Monday, February 15, 2010

French Press tell all

In light of our recent article about keeping your French Press economical (see article, "that's good economics"), we thought that some insight may be needed into ideas for how to optimally use the French Press.  Here are some excellent parameters (and the "why" behind them) from Coffee Chronicler, Nate Jones:
  • Use quality, fresh-roasted beans.  The French Press will produce a great tasting cup from any quality bean, but connoisseurs especially love earthy coffees with dark undertones in the French Press.  If in doubt, look for a good Sumatra or other Indonesian coffee at your local shop. Roasted beans will degas for the first 2 days after roasting.  The flavor of a day-old bean is outstanding, but be careful to leave room for lots of bubbly bloom at the top of your press.  The sweet spot, bean-wise is about 3-7 days old.
  • Use clean water at a proper temperature.  Water is more than 97% of your cup, so use filtered water if you can afford to.  Pour warm (not boiling) water - if you have a kettle, let it sit for 45 - 60 seconds after boiling to cool before pouring.  If you use a thermometer, you should aim for a brew temperature between 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit.  A cooler brew is a little less sensitive time-wise, so if you're one of those people who pours and runs off to do something else while your coffee brews, you'll do better with a cooler brew.  Fair warning, though, you'll enjoy the brightest, crispest flavors with very hot water, a slow pour and very precise brew timing.
  • Grind consistently.  It's hard to get a consistent cup from a blade-style grinder since the blades chop the bean at 20,000 - 30,000 rpm, heating off flavorful oils and producing coffee dust and chunks along with your desired grind size.  If you want to experience the best flavor from your beans, splash out a bit of $ for either a high quality burr hand grinder or a low rpm electric grinder.  Your blogger (Nate) personally prefers the total control and cool grind of the hand grinder - I know none of the oils in my beans are being evaporated off!
  • Dose and time properly.  Use two heaping Tablespoons of grounds per 8 oz cup.  In a medium or large press, brew your cofee for about 4 minutes.  In a very small press you may find that a 2-3 minute brew extracts flavors fully.  Keep in mind that there's an inverse relationship between water temperature and brewing time.  If you forget your kettle on the stove for a couple of minute, you may want to allow a tad more time for extraction before you press.
  • Pour and enjoy right away!  French Press coffee without a Coffee Catcher has a life of 20 minutes at most.  Your coffee stays in contact with the grounds even after you press the plunder and will quickly over-brew unless you pour it right away.  Heat often hides flavors, so this blogger recommends avoiding insulated mugs (or presses). Insulated presses tend to over-brew easily, and insulated mugs slow the cooling process of the coffee.  The extra heat seems to decrease the coffee's flavor lifetime without give you a chance to enjoy the full range of flavors that bloom at a lower temperature.
  • (Of course) Add a Coffee Catcher!  Three Reasons:
  1. Less water (and grounds) down your drain - meaning fewer plumbing problems.
  2. Clearer, cleaner flavor.
  3. A longer-lived cup (you drinkers with cool palates will really appreciate the extra 15 minutes to savor your creation).  For more on the flavor question, see "does the Coffee Catcher improve flavor?"

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