Five elements are key to the preparation of proper french press coffee writes coffee connoisseur Fortune Elkins on her Web site, Bread, Coffee, Chocolate, Yoga (BCCY): Measuring the correct amount of coffee, getting the temperature of the water just right, paying attention to stirring, steeping not too briefly or for too long, and, finally, decanting the brewed coffee into another container.
Achieving mastery of just one of these variables, the amount of time during which the coffee steeps, is virtually guaranteed with Bodum's Universal Timer (which I was also tipped off to in a BCCY post). The little gadget, custom designed for the french press, clips directly onto the stem of the plunger. Add coffee and heated water to the pot, set the timer to your preferred length of steeping (four minutes, for me), and you will be assured of steeping the coffee for the appropriate amount of time.
The Bodum Universal Timer is $9.95 at the Bodum Café and Home Store, 413-415 W. 14th Street (212.367.9125). The timer is not available for purchase on Bodum's Web site, but may be ordered by phone at 1-800-23-BODUM.