20 July 2012

French Press Coffee and Equipment Review - Bodum Columbia French Press

Coffee will never replace tea in my affections. Coffee is more of an acquaintance I enjoy seeing from time to time, while tea is my constant companion. Never one to grab a quick cup of coffee or drink it bleary-eyed in the morning, I do enjoy a well-made cup of coffee as the perfect complement to certain things.

Like chocolate. Or beignets, which have been on my mind a lot lately. (I'll post my recipe another day.) I remember well the first time I had beignets and cafe au lait in New Orleans. It was several years ago, but I can still smell and taste that classic combination.

Growing up in an English home, my mother was a tea drinker until she met my coffee-drinking Southern-born father (and married him 16 days later!). Of course, she continued to prefer tea but drank coffee in the morning since she was obliged to make it anyway. She learned her coffee-making technique from him just as he had learned it from his parents. 

This will likely come as a shock to you, but it was boiled coffee! Also known as cowboy coffee. Sounds terrible (and probably is most of the time), but can be very good if done properly. And, of course, my mother made it properly.

But I always figured I'd botch the cowboy coffee, so I decided I'd go with the manual filter method and got a 1-litre thermal carafe and a Melitta filter. I've been using that for years on those occasions when I make coffee. 

Then a friend, who once worked as a barista and is a true coffee aficionado, told me she thinks French press coffee is the best. She has the Bodum Chambord glass model and loves it, but I can be a bit of a hazard so I was happy that the model sent to me for review was all stainless steel. 

It is the Bodum Columbia cafetiere/French press. The Columbia comes in three sizes: 17-ounce, 34-ounce and 51-ounce. Mine is the 17-ounce, which is going to be perfect for my dear sister-in-law's morning coffee when she comes to visit. I've only used it a few times so far, but I like it so well I'm thinking of getting the 51-ounce as well. It's so easy to use, and the coffee is perfect. 

Its gorgeous rounded shape suits my traditional style more than the more modern-looking cylindrical shape of some of the other Bodum press pots. Of course, it is cylindrical inside so that the press can work. The double-walled construction helps keep the coffee hot longer. Both the pot and the lid/plunger are dishwasher-safe, though I just wash them by hand.

French Press Coffee

(Makes two 8-ounce cups or three 5-ounce cups)

1 Remove lid/press from pot. Measure 1/4 to 1/3 cup coarsely ground coffee into pot.

2 Heat 16 ounces of water in tea kettle. When almost to a boil, pour into pot; give it a stir. Set the lid/press just loosely on the pot. Let stand for 4 minutes.

3 Place the lid/press properly on the pot. Slowly press the plunger.

What is your favorite method for making coffee? And decaf or regular? Strong or weak? Black or ... ?


Cranberry Morning said...

Well, I feel the same way about tea as you do about coffee. :-) And I have always intended to get a French press. This one is beautiful. Hmmm. My birthday is coming up. I'll have to drop a hint or two (or fifteen or twenty!) :-)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

When you're hinting, be sure to be specific about the size. What Bodum calls a "cup" is not 8 ounces, so what they call an 8-cup pot is just 34 ounces. Which reminds me, how have I resisted the urge all these years to buy a set of those cute little espresso cups?!

Mike said...

Great post.

I recently purchased a Bodum French Press on Amazon, along w/ a grinder and a goodly assortment of beans. I didn't splurge on any of them because I figured I could always "upgrade" if I wanted and I wouldn't be out a lot if I didn't like it.

I've been more than pleased. It didn't take long at all to get the hang of it. My inexpensive grinder doesn't have any settings, so I had to estimate what exactly was "coarse grind", but I was doing good after the first attempt. I ordered three 1-lb bags of the same brand (Magnum) but different blends, Sumatra, Jamaican & Kona. I think I prefer Kona of the three. I also got a 2-lb bag of Tim Horton's, but I haven't opened it up yet.

My one regret is not getting an insulated carafe, but my press is only 8 cups (which is about 2 and a half regular coffee cups)so it's not that bad. Getting the amt. of beans right was a little harder - my first attempt didn't have enough and the second had me wired for most of the day.

The coffee is delicious. I had been drinking instant for my morning "jolt" but doctoring it up w/ milk and Splenda as so to make it palatable. I have a drip automatic maker, but to be honest, the instant tasted almost as good.

Using the press doesn't take that much longer than it does with a regular coffee machine, the only difference in how long it takes to boil the water and during that time is when I grind the beans. Four minutes after pouring in the water and giving the coffee grounds a quick stir, I give the press plunger a slow push downwards and the coffee is ready to drink. The coffee is a hundred times better and worth the extra time spent. It tastes so good that I don't add anything else as I used to do. Clean up is a breeze.

Sorry to have blathered on, but I LOVE my Bodum. My hot pot went out on me yesterday morning and I can't wait on Amazon (and it's too hot to turn on the stove) for a new one, so I'm getting out in a bit to buy a new pot.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Mike, thank you! And feel free to blather on! I know how it is to be thrilled with a new gadget. If I were you, I'd go for the 51-ounce, think they call it a 12-cup.

Mike said...

Sorry about repeating some of the information you had already posted. I just got excited when this post hit my reader and forgot all but the subject while I was composing a reply.

Meant to add, I've been intrigued by French Press coffee makers since Alton Brown had a show about breakfast on "Good Eats".

Also, America's Test Kitchen has a new video up on YouTube (and their site) about how to tell if your coffee beans are fresh. Basically, it's to put a half cup into a zip lock bag, seal them up and let them set overnight. If the bag is puffed up the next day, they're fresh( no more than 7-10 days since roasting; if it's still flat, they're good only for "composting or air freshener) It also said to store them in a dry, dark place if you were going to use them fairly quickly, or in the freeze if not, but NOT to store them in the fridge.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

No worries, Mike, I don't have a problem with enthusiastic commenters! I usually don't have to worry about freshness of the beans. I'm fortunate to have friends in the coffee business who, anytime they're coming over, grind fresh beans for me right before they hand-carry it to me.

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Had no idea that drinking tea with a coffee addict causes marriage, or that boiling coffee morphs people into cowboys – this blog is always a flat-out education for me! I do love your side glimpses into family history, the evolution of customs, and your informative etymologies…make that eat-ymologies. And I'm happy to add my coffee recipe(s) to the list you've opened up. It's pretty simple, really. Mix ground coffee and/or coffee syrup in ice cream, yogurt, hot fudge, caramel, peanut butter, rice, or anything else except pickled watermelon rinds…well, OK, pickled watermelon rinds too (but drink a glass of diet cola or cream of unborn squid immediately after). There. No need to thank me… P.S. I thought a French press was something that published on the Left Bank or sold postcards out of a trenchcoat. Like I said, education, education!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Always happy to help out with your education, son! Hey, thought of you last week when we served coffee ice cream to a friend and after three bites he said "I don't mean to be rude, but I can't eat this. I just really don't like coffee."

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Well, Jean, I am a coffee snob. I like my coffee to be just right--fresh, strong and flavorful--not burnt, weak or dull in flavor. The cup must be warmed before first filling with a Tablespoon of full-fat organic cream that the freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee is added to. That flavorful cup of coffee is then best enjoyed while sitting quietly with my own thoughts.

Love your story about your parents--really sweetened up the coffee story. I have an art stamp image I need to send you--'cowboy coffee'. I'll email it to you.

Jackie Kirner said...

I, too, grew up drinking tea in an English household. Yet over the years I've become a coffee drinker, struggling to replicate the good tea experience of years ago. (My tea making efforts all come out so insipid now). My Brit relatives introduced me to cafetieres for coffee and other than an old fashioned perc, that's what I now use!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sue, I like the idea of warming the cup and putting the cream in first. You painted a picture with your coffee description! Thanks for the cowboy copy pic--love the art you use on your site.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jackie, we must get you back on track with your tea making! Do check out all my posts here about tea. On my Recipes/Reviews index page, I have a Tea subheading.

Angie's Recipes said...

I don't drink coffee, but love its pleasant and delicious aroma..tea is something I must have every day.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Always happy to find another tea lover (and cat lover), Angie!

Oregon Kimm said...

I'm not a coffee drinker in the least, but your post brought back memories. My grandparents always "boiled" their coffee. I never knew any other wy!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

I'm glad you shared that with me, Kimm! I'm all about the memories, the heritage and all that. My mother tried different brands from time to time, but my grandparents always boiled Folgers.

Mary said...

In all my life, I have NEVER been a fan of coffee, until about a month ago when I tried Spanish cafe con leche. WOW. I was hooked immediately! I bought a stovetop espresso pot, a frother and a couple different kinds of espresso within days of trying it for the first time. All this to say, that the right gadgets made everything better.

P.S. I also picked up a Bodum French press for my die-hard coffee drinking husband and he loves it!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Mary, that's so true - the right gadgets make everything better! Like that tool company slogan: The right tool for the right job.

Ali said...

I am a coffee drinker and prefer the Bodum French Press. Mine is not the beautiful stainless one that you have but I love the look of it (and the safety - I've already broken one glass press).

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Ali! I don't think a glass press pot would make it through its first week with me.

Brian's Coffee Spot said...

I too am a coffee snob and when I'm not drinking espresso (which is most of the time), the simple French press is my preferred method of making coffee too.

My tip is to let the water boil, then pour it into the cup/cups and from there, pour it onto the coffee in the French press. That way, you get the not-quite-boiled temperature, you get the cups warmed (a must in my opinion) and you get just the right amount of water!


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Brian, that's a great idea! I'm going to try it the very next time I make coffee. I'm so glad you commented!