I’ve been on a quest for perfect, easy coffee and I think I’ve finally finalized my process. What do you think?
Get good, whole beans! This is the most important step! Don’t get any flavored crap either. If your beans need flavor, they probably suck in the first place. Get green beans and roast them if you can, if not just get the best quality you can locally (and buy fair trade if you can … no reason for coffee farmers to live in abject poverty for your cup of joe). If you’re interested in coffee roasting, this site is a great place to start: sweetmarias.com. Also, avoid decaf. The process that the beans go through to lose their caffeine also causes them to lose their flavor. I don’t know of any drinkable decaf beans. If you need to avoid caffeine for health reasons, why are you drinking coffee? Try green tea; it’s really nice
Store them in an airtight container, NOT in the freezer and out of light. Also, store them whole. Once they’re roasted, beans have a limited window of freshness before oxidation sets in and ruins the volatile oils. If you’ve ever had stale coffee, you know what I’m talking about. UV light can also affect the flavor some. I use this container from Oxo which works great, but anything airtight will do. Storing them in the freezer is ok if the container is REALLY airtight, but still unnecessary. The cold won’t help and there are a bunch of funky smells floating around in your freezer, just waiting for a chance to get all over your coffee and make it taste gross.
Boil your water. You’re looking for about 200-205º degrees. The best way to do this is to heat the water until it just starts to boil (where bubbles start coming to the top at a steady rate and the sound starts to decrease in volume (that’s called cavitation)). Take it off the stove and wait about 10-15 seconds (depending on your altitude, humidity etc.). For me, 10 seconds gets me to 200º. You might want to use a thermometer the first few times to get a feel for how long you should boil/count after removing from heat. Alternatively, you could use an electric boiler. They’re faster and more efficient. Otherwise, the procedure is the same. This is where most people go wrong with the French press method. If the temperature is too high, the coffee will be bitter. We only want to extract some of the volatile oils and ~200º is the optimal temperature for that. A note about water: if your tap water tastes bad, then use a Brita filter or something. Bad water can ruin coffee as easily as bad beans. I live in West Tennessee so we get some of the best water in the country from the Memphis Sands Aquifer. I had coffee with unfiltered water from other parts of the country and it was undrinkable. If you live in one of these places, this step will probably affect your coffee more than any other.
While the water is boiling, grind your coffee with a burr grinder. Don’t grind it until the water is getting close to being ready to remove. This can be hard to time, but once the coffee is ground, surface area increases exponentially and oxidation occurs much faster, i.e., it gets stale really fast once it’s ground. Why a burr grinder? Burr grinders grind the beans evenly so you’ll have consistent coarse pieces for maximum extraction with minimum sludge. Blade grinders will do in a pinch, but they create lots of ‘dust’ that will settle at the bottom of your cup and be gross. This step won’t really affect the flavor too much, but the sludge at the bottom is gross, so just get a burr grinder. You can get a hand grinder for cheap on ebay. A great alternative to a burr grinder, suggested by m3talsmith, is a simple mortar and pestle. You’re looking for a consistency like this (actually, maybe a little finer than what’s shown in this picture … and even consistency too). You should add 2 tablespoons of coffee per cup of finished coffee you’ll make.
Add a pinch of kosher salt. After you put the grounds in the French press, add a pinch of salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer. It will make your coffee taste more coffee-y. Don’t put too much or it will be salty, just a pinch will do. Don’t believe me? Alton does it too. DO NOT use sea salt. We don’t want to add any ocean-y flavors. While it’s true that there isn’t much difference between sea salt and, say, kosher, there is some and that’s enough for me to distinguish. Better safe than sorry. Then again, if you use sea salt and can’t tell the difference, more power to you.
Add the water and stir. Stir with a chopstick or something non-metal. You don’t want to hit the side of your glass French press with metal every morning. It could cause cracks. Stir for a few second until it gets frothy and then put the press/lid on top to keep the heat in.
Set the timer for 3-3.5 minutes. This step depends on you. The longer you wait the more oils you can extract. If you like it stronger (like me), try starting at 3.5 minutes. If you like it not as strong, try starting at 3 minutes. Don’t go over 4 minutes though, that’s probably too much.
Press. Count to 30 while you press. You’re making an emulsion here with the water and oils from the coffee. If you do it too fast, there will be slicks of oil on top of your coffee and the flavor won’t be evenly distributed. Some sips will be stronger than others and that’s not what we want. Take your time. Your patience will be rewarded.
Serve immediately. Don’t let the coffee sit in the press for too long as the grounds at the bottom will keep steeping and what’s left inside will get quite bitter.
Optional: If you like sugar, I’d recommend using Demerara sugar. It adds a nice “cane-y” flavor that I think really compliments the bitterness of coffee. A quick tip about the sugar: add it to the bottom of the cup before you pour. That way the pouring helps dissolve the sugar so less stirring is required and you won’t lose as much of the froth. Don’t add cream or milk … it will mask the flavor of the coffee too much and if you can’t taste the coffee, then why go to all the trouble of using a French press in the first place? I used to add milk, but I forced myself to go without to try to appreciate the flavors present in good coffee. Now, 2 years later, I can’t imagine going back to adding it (save for a cappuccino of course .
Article sources : reddit