Thursday, July 22, 2010

Multi-Bed French Press Brewing Part 2

Part 1 of the series is here.

Success! I (Nate) visited Seattle Coffee Works on Thursday to start testing out my multi-bed brewing hypotheses. Owner Sebastian was gracious enough to give me the run of his slow bar for an hour and that gave me a chance to select a particular combination of beans and start tweaking brew variables with that given combination.

For this experiment, I selected 6 grams of the Colombia Huila Monserrate and 22 grams of the Tanzania Blackburn Estate. I brewed with water at about 205, and water dose varied between 453 and 478 grams. My target water dose was 454, and I got better at judging water cut-off times over the course of the experiment. Coffee was ground in Sebastian's Bunn Grindmaster. The press pot was a 32 oz polycarbonate. No one at SCW had tried these coffees together before.

Brew 1 - Huila placed on the bottom Coffee Catcher and Tanzania on the top Coffee Catcher. Grind setting at "regular" for both. Brewed 2:45 with top off and bloom. Shook in bloom (there was some bubbling, probably from trapped air) and let rest. 3:05, pulled the first Coffee Catcher with the Tanzania and set aside. Floaties from the Huila bubbled up. At 3:45, I pressed the pot with the bottom Coffee Catcher still in and immediately decanted the contents.

Tasting notes: LOVED it! The coffee just sparkled. There was black pepper, a little nutmeg, hints of blackberries. Just a delicious combination. Sebastian and I thought it was the best of the three. Others thought that a slightly longer extraction might have brought out more of the flavor profiles of the coffees. Pulling the 22 g at 2:45 may have been a trifle early.

Brew 2 - Both coffees mixed and placed on one Coffee Catcher. Brewed to till about 2:45, shaken and pressed at about 3:45.

Tasting notes: There was much less brightness in this brew. The coffees felt very thoroughly blended. The high notes of each one were just muffled. Very smooth. I felt like the unique properties of each coffee got a bit lost in this blend, but some of the tasters that felt there was some under-extraction before thought there was progress in terms of extraction. Certainly the full dose was kept in the brewing chamber for the full 4 minutes.

Brew 3 - Back to two Coffee Catchers, with Tanzania on top again. This time the grind setting for the Colombia was adjusted to a finer setting.

Tasting notes: This was just a bad idea, and I was worried about it when I was grinding. Grind setting adjustment has potential, but it doesn't make sense to fine up the bottom dose, which will be in the press longer anyways. Next time, I might fine up the top dose instead. The result was noticeable over-extraction. Still some signs of life underneath, but not deliciously sweet and drinkable like Brew 1.

My conclusion: this is a REALLY cool way to brew in the press, and I want to try those coffees - and others - soon. Brew 2 and Brew 1 were significantly different, and my conclusion is that the physical separation of the second Coffee Catcher disc produces semi-layered brewing, as I had predicted. What other great coffees should be combined?

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