In what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a barista for both small, local cafes and for Peet’s (which I’ll forever argue is the best of the chain coffee brands). In that time, I tried all sorts of brewing methods and time and time again, I would come back to the French Press for the rich and robust end result, as well as the simplicity and convenience of the process.
Now to all of you Starbucks triple shot, skinny, double-pump, upside-down caramel macchiato types, beware: this is what real coffee tastes like, and you may not be ready for this. Then again, this may be an enlightening experience and you may very well choose caffeine driven anxiety issues over diabetes after we’ve finished here.
-Kettle (for boiling water)
-Measuring Spoon for Dry Ingredients
-Measuring Cup (unless you’re awesome enough to eyeball it in your French Press)
-Fresh Roasted Whole Coffee Beans**
-Fresh, Cold, Filtered Water
**I love Peet’s coffee, and if you order from them, they will only send you coffee within 10 days of roasting. Additionally, if they stock it in your local market or you’re lucky enough to have a Peet’s near you, you’ll find coffee within the same guidelines. However, keep an eye out for local coffee shops that roast on site or local coffee roasters and support your local artisans! Many times, they’ll roast a pound for you on request! Doesn’t get much better, y’all.
1. Decide how much coffee you’re making. This will determine not only how much water you’re going to use, but how much bean you’re going to grind. A single serving is usually about 12 oz (so don’t be deceived by the Bodum’s 3-cup carafe – it’s more like 1.5), so I’ll just work with the assumption that we’re brewing for one. However, if you want to brew more, the ideal proportion is 2 heaping tablespoons per 6 oz of water. In our case, we’re grinding 4 heaping tablespoons of beans and boiling a little bit more than 12 oz of cold water (to account for steaming and a little swirling water to heat the carafe before adding the grounds).
Now just as a quick aside, I want to emphasize the importance of fresh ingredients (being whole, fresh roasted beans and cold water). The fresher your beans are, the more aromatic and flavorful they’ll be. If they have already been ground, they’ll start to lose the complexity, releasing fragrance and flavor to the air instead of your cup! As far as cold water is concerned, a lot of water heaters can alter the taste of water. On top of that, filtered water just tastes better (and it’s better for you, especially if you live in CA).
2. Start to boil your water in the kettle. While you wait for it to boil, grind your beans at your grinders coarsest setting. I recommend burr grinders because they grind more evenly and consistently than their bladed counterparts. However, if you do use a blade grinder, again, make sure it is set to a very coarse grind.
3. By now, your water may or may not have started to boil. Once it has, turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds. The ideal heat for coffee brewin’ is about 200 F, so letting it sit for a little bit will get it to the ideal temperature without having to sit and wait with a thermometer. By the way, DO let it boil – don’t just stop it before the boiling point.
4. Once your water is ready, pour JUST a splash into the carafe and give it a good swirl to coat the glass and get it warm. After you’ve warmed the carafe, warm your mug in the same manner (especially if it’s ceramic). Ceramic is a great insulator, but it helps if it is already close to the temperature you want it to retain.
If that makes any sense at all.
5. Now that your carafe is warm, add the fresh grounds, then pour your 200 F water over it until the carafe is about halfway full. You should notice a thick, caramel colored foamy type layer emerging. This is called the crema, and the fresher your coffee, the richer it will be. Stir the grounds to make sure they are all fully saturated, then fill the carafe the rest of the way.
6. Add the top of the press pot and press the filter halfway down the carafe, then pull it back up so it sits just at the surface of the water. Let it sit for 3 minutes.
7. After the 3 minutes are up, plunge the filter back down all the way to the bottom. This may not prevent ALL your grounds from getting into your cup, so I recommend pouring through a second mesh type filter (like a tea filter) into your pre-heated cup.
And that’s it! But here’s the bonus round:
-Sip and slurp slowly – slurping actually helps coat the palate more fully so you can taste the entire range of flavors. It’s going to be a deep, rich cup, so enjoy the complexities and try to observe the different notes (among the the most common are nutty, cocoa, caramel, wood and citrus). I recommend sipping without adding sugar and all the frills – it really does detract from the full mouthfeel and flavor.
-Also, note how similar the language is between wine tasting and coffee tasting (cupping, as it’s called). There are a lot of parallels between the two, from the subtleties of regional crops to the qualities inherited by processing methods, including aging and the timing of harvesting. While there are certain differences in the language of the tasting types, you can be sure that drawing from your experience with one will inform your experience with the other.
So raise your glass and enjoy, ladies and gentlemen! And once you’ve attained caffeinated enlightenment, tell me where you found the beans.