your remaining 3 minutes are up, you can slowly push down the plunger. We want to leave the sediment at the bottom as undisturbed as possible. Do not leave any liquid in the carafe, because the immersed coffee will continue brewing. To avoid bitter, over-extracted coffee, pour the leftover coffee into a different jug. 

You can enjoy French press coffee with milk or without. For extra credit, froth milk in your French press to make a cappuccino (but definitely clean it first if you’ve just made coffee). Now that you have the basics down pat, you are free to play around with your French press as you please. A good place to start would be James Hoffman’s French press technique. Or you can add a pinch of salt to your coffee like Alton Brown does. Everyone has a recipe they swear by, and it’s up to you to discover what tastes best to you. This is the joy of the French press: it is one of the simplest brew methods and therefore very easy to experiment (and fall in love) with. 


If you’re in the market for a new French press, we suggest the Bodum Chambord — a product we swear by for its efficiency and reliability. Also, keep in mind that not every coffee is suited to every brew method. Generally, less acidic coffees are more suitable to the French press, especially if you’re going to be adding milk, which doubles down on acidity. We’d recommend our Heritage, Pitalito and Monsoon coffees for the French press.


Got a pressing French press question? Shoot us an email, DM us on Instagram or Facebook, and we’ll see what we can do. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Stovetop Coffee Brewing

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

The Moka Pot might be a tricky beast to tame in the beginning, but with practice and experimentation, it has the power to completely change your coffee game for the better. During our tests in the Beancraft kitchen, we’ve discovered that there’s some factors that can really make or break your stovetop brew. Here's what you need to do. 
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The low-down on Specialty Robusta

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

Mentions of Robusta have long elicited cringes from coffee purists -- but new research shows that this much-maligned coffee bean deserves more appreciation.
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Affogato Recipe - How to Make a Really Great Affogato at Home

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

This is hands down one of the easiest dessert to whip up when you’re entertaining or have friends dropping in for a last minute catch-up. Made with vanilla ice cream, espresso coffee and a cheeky dash of liqueur, this is the perfect treat for the holiday season...
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