07 June 2010

DIY Press Pot Coffee

Some days, it's just hard to get going. Mondays are especially challenging.

Just 5 more minutes, Mom!

When you're having a rough morning, there's only one thing you can do to get the gears running (OK, there's usually only one thing I can do - hopefully you're stronger than me!). Yes folks, I am here to introduce one of my very closest friends, one who stuck with me through the hard times, kept my head up and un-fogged through college, and got me through my wedding given the very small amount of sleep I had the night before.


Ahhhh, a steaming hot cup of the dark brew is enough to make even a sad dreary day brighter. That first sip is like a choir of angels singing Hallelujah to your morning. This is why moving to a kitchen with counterspace that is literally a mere 6" by 18" was not so much a challenge as a punishment: no space for a coffee pot!

What can a self-professed coffee addict do in this situation?! I mean, how can you make coffee without a machine? It's not like you can just stick some grounds in water for a bit, strain it, and voila, coffee!

Wait, you can?


It's like Magic!

Of course, French-press coffee. This has been one of the best discoveries as a result of my teeny European kitchen. We all use technological advances to make our lives easier, but in terms of coffee, this is wholly unnecessary. The French press concept, I've found, produces richer, bolder coffee, and really allows you to taste the subtle difference in different blends.

Back home, I had gotten used to Starbucks' drip coffee - much stronger then how my mother always made it. You see, my mom's coffee "recipe" was always 1 TB coffee grounds to 2 cups of water (yes, I can feel coffee-snobs across the world cringing). According to Starbucks (and every other coffee authority I've found), you should be using 2 TB of ground coffee PER CUP of water - 6 oz coffee cup, not an 8 oz regular cup.That's about 4 times as much as I was taught growing up. If you don't like it that strong, water it down AFTER brewing, not before, otherwise you seep out flavors that should probably stay inside the bean.

A Life-Changing Experience

It wasn't until I had coffee brewed the way it was "supposed" to be that I discovered how amazing coffee could be. Up to the point of my discovery, I mostly drank Dunkin Donuts iced coffee: sweet, and strongly flavored, and only for the caffeine jolt. Certainly not for the love of it. Then I discovered a local roaster/coffee shop in college, and (after the initial shock of the strength of my newfound coffee, strength that made my teeth buzz and my tongue twitch) I found I was actually  finishing my coffee consistently. Up to that point, I never finished my coffee. I always thought it was because I just didn't want any more - I never realuzed it was because it tasted like crap.

And now, I've had a home-brewing revelation. Dont' get me wrong, I'm sure it's possible to brew good coffee in a machine. I've never had a machine that could is all. My last pot - a supposed 12-cup monster - could only brew 4 cups at the "proper" ratio of beans to water. More grounds than that and they would overflow into my pot. Not so good. The discovery of the press has been, for me, a revelation in the art of coffee enjoyment. Once I'm back home, I fear my poor coffee machine will never again see the light of day. It will be replaced, and swiftly.

For the uninitiated, I will show you how easy it is to make a great pot of press coffee.

DIY Press-Pot (French-Press) Coffee

Here's what you need:

Coffee - whole or ground. If you have a grinder, fantastic; this is ideal. Make sure its a high-quality grinder. You want large, uniform pieces, like coarse grains of sand. There should be little to no dust. I don't have a grinder , so my coffee guy grinds them for me. If you buy pre-ground, try to get them from a reputable coffee roaster, and have them ground fresh. if they're pre-ground, you can't know how long ago they were ground; coffee can go stale. Another note with pre-ground, try to use it up within one week of grinding.

Press pot/French press - I don't have an expensive pot. It consists of a glass beaker, and a plastic handle and lid. Stay away from any presses with a plastic beaker - these will absorb the flavor of your various coffees, and impart a stale flavor to whatever you brew. There are also stainless steel carafes out there - I don't really know much about them, but I've heard good things.

Water - If you have an electric kettle, great. If not, a plain ol' pot of boiling water will do just fine.

Here's What You Do:

First, bring your water to a boil. Preheat your press pot with some hot tap water, or you can do what I do, and hold the pot upside-down over the steam of your boiling water. I figure, tempering the glass with tap water is just a waste of water. All you need to do is warm up the glass so it doesn't break when you pour boiling hot water into it. The steam's hot, and already there - use it!

Grind your beans if needed, then measure out 2 TB coffee per cup you intend to brew (my pot makes 4 cups, this means 8 TB of coffee grounds). Once the water is boiling and your pot is warmed, add your beans.

Remove your water from the heat source, and allow the bubbles to go down - about 5 seconds. The proper brewing temp for coffee 195-205 degrees F (90 to 96 C), which is below the boiling point. If you wait about 5 sec. you'll allow the water to cool down just slightly, giving you the best possible extraction of flavors from your coffee.

Once you've added your water to the pot, stir a few times with a plastic or wooden spoon/dowel, not metal (metal can damage or even break your pot). This fully saturates all the little grains of coffee, allowing them to give their full potential.

For the more visual among you, here it is again, step-by-step:

Put the cover on and wait (I know it's hard)

After 4 minutes (time it!!) you can take the plunge.

Make sure the spout of your pot is facing AWAY from you (you never know, best to avoid being scalded). Push down the plunger with even, gentle pressure.

Congratulations! You've just made coffee! And without the fuss of modern technology (stove or electric kettle notwithstanding, of course.) Feel free to plop a little whipped cream on there, some chocolate shavings, and heck, a biscotti wouldn't be a bad addition!

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