Using a French Press for Coffee on Shabbat

April 20, 2010

French pressWARNING: If you are not BOTH interested in the fine points of halacha (Jewish law) and a coffee drinker, you will no doubt find this post incomprehensible, irrelevant, or both.  But for the observant coffee drinkers out there — you might find this useful as a way to enjoy a better cup of coffee on Shabbat than instant!

If you want to make coffee using a French press on Shabbat, there are two issues to be concerned with: borer (sorting), and bishul (cooking).  We'll treat them separately, the easier one first.

Borer, sorting, allows you to take the desired (coffee) out from the undesired (grounds).  With the French press, you are pouring out the good coffee, and it leaves the grounds behind.  Filter coffee is potentially problematic on Shabbat because it appears you are selecting out the bad instead.

Bishul is potentially an issue to be concerned with.  First, of course, you can't boil water on Shabbat, for that is cooking; so you have to use water that comes out of your urn that was turned on before Shabbat.

The issue of concern is whether you are "cooking" when you put the coffee and water together.  My first thought was "ein bishul acher bishul" there is no cooking after cooking (you can't violate "cooking" for something already cooked) and since coffee is roasted it's cooked.  But there is a principle that "yesh bishul achar afiyah" there is cooking after baking, and coffee is roasted, hence baked not "cooked" which means with liquid.  Not everyone agrees that there is bishul after afiyah.  The Shulhan Arukh quotes both opinions without expressing an opinion (318:5); however, even if you go with the more stringent opinion that there is, this is still not an insurmountable problem. As long as you pour the water into the press first, and then add the coffee, it is a kli sheni, and generally speaking we hold you don't have to worry about cooking in a kli sheni.

There are those who might be machmir and argue that since the coffee is "afiyah" (baked) it should count as "kalei bishul" easy to cook, and hence susceptible to cooking even in a kli sheni.  If you take that position, you would need to first pour the water into a different cup and then into the press so that it's a kli shlishi.  I don't hold with that opinion, however, since there are reasons to doubt whether there is bishul achar afiyah, and we have reasons to doubt whether roasting coffee makes it kalei bishul, there is no need to adopt both stringencies.

No need to suffer with instant coffee on Shabbat!

Reb Barry

8 Responses to Using a French Press for Coffee on Shabbat

  1. Peretz Rodman on April 21, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Coffee brews up nicely in cold water as in hot, just much more slowly. See http://www.toddycafe.com for details.

    Thus the heat is not the catalyst for the brewing at all. This makes coffee like tea (real tea, not herbals “teas”) — and just as rabbinic authorities have given the OK to brewing tea leaves in hot water on Shabbat because it’s thus not cooking (_bishul_), there should be no objection to doing so with ground coffee beans.

    Another solution to the Shabbat coffee challenge: cold-brew coffee, made in the Coffee Toddy equipment, which produces a strong concentrate that one can mix with hot water on Shabbat. And with only about 1/3 the acid. My own results are less than spectacular, though, when it comes to taste.

    Clearly, the good Lord did not intend for the people Israel to do without the beverage of greatest enjoyment (take that, single malt fans!) on the day we call _oneg_ — pleasure, enjoyment.

    My own solution: I prepare a supply of espresso before Shabbat, keep it at room temperature, and use it as the basis for an Americano on Shabbat.

  2. JW on March 25, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Orthodox readers should keep in mind that this post ignores the nuances of Halacha and does not apply to Orthodox jews. Although he mentions that a french press takes the good from the bad, it does so with a “Kli meyuchad lkach” which is thus forbidden, d’oraita. Also, the grinds are roasted not cooked so it would be bishul achar tzli and the roasting may make it a kaley habishul (but even without that it is iruy kli rishon) and thus ossur under Borer and Bishul.

    • Barry Leff on March 25, 2011 at 6:41 am

      JW, I do address the issue of roasted not cooked above. A kli designed for immediate use, such as a salt shaker, is not considered a kli meyuchad.

      • Craig M Kulman on August 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

        I don’t think the salt shaker is the re’aya to permit the French press strainer. the French press strainer is taking psolet mitoch ochel. the salt shaker isn’t separating anything. salt from salt? The plunger is made to separate the grounds from the drink–its a kli meuhad

  3. Selim on May 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    This question should be addressed by a Posek and not open to personal interpretation.

    • Barry Leff on May 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Selim, as a rabbi, I’m qualified to rule on this, although, as I acknowledged in the article, there are several points where “opinions vary” and you should consult with your own rabbi if in doubt.

  4. GS on November 7, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you for clarifying this point. Even in the Gemara there is a discussion about certain types of Kelim not being considered Keli Meyuhad L’Kach. For Sepharadim “Kalei L’Bishul” really only applies to Tea and not Coffee. Bishul Achar Tsli is also not a problem for Sepharadim. In addition, I heard that Borer is only really an issue for min b’mino so in cases where Min B’Sheino Mino Borer would not be a factor.

  5. GML on February 14, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Very interesting. Thank you.
    Those who might wish to see another halachic review of this question, should look atpitputim.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/plunger-coffee-on-shabbos/

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