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Whether it’s sneakers or smartphones, water bottles or bikes, there are few places in our lives that aren’t touched by a constant flow of information and innovation:
“Did you get the update on that new app?”
“Dude, you’ve got to check out these new blue tooth headphones.”
“It lets you turn on the air conditioner remotely so that you don’t waste any money.”
These are common snippets of the conversations that surround us, of the mentality that whatever we have and love now…well, there’s probably something even better around the corner.
Yet there are some areas of our lives where innovation seems mysteriously absent. Take, for example, the classic trench coat. The persistence of paper money and coins. Or, in the case of coffee brewing, the classic French press.
Of course, there are some who would argue that you don’t mess with a classic, that some things should be left just the way they are. And, admittedly, there is much to love about this low-tech, multi-cup method of making coffee.
Unlike French fries (which hail from Belgium), the first iteration of a French press actually has roots in France. Though the country may not be known today for excellence in coffee, in the 1800s, a French piston-style press dominated much of coffee innovation, with the appearance of the first glass press sometime around 1840.
Admittedly, the cafetière did not yet resemble our modern French press, but it did filter manual-brew coffee by means of a piston. An early patent described a hand press in which a rod was attached to a perforated piece of tin, sandwiched between two layers of flannel.
In the 1920s, this style of press gained widespread popularity, when a Milanese company patented a version of the French invention. Ever masters of design, the Italians improved upon the original, introducing springs that wrapped around the perforated metal disks, holding them steady during the pressing process. By the 1950s, the Italian “French press” had spread throughout Europe, but still had not gained a foothold in the United States. That took until the 1980s, and today, it has become one of the country’s most popular forms of coffee making.
That said, today’s French press is not without its problems. For one thing, as diagnosed by Florence Fabricant in the New York Times in 1993, “The coffee is sometimes muddy.” While it remains a relatively forgiving coffee brewing style for amateurs – given the hands-off nature of the steep – it can also be an incredibly imprecise method. Which is where a new style of French press can finally, today, step in. Among them, the KitchenAid Precision Press Coffee Maker, which boasts two simple but important upgrades: a built-in timer and a scale.
When you bake cookies, do you measure and watch the clock? Or with a roast chicken, take its temperature before cutting into it? Grab a jigger when you’re stirring up a Manhattan? The truth is that precision is built into much of our relationship with food and drink, but somehow many of us look at coffee as more of an art than a science.
How many friends or family members do you know that claim they have the “secret” to getting their drip coffee maker or French press to work perfectly? Often, this is derived by trial and error, but what if there really was a scientifically proven best way to brew coffee in your press?
By using a strict water-to-coffee ratio and brewing for a specific amount of time (the way one is often instructed to brew a cup of tea), one can improve the reliable flavor of coffee tenfold. And with the Precision Press, there’s no grabbing of extra tools to make it happen. The built-in scale works similarly to a European baking scale – but in this case, it’s in the bottom of the “bowl.” The timer is in the top of the handle, so you don’t even need to grab your iPhone.
Even better, this stainless steel beauty is cordless, with a streamlined design that actually looks nice on the counter. And the coffee stays hot longer than with a traditional press, promising rich, bold and smooth-bodied coffee—cup after cup.
So what are your thoughts on these high tech tweaks to the classic press? Have you tried your hand at measuring and timing and found improved results?