In 12 months America has hit me hard with it’s obsession: coffee. The stuff is everywhere and I am hooked. Yes, being a lady-of-leisure, kept-woman, Californian housewife, whatever you want to call me, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops with friends and my laptop or a good book. So I had to play the part accurately, and become addicted to the stuff as well, right? But we can’t always be bothered to get showered, dressed and look vaguely presentable to enjoy a coffee at Starbucks. Sometimes you want to just sit and enjoy the stuff in your PJ’s on the sofa, and in the comfort of your own home. This is where my shiny new french press comes in, shining brightly, waving a perfectly manicured hand in the direction of the kitchen!
But making a cup of coffee using a french press is a work of art, it’s not as simple as it sounds. So here is my coffee-making routine, with tips and tricks that I have learnt along the way.
Tools of the trade
To be able to brew a cup of coffee that has the taste that you love, you need to be able to create it easily. Yes, a teaspoon of Nescafé instant and hot water works well, but it can be better than this, trust me! Here are the tools that I use everyday:
KitchenAid 4oz coffee grinder
Let’s start at the beginning: preparing the coffee beans. No, I don’t mean roasting my own like some folk I know (I’m not that much of a fanatic…yet). I use the KitchenAid 4oz coffee grinder to freshly grind whole beans to the correct coarseness. For a french press filter, you need a relatively course finish. A finer powder would leave you with sediment at the bottom of your mug and a bitter note towards the end of your drink.
Using the KitchenAid grinder, it is very easy to produce different levels of courseness by adjusting how long you grind the beans. I generally grind the beans in 1 second pulses, for a total of 5 seconds, leaving you with a course grind. If I am making an espresso, I will increase this to 10 seconds for a much finer powder and a more intense flavour.
Linkyo French Press Coffee Maker
The Linkyo french press is one that I did a lot of research into, and read a lot of (positive!) reviews for. It is completely stainless steel and well insulated. Although I don’t use this feature, only brewing one cup at a time, I can see how it would be useful. The jug itself has a smooth finish, meaning that it is very easy to press the plunger down without feeling like you are scratching or damaging the inside walls.
Another feature of the Linkyo that I love is how easy it is to clean. You are able to take apart each individual piece with ease and thoroughly clean them. I use warm soapy water and a lint free cloth for drying (as you do not want pieces of your tea towel floating in your next cup of joy!).
Friis Coffee Vault
Correct storage of your coffee beans is essential to maintain their freshness. I have the Friis coffee vault which is an airtight, opaque storage canister which keeps my coffee beans tasting good. As I generally only have one coffee a day, and the KitchenAid recommends grinding a minimum of 4oz at a time (too much for one person), I also store ground coffee beans in the canister in a ziplock bag. This is also handy as I then only have to grind fresh beans every other day.
Making the perfect cup!
The first step of making any hot drink: boil the kettle! You do not want to pour freshly boiled water over your precious beans. Don’t be afraid to let it boil and then leave it for up to a minute to cool as water at 100°C will burn your coffee beans, changing its flavour.
Grind your beans. Make sure that you produce enough ground coffee for the number of cups you want to make. My rule of thumb is 3 tablespoons per cup. The Friis coffee vault came with a handy measuring scoop for this purpose.
Gently pour your water over the ground coffee in the pot. For a typical brew, I recommend around 200mL of hot water for every 3 tablespoons of ground coffee. Obviously, this is open to adjustments, depending on your own personal tastes. As an average mug holds around 350mL of liquid, you may want to adjust your amounts, unless you like the “cup half full” look – yes, I’m an optimist!
There’s nothing worse than a cup of coffee that can’t hold its own in a fight. And by that, I mean you need to let your beans brew! The recommended brewing time is between 3 and 4 minutes. I generally go for the longer of the two, to avoid a weak taste. I always set a timer to tell me when it’s ready to push that sucker down. There’s nothing worse than going to all this effort for your caffeine fix, only to ruin it at the very end because you got distracted by something pretty on your morning ritual of scrolling through Instagram.
Tip: After pushing the plunger down on the french press, leave the coffee to settle for up to another 30 seconds. This will reduce the amount of finer sediment from joining your drink.
Pour away to your heart’s content! Whatever you add to your fresh brew now is your own choice. My personal favourite at the moment is Nestle’s Coffee Mate in French Vanilla (thanks R for introducing us!) but plain or half and half with a pinch of brown sugar will do on a bad day.
Knowing that a cup of coffee is such a personal experience, you need to work what works for you. I spent a lot of time reading reviews and watching tutorials, with a lot of trial and error cups to work out my routine, including bean:water ratios, and brewing times. And yes, sometimes I do forget to set that timer and end up screwing up my nose at the bitter taste I’ve produced but that’s okay! I don’t class myself as a connoisseur of coffee or a professional barista in the slightest, just a plain old addict who needs that morning fix to survive the day.
Do you enjoy coffee? Have you worked out your perfect cup of coffee? Are there any other objects or crutches that you couldn’t live without?