Friday, August 19, 2011

French Press Coffee

Kat introduced me to french press coffee. It takes a little bit longer than just throwing pre-ground stuff into a Mr Coffee, but the results are superior and you're going to find yourself more invested in the process and its outcome.

The Beans

For this pot we used beans from Coffee Chicago on Broadway and Berwyn. It's this great little unpretentious coffee shop that offers free wi-fi. We got there within minutes of closing, and the staff was courteous and helpful. I'll have to go back and check out the ice cream they sell — there were quite a few interesting looking flavors on offer.

We're using Chicago Blend beans, but Kat tells me that their Hawaiian Kona and Mocha Java are great, too.

The Process

Chicago Blend beans from Coffee Chicago
After setting the kettle on to boil (filtered water is best), the first step with french press coffee is grinding the beans up. Kat has a nifty little press-grinder — four small scoops of beans, about four tablespoons, is enough for two big mugs of coffee. You don't want to just press and hold — the friction will burn the beans and ruin their flavor. A series of short quick presses, no longer than a few seconds long, will reduce the beans into the grounds we need. The end result should be medium course grounds, not a fine powder.

Carefully pour the grounds into the bottom of the press. You don't need a paper filter or anything like that — there's very little waste with a French press, a big bonus if you're at all concerned with sustainability.

When the kettle whistles go ahead and let the water cool for fifteen seconds, off the range, before pouring.  This gives the ideal temperature of about 190-200 degrees. Kat revealed to me that she did a crazy amount of testing to try and find the optimal cooling time, and I have no reason to doubt her thoroughness.

French coffee press filled with raw vitae
After it cools, pour the water into the press and give it a bit of a stir to mix the grounds in a bit. Put the lid on and let it sit for four minutes to let the water absorb the grounds — don't skimp or you'll end up with weak coffee, and don't let it steep too long, either. [If you let it steep longer, you end up with pretty strong coffee — which is not bad if you're into that sort of thing. –Kat]

After your four minutes push the plunger down to its base. The coffee is now set and ready to serve.

The Outcome

I like my coffee like I like my women.


Do you like iced coffee in the summer?  You can also use a french press to cold brew coffee, although it takes a bit more planning.  You will need to steep the grounds in cold water for a minimum of 12 hours, or else you get some weak coffee.  So put it together the night before; otherwise the process is exactly the same: grounds, fill with cold water, let it sit overnight, press the next morning.  Great for hot summer days, with the added bonus of not diluting your hot coffee with tons of ice to cool it down.