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A French press (also called press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetière) is a special machine used to make coffee. It is easy to operate. The coffee it can make is stronger than that produced by other means.
A French press has a round jug. This jug can be glass or clear plastic. The jug has a lid and a "plunger". The plunger fits in the jug very well. It usually has some kind of steel or plastic wire, that acts as a filter. Coffee is brewed by placing the coffee and water together, leaving to brew for a few minutes, then pushing the plunger down. This puts the coffee at the bottom of the jug.
The French press has different names around the world. In Australia, South Africa and Ireland it is known as a coffee plunger and coffee brewed in it is known as plunger coffee. Its French name is cafetière à piston. Sometimes it is also called a melior (from an old brand of makers of coffee pots of this type) or a Bodum (another brand). In the UK the device is known as a cafetière (the French word for "coffee pot").
Because the coffee grounds are in direct contact with the brewing water, coffee brewed with the French press gets more of the coffee's flavour and essential oils. These usually are trapped in a traditional drip brew machine's paper filters. French pressed coffee is often stronger and thicker than drip-brewed one. It also has more sediment. Because the grounds remain in the drink after brewing, French pressed coffee should be served quickly. Over time, the drink will develop a bitter taste. This is because the grounds still act on the water.
Coffee for use in a French press should be ground coarsely. The use of a burr mill grinder gives a better grind than the whirling blade variety. The ground coffee should be more coarse than that used for a drip brew coffee filter, and far coarser than that used for espresso. Anything other than a coarse grind will go through the press filter and into the coffee. A French press can also be used instead of a tea infuser to brew loose tea.
The French press is also more portable than other coffee makers. Special versions for travellers also exist. They are made of tough plastic instead of glass. They also have a sealed lid with a closable drinking hole. Some versions are marketed to hikers and backpackers. These people often do not want to carry a heavy metal percolator or a filter using drip brew.
Despite the name, the French press is not noticeably more popular in France than in other countries. In most French households, coffee is prepared by drip brewing, with an electric coffeemaker and paper filters. In bars and restaurants, an espresso machine is used.
Some studies have found that drinking large amounts of coffee made by the French press method increases LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, while drinking filtered or drip coffee does not. The French press method allows certain Diterpenes, such as Cafestol and Kahweol, to remain in the coffee while other brewing methods either remove or limit these chemicals.