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If you slowly press the plunger of a french press down will you get a stronger flavor in contrast to plunging rapidly? Does the speed of plunging affect anything?

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Speed of the plunger does not affect the flavor.

When coffee is brewed in a french press, the main parameters are (apart from the coffee itself)

  • the temperature of the water
  • the duration of brewing
  • the water quality

However, speed of plunger may be important in this case: if you push the plunger rapidly, the flow of water push the grounds from the sides of the filter. Thus, the grounds will probably mix with the final cup of coffee. Even worse, the hot water may splash in your hand or face.

  • Speed could affect pressure, and pressure would affect taste. I wouldn't think someone would rush to press the plunger down as fast as possible and use a lot of pressure. Therefore, I'm willing to bet, in a tested scenario, people who plunge slower probably apply more even pressure on the grounds and get more flavor out of the brew than quickly plunge the brew. – Geo Apr 5 '16 at 18:36
  • @Geo Maybe you're right. Good point. Thinking technically, as in the aeropress, the plunger produces some pressure. However, I don't think this affects the flavor that much as the pressure never increases significantly. For sure we all know "that much" is not a valid measurement. :) I will try to observe the flavor in the following days. – MTSan Apr 6 '16 at 7:05
  • @MTSan your dedication is appreciated. – Thufir Apr 19 '16 at 12:53
  • @Geo Reporting... I cannot say that I notice easily observable differences in the flavor lately. However, you should also take into account that I brew these cups in different times and even in different days. So, you may say that I didn't really taste decently. Still, I say that plunger speed does not affect that much. – MTSan Apr 24 '16 at 20:38
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As @MT_San noted in his answer:

When coffee is brewed in a french press, the main parameters are (apart from the coffee itself)

  • the temperature of the water

  • the duration of brewing

  • the water quality

However, I would argue an important parameter is missing from the above list that directly affects the speed at which the plunger presses down. I'm talking about the grind size.

Just as a puck of espresso must be ground and tamped to ensure even extraction, the same applies to the grounds used in the French Press method.

For instance, this guide from Blue Bottle recommends the following:

If it’s hard to press, that means your grind is too fine; if the plunger thunks immediately down to the pot’s floor, it means your grind is too coarse. The sweet spot, pressure-wise, is 15-20 pounds.

While the above "sweet spot" may be subjective (i.e., author's bias, type of beans used, grind level, equipment/Brand, etc.), you can use the above as a benchmark to ensure your grounds are not too fine or too coarse. If one or the other, you're liable to over-extract or under-extract when brewing your coffee, impairing the quality of the beans to truly shine.

Hope this helps! Comments and edits are encouraged.

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