There is perhaps no coffee brewing device as ubiquitous or divisive as the French press. There are over 4 million apartments listed on AirBnB, and each one of them has a French press, most likely a Bodum or some nondescript store brand with dubious plastic parts.
For a brief period, the French press enjoyed a privileged place in the pantheon of coffee brew methods. Advocates lauded it for preserving the oils, which are absorbed by a paper filter. Owning one was a shibboleth of coffee snobbery and refinement.
But the sludgy last sip has proved a bridge too far for many coffee lovers. In the battle between body and clarity, the industry has landed overwhelming on the side of the latter. Even Stumptown Coffee, which long served French press decanted into airpots instead of autodrip, installed batch brewers in all of their cafés.
But as any coffee professional who has ever said “this tasted better on the the cupping table” is forced to admit, there is something about the lipids that add a pleasing viscosity to a cup of coffee. Fats, after all, absorb aromas, so there might be something more going on with unfiltered coffee than just a pleasing texture. But perhaps more importantly, in a world where one needs a small arsenal of devices and accessories to brew an acceptable cup of coffee, there is something beautiful about the simplicity and singularity of the French press.
One device promises the best of both worlds, and for years has been the only acceptable press pot within the upper echelons of the barista community. That device, of course, is the Espro Press.
I picked up mine several years ago, oddly enough, not to brew coffee with. I developed a signature drink for a barista competition that involved a cacao nib extraction, and used an Espro Press to brew it during the routine. After my competition, it went into a box, with all of my other competition wares, where I mostly forgot about it until a recent slew of house guest made me wish I didn’t have to stand around brewing so many pour-overs in the morning. My Espro Press came to the rescue, and in the months since I have found myself repeatedly returning to this device.
The Espro Press is made of stainless steel, with an insulated body that is fantastic for preserving heat. Factor in the lid, and it’s safe to say you won’t find a more temperature-stable brewing device.
But the real innovation of the Espro Press is its patented double filtering system. Unlike most French presses, which use a coarse metal filter that allows the finer particles through, the Espropress uses a fine mesh with holes barely visible to the naked eye. When pressing the filter, the coffee is forced through the mesh filter twice, removing all but the very finest particles.
As advertised, the fine mesh filtration creates a much cleaner cup of coffee than a conventional French press, while still allowing the oils in your cup. While testing the device, we brewed comparison to pour-overs of the same coffee, and there’s no question the Espro Press offers more body at similar extractions.
As far as ease of use goes, it’s hard to think of a more user-friendly device. For travel, I love that I can use the fill line and pre-measured doses of coffee so I can leave my scale at home.
The double filtering system of the Espro Press is extremely effective at keeping out coffee particles. Unfortunately, it’s so effective that it keeps out much of the liquid as well. When using both filters, quite a bit of the slurry is retained. When brewing filter coffee, I expect anywhere between 10-15% of the brew water to be retained by the grounds (i.e. a recipe that uses 22 grams of coffee and 350 ml. of water will likely produce a beverage around 315 ml.) But with my Espro Press brews, 350 mls (the upper limits of the 18 oz model) of coffee produced a beverage weight of 230 grams. That means around 30% of the beverage weight is being retained. If you remove the second filter and only use one, you can get a little more coffee in your cup, but you sacrifice some cleanliness in the process.
All this makes for a device that is far less efficient than other brew methods. Admittedly in my household there’s usually coffee to spare (and a decent amount is given away to friends), so coffee efficiency isn’t my primary concern. But brewers on a budget will get more cup out of their bag of coffee with a different brew method.
Even though the Espro Press is remarkably cleaner than a conventional French press, Espro Press brews still benefit from a trick we learned from James Hoffmann’s website years ago: after the coffee has been steeping for around a minute, gently stir the crust with a spoon, causing the larger particles to sink. The sediment that is left behind can be skimmed off with a spoon for maximum cleanliness.
For immersion brew methods we usually start with a 1:15 coffee to water ratio, and make adjustments on subsequent brews as necessary. A medium grind and 4-5 minute steep time works well with most coffees. (One of the benefits of the Espro Press is not needing to grind as coarsely as a conventional press pot.)
The mesh filter is incredibly fine, so keeping it clean is very important. We recommend a periodic Cafiza soak to keep it in tip-top shape.
The Espro Press offers, in many regards, the best of both worlds. Brews with this device offer all of the luscious mouthfeel one finds on the cupping table, while maintaining a cleanliness just short of paper filtration. The sturdy stainless steel construction makes it an ideal device for travel or camping, and the ease of use makes it a great option for hosting, (or tired baristas who don’t want any fuss on their day off). I, however, still can’t bring myself to drink that last, still kind of sludgy sip.