survey of how you brew your coffee, French press was the clear winner. French press coffee is very rich and full of flavor, but it does have some drawbacks. French press carafes aren't good for storing coffee once it's been brewed; the coffee gets cold quickly, and bitter from sitting on top of the grounds. Enter Bonjour's new model of French press. It promises to solve both of these problems. How does it work? A French press brews coffee through a very simple (perhaps one of the simplest) methods. Hot water is poured over ground coffee and left to brew for a few minutes. Then a plunger is depressed, pushing all the coffee grounds to the bottom. Of course, such a simple method is by no means easy; water temperature, slight variations in coffee grind, bean freshness, stirring method, and brewing time all affect the final outcome. Honestly, we think it's one of the trickiest ways to get a reliably good cup of coffee. (You can read some good tips for better French press coffee here.) And yet, when it's done right, the result is sublime. It's also the perfect post-dinner coffee method; you can set it up and bring to the table to brew while keeping up your dinner conversation. And yet that is where you run into trouble with most French presses. You want to linger over a cup of coffee, but the French press isn't designed to store coffee well. It gets cold very quickly - sometimes before your first cup is poured! Then, if you leave the coffee sitting on the grounds after the plunger is pushed down, the coffee will get progressively more bitter and over-extracted as it sits. This is not what you want to serve to guests over an hour of postprandial conversation. You could always pour it into a thermal carafe, but who has space for one of these in a small apartment kitchen?
This is where Bonjour's new French press promises to make a difference. There are a few nice features here. First off, the carafe is a lovely glass pitcher. It rather looks like an iced-tea pitcher to us, which makes it a nice multi-use piece for our kitchen. It's also extremely well insulated. Our coffee was still hot nearly 45 minutes after brewing. But all of that would be pointless if the coffee got bitter. We were pretty dubious about this when we first received it, in fact. What's the point of an insulated French press if the coffee just sits on the grounds? Well, that's where their "Flavor Lock" mechanism comes in. Our household is one of full-fledged coffee geeks, so we must admit we shrieked when we saw how this works. The plunger filter handle can be twisted to close shut, locking the spent grounds away from the brewed coffee. This shuts off the brewing and helps insulate the coffee even more.
This worked splendidly. We found that our coffee kept very well for some time. It tasted hot and just the same in the last cup as in the first. An added bonus is that the Flavor Lock keeps out the fine grit that usually creeps through a filter into a pot of French press. This French press definitely comes recommended; we find that's it's multi-use (that pretty pitcher - good for lemonade!) and it works better than any French press we've ever used before. • Rhône Collection 6 Cup Insulated French Press, $69.99 at Pots and Pans • Rhône Collection 8 Cup Insulated French Press $79.99 at Pots and Pans Good Product: Aeropress Coffee Maker (Images: BonJour and Faith Durand)