“Coffee first, everything else second.”
This quote rings true for me every single morning. I have been drinking coffee for more than a decade, so at this point, it’s definitely priority number one as I go about starting my day. You could say I’m pretty much addicted. And while I love coffee, I’m definitely not one of those coffee snobs. You know who I’m talking about- the people who refuse to step foot in Starbucks, or who only brew specialty beans and they have to be fresh-ground kind of people. So not me. I enjoy Starbucks from time to time and I’ll never say no to a hot cup of home-brewed Folgers or Maxwell House coffee. In fact, grocery store brands are usually what I drink most days. They’re pretty tasty and most of all, affordable when you buy in bulk. I do like to switch it up sometimes and indulge in single bag “name brand” coffee. I usually brew my coffee in a traditional 12 cup drip coffee maker, but lately I’ve been getting into the French Press method. I think it’s a fun way to get an extremely flavorful cup of coffee. And don’t worry, using a French Press will not turn you into a coffee snob, I promise.
I had my first taste of French Press coffee in Portland about two years ago. I was having brunch with some girlfriends at Mother’s Bistro (the food there btw is AMAZING!) and opted to have my coffee served in a French Press. I had heard of the technique before but never actually tried it myself. I waned to see what the buzz was all about. Let me tell you, it was life changing. There were so many different notes going on with each sip, and that’s not something you typically get with drip coffee. Our server told us one of the reasons people love the French Press method is because it does such a great job of drawing out more flavor from the coffee than other methods. Sadly, I forgot about the French Press for a long time after that. It wasn’t until just last month that it popped back up on my radar. One of my good friends Kendra is a French Press fan and she got me one of my own for Christmas. Yay! I was so excited to get home and put it to use. I read up on the technique and while it is fairly simple, you can end up with a bad cup of coffee if not done correctly. My first couple of brews were either bitter, or just not there flavor wise. After a few tweaks I think I nailed down a good technique.
Here’s what you’ll need- a French Press, coffee, water, measuring spoons and a wooden stirring spoon. You will need a coffee grinder if you are using whole beans though. While most people prefer using freshly ground coffee, I’ve used the pre-ground stuff and it works just fine. For this tutorial however, I did opt for freshly ground coffee, and that’s only because I wanted to use another one of my Christmas gifts- whole beans from Peet’s Coffee. Peet’s is probably one of my favorite coffee brands, even though I’ve never actually been to a Peet’s Coffee. I was turned on to Peet’s from one of my aunts who brought back a bag from one of her trips to California. She swears by it and now every year I get a gift box of their top selling dark roasts.
This year, I broke into the bag of their Major Dickason’s blend first. Fun fact: this blend is named after one of their early customers. He was apparently a retired Army sergeant and brought the blend of flavors to Alfred Peet himself in the 1960s. Peet ran with his idea, and informally promoted him to Major, which is why it’s called Major Dickason’s and not Sergeant Dickason’s. You learn something new everyday right? Anyway, since I was only wanting to make two servings of coffee, I measured out 5 tablespoons of coffee beans. I like my coffee pretty strong though, so you could get away with just 4 tablespoons of coffee. I ran the beans through my coffee grinder until they resembled bread crumbs.
Now this is where things get technical. One way to ruin a French Press brew is by messing up the ratio between coffee and water, which is where I think I went wrong in the beginning. The general rule when brewing coffee is to use 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. Since we’re talking about a French Press though, I decided to go with 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. I ended up using about a cup and a half of water for my brew. There is a lot of conversation online about the water to coffee ratio for French Press coffee, and most people use metric measurements. Just remember to convert to the US measurement system and experiment until you find the right ratio for your taste buds.
You’ll want to bring your water to boiling and let it sit for about 30-60 seconds. Place your coffee at the bottom of your French Press and then pour the hot water over the coffee. Give the coffee a little stir and then put the top part of your French Press on, but don’t push the plunger down yet.
Let the coffee sit for three minutes and then press the plunger down gently, but firmly, until it reaches the bottom. You should pour your cup of coffee immediately and then transfer the remaining coffee into a thermos to keep it warm. You don’t want to leave the coffee in the French Press or it will continue to brew and it could turn bitter. You can add your cream and sugar at this point if that’s your preference.
There you have it, a nice cup of coffee to start your day! Let me know if you have any French Press tips yourself. I’d love to learn more about this method! If you’re trying it for the first time, let me know how it turned out! Cheers!