If you're like me, you can't always buy the highest quality coffee beans, but you still want the best possible cup of coffee every time. While I'd like to drink an expensive Ethiopian Yirgacheffe or a deep, full Sumatra with my breakfast every morning, the reality is I am often drinking my local grocery store's "Breakfast Blend," or "Original Roast." These are simply code words for cheap commodity coffee from parts unknown.
Even if my cup is not specialty coffee and can't be traced to a specific farm or country it is still coffee . The one method for salvaging a drinkable cup from less-than premium coffee is to make it with a French Press. Here are the steps.
Grind & Heat
I use two rounded tablespoons of coffee to 14 oz. of filtered water. Adjust your grinder to the coarsest setting. It will help to reduce – but not eliminate – the coffee residue that will collect in the bottom of your cup. To heat my coffee I use a Kalorik electric kettle. If you do not have a kettle you can heat the water in the microwave for two and a half minutes – or just until it starts to boil.
There are many makes and sizes of French Press. I use the Bodum 34 oz. Chambord 8 cup model.
Dump the ground coffee into the press pot, then pour in the hot water. Place the cover/plunger over the press pot, but do not push the plunger down. Allow to extract (i.e. brew) for 4 minutes.
Stir, Pour, Enjoy
After 4 minutes, remove the plunger, and stir for 5-10 seconds. Be sure to take in the aroma of this fresh coffee. Place the plunger back on the pot and depress all the way down. (The purpose of the metal/mesh screen is to separate the bitter coffee grounds from the tasty liquid you are about to enjoy.)
A word of warning if you have never had a cup of French Press coffee. As referenced earlier, there will be some coffee ground residue in the bottom of your mug when you finish. Another reason for grinding coarse/large grounds is to prevent them from sifting through the mesh, however the process is not perfect. Just consider this a part of the authentic coffee-drinking experience. Pour the fresh coffee into your favorite mug. The mesh allows certain natural oils contained in the coffee to reach your cup. With paper filters, these oils stick, preventing you from enjoying an additional source of flavor.
Flavoring coffee is obviously a personal choice. For me, it’s one tablespoon of sugar and approximately 2 tablespoons of half and half. Pumpkin Spice syrup in the fall, and peppermint around Christmas are always a nice treat.
Unlike the standard drip coffee maker which uses a paper filter, or the k-cup variety with the little disposable cups, the French Press does require more clean up. One thing you never want to do is pour the grounds down the kitchen sink. One, this could cause your drain to clog over time. Secondly, old, cold coffee grounds don’t maintain their original, warm, wonderful smell. Also, do not leave the grounds in the press pot until the next day. That creates a real cleaning challenge.
The solution? Compost! Simply scrape out the grounds with a spatula, or rinse with a small amount of water and deposit into a sealable container that you can empty into an outside compost pile or bin.
I use a Chinese takeout soup container. The benefits are that it’s sealable, storable, and it will hold about 2 weeks’ worth of grounds. Granted, I do have to decant some liquid over those two weeks to fill the container completely with grounds, but they pack very nicely and it’s fun to top a compost "sundae" with a lovely dark topping of coffee "sprinkles."
Coffee from a generic coffee maker may be easier to make, but the true richness of coffee can only be experienced with a French Press. Enjoy!