I have been using a French Press coffee maker for quite some time now, and I have tried a few methods for removing the spent coffee grinds from the vessel. It is always a bit of a chore to this in an efficient manner without making too much of a mess. I am hoping to find a way that is quick, but does not result in grinds all over my hands or excess grinds going down the drain. I wonder if there are any accepted or creative methods for this action.
My favorite way to clean a french press is to add water into the spent grounds and pour all the contents at the base of a rose bush. It's an easy way to get all the grounds out, and the coffee grounds are good fertilizer for acid loving plants. Obviously, this isn't an option for everybody, but I used it often at one apartment I lived at where my landlord kept a rose garden out front(with the approval of my landlord, of course!). The roses looked great that year!
My solution is much like @Michael's. I have a fine mesh sink strainer, like this one:
I put a little water in the French press, swirl it around, and dump it right in the strainer. Since you grind coarsely for French press coffee, it forms a pile and doesn't run through the strainer. Although from experience, even more finely ground coffee will pile up and form its own filter and not run through the strainer without help.
Then I just pick it up and knock it into the garbage can.
A long handle strainer works so much to my liking that I've come back to share its wonders.
It's so simple! And very inexpensive. I love it!
Having bought a close-knit wire sink strainer that I like, my system is complete.
With a 6.5" x 6.5" (165 mm²) flat, square-faced strainer, I have ample room to pour directly into the strainer without performing any type of difficult or careful procedure in the morning.
The foot long handle works well for knocking out the grinds into the trash/compost.
- Press a large coffee filter in the sink drain. (box of 1000 available at Sam's Club for less than $8.00)
- Pour a little water into the french press, swish, and pour into the coffee filter. Repeat until french press is clean.
- Bring the rim edge of the coffee filter together to form a pouch.
- Squeeze the pouch to remove excess liquid.
- Place pouch with grounds in a zip-lock sandwich bag. Zip the bag and put it in the garbage.
I usually fill up the press with water, swirling it around a bit to get the grounds floating around, then flush it down the toilet. IANAP* but I've never had trouble with it clogging there. (though be cautious if you know you have bad/sensitive pipes, and folks with septic tanks might have additional worries?)
*(I Am Not a Plumber)
Cleaning it out immediately makes it easier to rinse all of the grounds out of the glass pot as well as off of the various layers of pressing/filtering mechanism.
You could dump the majority of the spent grounds into a plastic bag (keep the same one for a week, not like they're going to rot or smell up the house) before putting them into the trash if you use a paper trash bag and don't want wet, leaky spots all through it. What little remains shouldn't be too bad on your pipes.
(I'm not a plumber either, but always do mine this way, daily, and have never had a problem with the pipes, have lived in most places at least five years and this one going on 10.)
What you could do is: Find an empty yogurt container with a lid. Drill a bunch of small holes into the lid (using a very sharp pencil and poking shallow holes may work if you don't have a drill handy).
Fill the bottom of the yogurt container with water. Take screened plunger out of press and thrust lightly, repeatedly, into container until free of most all grinds. Rinse remaining grounds off of plunger with a very light stream of water, as to not add any excess water to the container.
Add about a cup hot water to the press. With a wooden spoon handle or a upside down chop stick rapidly agitate the grounds in the press scraping at the sides and bottom of the press. Move from agitating with spoon hadnle or chopstick into a circular stir and begin to swirl the French press with the other hand and slowly start the tipping pour into the yogurt container with a joined centrifugal momentum until the point where the water and grounds are near to washing out of the press. Note: stiring will need to be a bit of a corkscrew, working from the bottom up whilst both tipping and swirling the press with the other hand, until finally, just before pouring out the grounds, the stiring tool is completely removed to allow for a clean and heavy pour.
Quickly rinse off stir stick into the container with a low flow of water. Add additional cup of hot water into the press and forcefully swirl out the rest of the grounds. (after the second rinse it might only take a small amount of wAter swirled with haste to make for a more final rinse.) With a paper towel, wipe out any stragglers and wipe off stick. Probably will want to was both with warm suddsy water and dry.
Place lid onto container and flip it over slowly and set to drain in sink. (for extra conscious people: before topping with lid set a paper towel across the top of the yogurt container to use as an extra filter and then secure lid by pressing down firmly at all points). Gravity should be on our side as long as care is taken to ensure that the lid is held to the container until the point that an edge of the lid is touching the bottom of the sink.
For me, french-pressing coffee is most easily done by incorporating an expendable piece of paper like 1/2 of a page of a newspaper. Note: My method here assumes that a few coffee grounds down the sink is not only "not really very bad", but in this case it's unavoidable.
First, when making of the coffee: I dump my freshly-ground coffee grounds into the newspaper piece. This keeps all the grounds in one place, minimizes mess, and makes for an easy transfer into the potful of water by simply folding or funneling the grounds into the pot.
Secondly, when it's time to clean the pot: Dump any residual pot liquid into the sink, (if you don't want to have the grounds go down the drain, just put a small piece of paper towel into your wire drain strainer and that will be like a coffee filter). Then use a spatula or fingers to whatever to get the grounds out of the pot and Dump into that newspaper page. Then roll it up and either throw it away or put it into compost (newspaper is OK for compost). Then rinse out the pot in the sink and dump out the rinse water, trapping the remaining few grounds in the wire drain strainer/paper towel thing.
When I used a french press, I would pour out the excess liquid and then let the pot with the wet grounds dry out. When grounds are dry, they are muuuch easier to scrape out. Then I would give the pot a rinse with hot water and use a brush. It's not a good idea in general to wash out coffee pots with soap because of the residue might affect coffee flavors.
I also wonder if people have tried using a basket coffee filter on the bottom to try to catch the grounds so that they could lift them out with the paper filter after brewing. But I imagine there would still be many excess grounds floating all around the crevices of the filter.