French Press 101: Or how to stop screwing up your morning brew

One of the questions I hear most often is some variation of: "Why can't I get my coffee to taste like yours?" For a while, I was guilty of this too. Living in Austin, I would fork over $15 for high quality beans, and...well, that's where the preparation ended. One morning my cup would be perfect, the next, the extraction watery and dull. What was I doing wrong?

The answer, I learned, was simple: Good coffee takes preparation. Give yourself the right tools, and you too can brew a consistent, coffee shop quality cup day in and day out. After all, why buy $15 beans from your local roaster if you don't know how to use them? Do what I did. Swallow that pride and learn how to brew coffee the right way. I promise, a little knowledge and that $10 digital scale will go a long way.

For our purposes, let's start with a brew method I recommend to anyone learning how to home brew: the French Press. The French Press is a time tested brewer; one I've grown partial to over the years for several reasons: It can brew a great cup of coffee with most origins, and the cup is consistently rich and full of flavor. But the main reason I love the french press: It's hard to screw up. 

Here's what you'll need:

1) 8 cup French Press 
2) Fresh roasted whole bean coffee 
3) 8 cups filtered water 
4) Digital scale 
5) Burr grinder (See previous blog post on the importance of grind, or just buy this.)
6) Timer (iPhone or microwave)

And here's how easy it is:

1) Start boiling your 8 cups of water
2) In the meantime, convert your digital scale to grams. Measure out 58 grams of whole bean coffee in a ramekin or bowl.
3) If using a stepped burr grinder (like the Baratza Encore), set the grind to medium-course. I usually crank it to the most course setting, then back it up 4 to 5 steps (clicks). This will depend on your particular grinder, but most medium-course settings should work fine. You don't want too many sediments in your final cup, a defect you'll see (and taste) with a finer grind.
4) Once the grind is dialed in, grind the 58 grams.
5) Pour the freshly ground coffee into the bottom of the empty French Press.
6) Once your water has finished boiling, pour it directly off the boil (205 degrees) onto the ground coffee in the french press - about 3/4 to the top.
7) Set your timer for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
8) Allow the coffee to oxidize (fizz) for about 30 seconds, then stir with a clean spoon. (Note - the fresher the coffee the more your coffee will oxidize or fizz)
9) Pour the remaining 1/4 water to the top of the french press just below the pour spout.
10) Set the french press filter (presser?) on top of the french press.
11) Once the timer rings, filter the coffee slowly and evenly with the press.
12) Serve immediately.

The largest variables here are the grind setting and type of grinder. If you dial in your grind and use 58 grams of coffee every time (something I was guilty of eyeballing for longer than I'd like to admit), you will have a perfectly rich cup of coffee every time. Promise. Go forth and impress your friends.


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