French Press Hacks

Sure, it brews great coffee -- but what else can it do?

Assuming you're serious about your coffee, odds are you've got a French press in your cupboard for at-home brewing. But if you've got a strong sense of ingenuity, you'll want a few other uses for the thing.

The simple design is great for a surprising range of other tasks -- just make sure you clean it thoroughly after any of the below uses so that your coffee's integrity isn't threatened.

Infuse Your Own Simple Syrups

Simple syrup -- sugar dissolved in an equal portion of water -- is a key component in lots of cocktails, but you can put your own spin on it by adding a flavor that'll complement your favorite drinks.

How to do it: Just pour warm simple syrup and any flavor-appropriate ingredient into the pot, let steep for as long as you've got the patience, press, and strain. You can use mint, rosemary, lemon, raspberry, jalapeño, or whatever else your imagination (and fridge) allows.

Whip Up Some Whipped Cream

The good stuff isn’t always on hand, and the aerosol can version may get the job done but isn’t something you want to serve company. Easy solution: make your own.

How to do it: Fill the pot 1/4 full of cream and pump up and down with the press for five minutes or so until it starts to solidify. It may not have the stiff peaks and perfectly airy texture of the real thing, but it's a reliable option in a pinch.

Thoroughly Clean Your Rice

In case you're unfamiliar with the process, rinsing the grains removes excess starch so that your cooked rice isn't overly sticky. The byproduct is lighter and fluffier, and it won't coat your rice cooker or pot in a gummy layer of starch. This isn't nearly as necessary if you're using heavily processed domestic rice, but for Japanese short grain, brown, or basmati rice, it's an important step. Same goes for quinoa.

How to do it: Just pour in your rice and fill the rest of the pot with water. Stir the grains thoroughly, then press 'em down to the bottom and pour out the cloudy, starch-infused water. Repeat until the water is clear.

Boost Your Broths

If you're making a soup (or any other dish that involves broth), don’t plate your perfectly al dente noodles or delicately constructed bowl of food, then add steaming broth while you're still in the kitchen. The dish will soak (and overcook) for ten minutes while you put on the finishing touches and invite everyone to sit down. Instead, simplify the timing and kick your broth up a couple notches by adding fresh hits of flavor into the pot along with your broth and bring it tableside for an easy (and more impressive) way to serve.

How to do it: Add your herbs and/or any other flavor additions -- could be fresh garlic, ginger, rosemary, lemongrass, toasted sesame, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that meshes well with the flavors of whatever broth you’ve made -- to the pot along with your stock and let it steep. Then just bring it to the table and pour the infused broth over your dish when you're ready to eat.

Spice Up Some Apple Cider

Once the weather turns, you’re gonna want a steaming mug of mulled apple cider to keep you warm. Mulling a big batch in a stock pot is time-consuming and cumbersome, but you can make individual servings in a French press without the need to stand in front of your stove for an hour.

How to do it: Heat apple cider to just before boiling, then pour it into the pot along with any combination of cinnamon, fruit, ginger, mint, fresh herbs, pumpkin seeds, or whatever else is on hand. Then press and pour once it's steeped to your desired taste.

Elevate Your Cocktails

You already make classic, well-executed cocktails at home (right?) -- here’s an easy way to give them a boost.

How to do it: Make your go-to cocktail, then steep it with tea, spices, berries, or whatever else is on hand that'll complement your drink well. Press, pour, and enjoy an updated take on an old favorite.

Make Perfect Hashbrowns

If you've ever tried make hash browns or latkes, you know that a crucial step is to squeeze all the excess moisture out of grated potatoes. You also know that it's frustratingly difficult and rarely effective to do by hand. Thankfully, a French press makes the job much easier.

How to do it: Just toss the potatoes into your press once they've been grated, press firmly to squeeze out the water, and drain. Then continue on with your recipe.

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