Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Five French Press Faux Pas

I love that rhyming title! The French press is a relatively undemanding coffee brewing process. It's hard to screw it up. That said, there are a few sure-fire ways to extract bitter coffee from your press.

Here are my top five:

1. Leaving coffee to sit in the carafe after the plunger is pressed down. Coffee will keep brewing through the screen, resulting in a bitter and over-extracted second cup.

2. Brewing with boiling water. You'll burn your coffee. It won't taste good. Don't do it. To be safe, let boiled water rest for about a minute before brewing. Advanced brewers may wish to tweak brewing temperature by adjusting the height and thickness of the poured water column. Pouring higher and thinner cools your water faster, and vice versa.

3. Over-brewing. The French press is forgiving, but it's patience is not infinite. Over-extraction will occur if you let the coffee sit. A good rule of thumb is to aim for three to four minutes contact time between grounds and water.

Some tired drinkers over-brew in a misguided attempt to jack up caffeine content. Proper brewing extracts the vast majority of the caffeine in the bean so brewing super-long only makes your coffee taste bad. If some morning (or evening) you do need an extra jolt, simply increase your grounds-to-water ratio at the start of the process. Dark roasts, by the way, do not contain more caffeine than light roasts. Since roasting does not destroy caffeine, the jolt per bean remains the same.

4. Using too little coffee. Home-made coffee bought from a local roaster costs less than a dollar per cup, so don't skimp on the coffee! Most presses ship with little black scoops that hold seven to eight grams of coffee at a time. Use about eight scoops for a 32 oz press, or four scoops to make a half press. A low coffee-to-water ratio yields an over-extracted, bitter cup -- even at a regular four minute brew time!

5. The microwave. Never re-heat coffee! It tastes terrible and savings are negligible. Instead of making a large batch of coffee in the morning, take a mini coffee break and brew by the cup. Your coffee will be tasty every time, and the mini breaks will help to keep your head clear as well.

Friends Don't Let Friends Reheat Coffee!

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