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French press coffee has been respected for ages for its uniquely delicious taste, but to the uninitiated, this manual brewing method can be an intimidating challenge. The $150 KitchenAid Precision Press Coffee Maker is designed to remove much of the mystery from creating pots of French pressed coffee. Stamped from shiny stainless steel, the gadget features a built-in scale to precisely measure both coffee grounds and hot water. Additionally the Precision Press comes equipped with its own timer to count down exact brew times.
Of course the KitchenAid Precision Press can't do all of the work for you. You'll still have to supply it with properly ground coffee beans and fill it yourself with hot water. It is, after all, still a French press. For that reason, while the KitchenAid Precision Press flaunts some slick abilities, you're better off shelling out for a cheap $20 scale and basic steel French press gadget separately.
The KitchenAid Precision Press looks like any number of stainless-steel French press coffee makers from companies such as Bodum and Frieling. Sculpted in a traditional jug shape, the kettle's stainless-steel walls are double-lined for improved heat retention. While not as insulated as a robust vacuum-sealed thermal carafe, the Precision Press is designed to preserve coffee heat longer than basic glass-walled French press coffee makers.
If you're familiar with how a French press machine operates, the main mechanical components of the Precision Press won't look out of place. Covering the kettle's contents is a steel lid with a round plunger handle at its center. The plunger assembly is essentially a thin rod attached to a circular handle at its top and a metal filter at its bottom. Pressing down on the plunger (via the handle) causes both the rod and filter to travel down within the inside of the kettle.
If the container is empty or merely filled with water, air or liquid will pass through the filter until it reaches the bottom of the carafe. When the kettle contains a slurry of coarse coffee grounds and hot water, pushing (or pressing) down on the plunger forces the filter to squeeze all the large coffee solids together (packed at the carafe bottom) while coffee liquids pass through the filter to remain in the space above. It is this separation which results in the concoction known as French press coffee.
The process certainly sounds simple enough but there are key parts of the French press equation the Precision Press can't tackle. Specifically the device lacks a bean grinder, so you'll either have use your own or have your coffee preground at the store. Neither can KitchenAid's appliance heat water you supply it with. Hot water is critical to extracting all the delicious flavor compounds (and yes, caffeine) from coffee grounds in order to become that drink so many of us crave.
Examining the Precision Press' black carafe handle reveals this product's uncommon capabilities. On the topmost surface of the handle, the flat section where your thumb naturally falls, is a cluster of three tiny buttons and a small LED screen. The biggest key is a power button for activating the device's display. Below and to the left of this sits a "timer" button, to the right you'll find the "scale" button. The screen itself contains readouts for weight (in either grams or ounces) and time (in minutes and seconds).
Using the scale, you'll be able to measure exact amounts of both coffee grounds and hot water without needing to have a separate scale handy. Pressing the timer key kicks of the timer too so if you happen to be bleary-eyed and watch/clockless, this kettle can track brew time for you.
In reality, all the extra electronics packed into the KitchenAid Precision Press didn't translate into enhanced convenience. For example, when I brewed my first pot of French press using the guidelines printed in the manual (1.6 ounces/46 grams coffee to 26 ounces/739 grams water, 4 minute steep), the result was a weak and flavorless drink. When I upped the ratio to approximately what I personally use for French press (3.5 ounces/100 grams coffee to 26 ounces/739 grams water, 4 minute steep) the results were were way too strong and unpleasantly bitter.
After I brought the ratio down to a more reasonable 2.3 ounces (65 grams) coffee to 26 ounces/739 grams water (also with a 4-minute steep) I achieved decent results. It was only after I brewed (using the same ratio) with hot water carefully heated to 204 degrees F (95.6 C) instead of using piping hot water just off the boil did my coffee become truly delicious. For this task I leaned on the Oxo Barista Brain 12-Cup Brewing System, which besides being an outstandingly good coffee maker, also functions as a highly adjustable electric kettle.
Of course I realize this performance is not specifically a factor of the Precision Press and certainly due in part to my challenging Costco House Blend test beans, which is an easily overextracted dark roast. That said, it does highlight that brewing coffee with a French press contraption is extremely manual and requires skill, experience, and even extra equipment such as a temperature-controlled electric kettle. I was also annoyed by the Precision Press' habit of shutting off if left unattended, in under 3 minutes. If this happened when it was full of coffee grounds, the machine lost the weighed value, which forced me to dump out the carafe and reload it.
Ultimately while I had high hopes for the extra convenience KitchenAid touts the Precision Press as providing, using the device in reality was a let down. For example I found it wasn't any easier to weight coffee grounds and water directly inside this coffee maker. In fact on many occasions doing so was more of a headache, particularly when the scale turned of, zeroed out and deleted my measured coffee values. Likewise I still had to tweak my brewing ratio to achieve acceptable results since the manual's directions didn't match my tastes.
That's why in light of my experience I suggest you pass on the Precision Press and more shrewdly spend your money. For instance you can scoop up a cheap kitchen scale for $20 or less and a conventional stainless-steel French press carafe for about $80. Of course to get the best coffee from your French Press setup, you'll still have to spend additional cash on an electric kettle and burr grinder. Both products, however, the Precision Press can't replace anyway.