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Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
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Rosalin
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Joined: 17 Oct 2013
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Location: LI NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu Oct 17, 2013, 2:19pm
Subject: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

People frequently recommend a course grind for french press and point out that a fine grind will make it hard to press the plunger and maybe create more mud. But are the problems with fine--heck, even (large) espresso size grinds--insurmountable? If coffeemaking is an art, I'm less interested in asking the question of 'what is best press grind?'; rather, I want to ask, 'what are the benefits that arise out of using the technique of a fine grind for press brewing?'

Can you make an unorthodox but excellent pressed cup with very fine grounds? (definition of very fine is up to you, from fine grounds to 'espresso range' to turkish)
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shlegminitism
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Joined: 4 Nov 2009
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Location: tifton, ga
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Espresso: Quick Mills Andreja
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Posted Thu Oct 17, 2013, 7:35pm
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

I think it would be possible, and it seems like there is more uncharted territory than there is charted.  Some things work and work well, but that's not to say its the only route by any means. I've accidentally ground it finer than i intended, and being cheap, instead of pitching the grounds i just steeped them for a shorter amount of time.  I would think that the main factor that would make or break the cup would be the amount of time it spent submerged in water.  The finer the grind, the larger amount of surface area, the less time needed for extracting.  Temperature would be a factor as well.  With an unmodified french press, the pressure build up during pressing would also be a hindrance. An option might be to make a filter for the french press out of some polyester felt (boiled previously to remove any potential leachables). That would probably fix the pressure issue. Then all you would need to find is the best grind/time combo, a little patience, and if you are cheap like me and live on principle, the will power to drink an over extracted cup in a fit a self flagellation that will hopefully lead to a more comprehensive appreciation of the art.  I've seen the polyester felt recommended for aeropress here on coffee geek (just search for polyester felt for some interesting reading), and used the 5 micron felt with good results.  Not sure if you might need 1 micron if you were using turkish grind. Good luck!
Chris
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MWJB
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Joined: 1 Jun 2013
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Posted Fri Oct 18, 2013, 1:58am
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

Rosalin Said:

People frequently recommend a course grind for french press and point out that a fine grind will make it hard to press the plunger and maybe create more mud. But are the problems with fine--heck, even (large) espresso size grinds--insurmountable? If coffeemaking is an art, I'm less interested in asking the question of 'what is best press grind?'; rather, I want to ask, 'what are the benefits that arise out of using the technique of a fine grind for press brewing?'

Can you make an unorthodox but excellent pressed cup with very fine grounds? (definition of very fine is up to you, from fine grounds to 'espresso range' to turkish)

Posted October 17, 2013 link

Yes, you can make an excellent pressed cup with fine/very fine grounds (never tried Turkish, certainly fine drip, towards espresso). Problems arise in trying to keep grinds & silt out of the cup and with those that do make into the cup causing defects in the flavour (I'm all for syrupy body, but not keen on bittering sand...it can flatten of any sweetness in the coffee). I do a couple of things that may help when using finer grinds: Put the water, just off boil in the pot first, this will help the grinds contact the water at a more even temperature, the press will absorb some of the heat from the "just of boil water". Be quick adding the grinds as the temp will be dropping, fold in the grinds gently to wet them, then just a quick stir. When checking to see when the brew is ready, most of your grounds should have become waterlogged & sunk. Just a touch/light stir at the surface will sink any that haven't. When you are ready to pour, keep the plunger mesh above the level of the liquid, hold it in place (so it doesn't fall out) & pour through it (credit James Hoffmann)...the grinds have sunk and are now at the bottom of the brewer, plunging the mesh down is likely to kick up any silt & force it back up through the mesh, into your beverage.

You can always secondary filter the FP brew, but that introduces different issues (I don't feel the need to secondary filter with the above method, sure, there will be a little silt at the bottom of the cup, but no more than is typical with a good technique).
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JKalpin
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JKalpin
Joined: 28 Dec 2008
Posts: 816
Location: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
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Espresso: Aerobie Aeropress
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Posted Fri Oct 18, 2013, 5:28am
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

It is interesting to spend some time with a sheet of white paper and a (say) 10x glass.  Grind a few beans, spread them out and look at what you have.

First of all, you should hope for an even grind (minimal fines).  Maybe, by experience, you have 'arrived' at a steep-time of 3 minutes.  Lots of fines will over-extract giving a bitter unpleasant character to the cup.  But the large pieces will have under-extracted giving you a weak component.  If only your grind had been uniform (minimum fines) you would have 'arrived' at a different steep-time of 4 minutes but the cup would be SO MUCH BETTER.

Also, you would notice if the grounds are sliced or crushed in the grinding process.  That is uncharted territory.  My grinder does not 'slice';  I get irregular shaped pieces.  I assume they are crushed.

 
Jerry
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MWJB
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Joined: 1 Jun 2013
Posts: 193
Location: UK
Expertise: I like coffee

Grinder: Rocky, Lido, Porlex, Hario...
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Posted Fri Oct 18, 2013, 6:48am
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

JKalpin Said:

It is interesting to spend some time with a sheet of white paper and a (say) 10x glass.  Grind a few beans, spread them out and look at what you have.

First of all, you should hope for an even grind (minimal fines).  Maybe, by experience, you have 'arrived' at a steep-time of 3 minutes.  Lots of fines will over-extract giving a bitter unpleasant character to the cup.  But the large pieces will have under-extracted giving you a weak component.  If only your grind had been uniform (minimum fines) you would have 'arrived' at a different steep-time of 4 minutes but the cup would be SO MUCH BETTER.

Also, you would notice if the grounds are sliced or crushed in the grinding process.  That is uncharted territory.  My grinder does not 'slice';  I get irregular shaped pieces.  I assume they are crushed.

Posted October 18, 2013 link

I think that illustration is perhaps more relevant to drip than French press, in 3 minutes it is unlikely that even relatively fine grinds have overextracted in a French press.
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Rosalin
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Joined: 17 Oct 2013
Posts: 11
Location: LI NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Oct 18, 2013, 5:38pm
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

Wow thanks everyone...this is great discussion.

I'll have to just implement some of these things and experiment and see what I get!
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johnnyb3
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Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 189
Location: Anaheim, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus refurb
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos
Drip: Chemex
Posted Mon Oct 21, 2013, 10:05am
Subject: Re: Better Grinds or Different Grinds? (fine ground french press)
 

Another suggestion to add to the above: After 3 minutes, skim the foam off the top as is done in cupping (I usually use just one soup spoon.) Give it a couple of more minutes to settle. Don't plunge, but pour, slowly, through the filter screen. I've never tried this with a really fine grind, but it works pretty well for me to de-sludge the FP cup.
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