The clean and break method for french press.

November 18, 2011


The clean and break method.  This is a technique of producing excellent French press coffee with a little extra work, but hopefully a pay off in the cup.  It was, as far as I can tell, made famous by world barista champion Tim Wendelboe.   I first heard about it on Homebarista.com here

http://www.home-barista.com/tips/break-and-clean-method-for-french-press-t10714.html


If you want a video tutorial, it is available from another world barista champion – James Hoffman.  The link to the video is here

http://www.jimseven.com/2008/11/13/french-press-technique/


Here is the basic idea of the process.  Instead of just pressing the coffee, you first break it, meaning you break the crust by pressing gently down with the back of a spoon causing a minimal amount of stirring.  You then scoop off the grinds the best you can off the top before pressing the rest of the coffee and pouring as you usually would do.


I think the idea is that you get a gentle flavor boost from the break, but you avoid overextraction and bitterness that might result from pressing the fine particles too much.


Here is the basic recipe that Hoffman uses…


75 grams of coffee per liter.  You can, of course, scale this back as need be so if you are making one third of a liter use 25 grams.


You as usual use a very coarse grind and preferably freshly done from a decent burr grinder - in my perspective the Baratza Maestro will do this quite well.


An interesting point that he makes is that adding water can best be done on a scale.  The bloom from fresh coffee means volume is a bad way to measure water (unless you measure it before pouring).  I haven’t done this with coffee, but I actually do this for most things including mixed drinks and baking because it keeps things clean.


Wait roughly 4 minutes of steep time.


Break the coffee gently with the spoon – delicately stirring staying near the surface.


Scoop out the grounds. This gives a cleaner cup and decreases sludge in the cup.


Press, pour, and enjoy!


I do like this strategy although I think you get many of these advantages for free with a clever dripper.



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