Coffee = Energy

How to make better French Press Coffee: I’m not sure how, but my experiences are detailed below.

I don’t know about you, but each morning when I wake, I love myself a nice, hearty cup of coffee from my french press. Each morning I wake, I also question my true understanding of how to use my french press, as the cup tastes pretty damn different everyday.

I’ve looked up a large number of sources on how to make legitimate press coffee, and by legitimate I mean not bitter, burned, charred, grindy, flat, salty (yes this has happened), or watery.

So…here’s how the process is supposed to go. Unanimously, most french press coffee guides, including the Bodum one written on the side of my french press glass, tells me to abide by these rules:

Use a coarse grind, preferably fresh ground beans using a burr grinder right before brewing.

Fine. I understand this. Use too fine a grind and you end up with a specks of coffee lodged in the metal mesh of the pressing apparatus. Annoying to clean, annoying to look at, and no one likes to scrub for hours, only to find that they scrubbed too hard, the sponge has disintegrated on the mesh, and the coffee bits are still there. Personally, I’m all for whole beans. They retain flavor and freshness. Who doesn’t like crushing their beans right before they brew? (Great on Mondays…) All the goodness stays. Burr grinder? Sure, if you have the money.

Lots of companies tote that their burr grinders will give you a flavorful cup of coffee. Then again, lots of companies claim lots of things, but Amazon still gives you a one-star option when you submit reviews and Google still gives a couple thousand results when you search “best burr grinders.” Enough said. What’s wrong with a mortar n’ pestle, or a plastic bag and a mallet? I understand the need for even grinds, but why not have a little fun?

Use a water temperature just below the boiling point.

Agree. Water that’s too hot seems to extract all the goodies and all the bitterness. Plus it makes the coffee smell and taste a bit burnt. 195 degrees, says Alton Brown. Anyone have a thermometer? Water temperature is surprisingly important, even in aspects of tea. For example, hot water brewing extracts caffeine, but cold water brewing extracts flavor components, while leaving caffeine relatively untouched.

Add a dash of Kosher salt to dilute the bitterness.

Hmm. This was suggested by Alton Brown. Not so sure its worked for me. Salt, as its known is supposed to bring out flavor components of the food or liquid its sprinkled on. In my case, I didn’t taste too much of a difference, and another case… yes, that’s where my salty cup of coffee came from.

Brew time: 4 minutes maximum, 2 minutes minimum, for ~ 8 o.z.

I’m not sure where I stand on this. As a biochemist, I understand where the time limit comes from, as different compounds and flavors are extracted at different times according to water temperature, time, and also frequency of mixing. It’s kind of like liquid chromatography, where different compounds elute off an “adhesive” strip. (Science folks will probably laugh at this metaphor.) I’ve had great 2-3 minute cups and great 10 minute cups. Generally though, I don’t like my coffee grinds to be pruny, so I give em’ 4 minutes max. Plus, I just can’t wait that long. Yes. I’m an addict.

Stir the coffee with a chopstick before pouring.

I can’t taste the difference? Apparently its supposed to break the carbon dioxide “bloom” of really fresh coffee.

One rounded tablespoon per 6-ounce cup.

Sorry, not neurotic enough. Some beans, some grind, coffee. Yum. Stronger? Use more. Weaker? Use less. Only have one tablespoon of beans left and need it strong? Grind it up super-fine. Increased surface area = increased reaction time.

Press the plunger down slowly (at least 30 seconds from top to bottom.)

Fine. Keeps me from having a “surprise” crunchy, bitter coffee. No grounds please, thanks.

That’s all for now. Drink Coffee. Be happy.