To Your Best Cup of Coffee!
I’m still amazed at the number of coffee houses who employ baristas with little to no experience in crafting the very beverage their establishment is known for. From something as simple as the reuse of a spoon, to the horrifying habit of a single cloth to clean everything, very few Cafés are worthy of a second visit. When I have the time in my busy schedule as the lead reporter for KLLTV News, I try to educate these lost souls, and draw them to the enlightenment of true caffeinated bliss.
Here now, I detail the proper technique for french-pressed heaven. These are the combined secrets of award-winning baristas from around the globe, artfully combined to deliver the ultimate taste and satisfaction that gives the beverage its near-mystic qualities.
First, a coffee lesson: Cuba is known for some of the richest and most flavorful coffee the world round. Forget what you hear about Kopi Luwak or Blue Mountain, both are expensive due to the process or rarity of the beans. The coffee they produce is smooth and distinct, but you are paying for privilege rather than good taste. Instead, I suggest a Peaberry-based coffee, Cuban, of course. It has a velvety, almost chocolate taste with a very palatable finish that sings the praises of coffee-lovers everywhere.
Whole beans only, never buy in bulk: Coffee degrades quickly, so only purchase what you can go through in a week. When first purchased, they should have a slightly oily look to them, this is a good thing! It shows they are freshly roasted, and new stock. Transfer them to a container immediately. Keep them sealed in a ceramic or glass container that is dark and air-tight. Place them in a dry cupboard with an even temperature. Never subject them to a refrigerator or freezer, this will sap the precious oil that gives your coffee its great taste. Do not store ground beans!
Coffee grinder: Manual operation, with an adjustable ceramic grinder that can be easily taken apart and cleaned, provides exactly what you want. Many camping stores carry this type of grinder as well as the upper-end coffee houses. The goal is to keep the coffee away from plastics and non-stainless metals, both taint the flavor.
French Press: There are many brands and designs, the best of which are glass and stainless steel. Ensure the plunger can be disassembled for cleaning and that its metal plates extend to the circumference of the glass. Plungers with loose fitting steel filters are a complete waste of time, and stores that carry them should be avoided.
You want a straight, even press, with no waver as you plunge. Every tilt or shift will produce sediment, making your coffee more bitter.
Teapot: This should be stainless steel and temperature-adjustable. Actual boiling point will scald your coffee beans, and give you a bitter cup. You want to use 200°F / 95°C, just off of a boil, for the best results.
Timer: A simple egg timer, something reliable.
Building the Perfect Cup:
Start by determining the amount of coffee you like in your cup. Different coffees will vary the amount that works for you, so some trial and error is required. My simple starting point is 4 tablespoons of beans for an 8oz cup, then I adjust as necessary. This is for a single serving, and I never make more than one at a time. I enjoy a strong, dark coffee, so bear this in mind when following this guide.
Start with fresh, cold water from the tap, preferably through an in-line charcoal filter. Do not use bottled, or water that has been sitting in a fridge. You want the water oxygenated for the best results. The teapot should already be heating up, but not finished, before you continue.
Your grinder should have an adjustable ceramic head; the wider the hole, the weaker the coffee. Again, this will take some guesswork, but I start at 6 half-turns from sealed. Grind your coffee and immediately place it into the glass carafe, your water should now be ready.
Set your timer to 4 minutes, then start it the moment you tip the teapot. Using slow circles, pour the water over the coffee. Ensure everything is covered, and the beans are saturated. Stop about an inch from the top. Using a glass or stainless-steel spoon, break the cake of coffee that has formed on the surface, do not stir! Finish pouring the rest of the water into the carafe and wait for the timer to stop. Do not place the plunger into the press.
At precisely 3:55, use the spoon to remove the floating cake; A large spoon should do it in one pass. We do this to ensure the plunger does not squeeze the bitterness from the grounds at the bottom.
Plunge the coffee. Do not hurry, you want an even speed that will keep most grinds from sneaking past the filter. Immediately pour the coffee into your cup at a slow pace to keep sediment to a minimum. Waiting before pouring can further reduce the ‘grit’ but most connoisseurs prefer it with.
Don’t forget to wash everything immediately. Do not use soap; hot water and a clean cloth will do nicely. Leftover oils are what make your next cup bitter.
Reprinted with Permission.