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My favorite method for brewing coffee might be a french press. However to me the biggest downside of it is cleaning it afterwards. Unlike, for example, using a disposable drip filter, which can easily be removed grounds and all and then composted, the grounds are all mushed on to the bottom of the french press and difficult to remove without making at least a little bit of a mess. (Oftentimes I end up making a big mess because I'm clumsy.)

Are there any tricks I can use or cleaning methods I may not know about that can make cleaning this brewing method easier and more convenient?

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  1. The dishwasher. Serious godsend for cleaning French press filters. Just make sure that the filter is flat inside the dishwasher. Standing it up might save space, but it also prevents a thorough cleaning because the water from the dishwasher jets doesn't hit the holes in the filter.

  2. If you don't have a dishwasher but do have a spray wand on your sink, try this. Put the spray wand flush against the filter, turn your water on full pressure (or less if you have crazy high water pressure), and "pressure wash". The filter itself will slightly inhibit the flow of water and create good pressure to push coffee out of the holes. If you do this, spray into the top face of the filter, since coffee would have entered the filter from the bottom. This makes it so fewer to no pieces get stuck if they're too big to squeeze through the hole.

  3. Dawn, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn... DAWN! Squeeze a little bit of Dawn dishwashing detergent into a large mixing bowl or a stopped sink, then fill to about 3" depth with water. When you have enough, stir it up to mix the detergent and water. Then soak the filter for 5-10 minutes. When done soaking, come up and pull the filter up and push it back down into the water. The detergent will loosen coffee oils and help the agitated water push the coffee bits out. You might then need to lightly scrub the bottom of the filter with a sponge to get the rest, but the agitation should take care of most of it. For the cup, just add some Dawn to the cup (coffee and all), stir, if you have a tight lid put it on and shake like mad, then take the lid off, put the filter in (don't press tight though, just enough to loosely hold the grinds on the cup), and dump the water out. After that you should be able to just spoon out the grinds into the trash.

  4. If the cup itself is stained, consider this ONLY IF your French press is made of STAINLESS STEEL. There is a product in the dishwashing section of most grocery and department stores called Barkeeper's Friend. This stuff works a treat on tough stains on stainless steel, but it can damage soft materials. Never use on plastic and consult product documentation for any other material. Unfortunately it won't help much with the filter because the problem with the filter is things getting stuck in the holes, but the cup... Woo boy. It'll get clean, though depending on the type and severity of the stain it might take some elbow grease.

  5. If either your cup or your filter has fallen victim to water scale, use a commercial descaler like Urnex's DEZCAL. Just dissolve the descaler powder in the recommended amount of water stated on product packaging, soak the affected part for about five minutes, rinse, and repeat. Twice should be enough to take care of bad scale.

Hope these tips help!

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I think there are two sides to cleaning a French press: the metal filter which may have some grounds stuck onto it and the bottom of the brewing vessel.

To clean the metal filter, I unscrew the plunger and wash the metal parts that hold the filter with a bit of soap and water (or put them in the dishwasher). The metal filter is more difficult because there might be grounds that don't wash off easily. To get most of the grounds out, I apply a bit of soap and then hold it under a steady stream of running water. I think the soap holds onto any coffee residue and then the force of the water water pushes it all out.

To clean the brewing vessel with the coffee grounds, I add more water so the grounds get mixed with the water. Then I dispose of everything in a mesh kitchen strainer. If some grounds remain in the beaker, I hold it under the running tap, the water stream dislodges the grounds and it's all disposed in the strainer. When the grounds are all in the strainer, there may still be some oily residue in the beaker, just clean that off with some soap and water (or use the dishwasher).

Of course, now you've just moved the grounds problem to the strainer. Luckily, the grounds dry easily because the water drips out underneath. When it's relatively* dry, you can easily remove most of the grounds into the garbage / compost bin. The few remaining grounds which may be stuck to the strainer can be removed similarly to the way I described cleaning the metal filter (just rinse under the tap). This should be a bit easier because you can use a relatively coarse strainer for this.

* If you don't want to wait, rapid vertical movements (open side facing up) with the strainer remove enough water for the grounds to come out in one piece.

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