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Improving my French press coffee

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by rdaws, Jul 7, 2010.

  1. rdaws

    rdaws Senior member

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    I'm relatively new to the French press (been at it a couple of months now), and I've found that once in a while I manage to get a fantastic cup of coffee, once in a while it's just bad, and the rest of the time it's just "OK". I'm using a burr grinder, Starbucks coffee, and I'm measuring the ground coffee and the brew time, but am I missing something that's causing the inconsistency? Any tricks out there to improve the process and get a great pot every time?
     
  2. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    my guess is that it's the grinder: you're getting an inconsistent grind. for French press, you want a medium-coarse grind. once the size of hte grind is consistent, then you can adjust around it.
     
  3. ama

    ama Senior member

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    The Starbucks coffee might not be helping much either. Their coffee is alright, but you could definitely find better.
     
  4. moops

    moops Member

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    First, you need throw out all of your Starbucks coffee and replace it with quality beans. I recommend Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Counter Culture coffee beans (my personal favorite is Intelligentsia). One pound of coffee from any of these roasters will only cost slightly more than Starbucks, but will taste many times better. Second, focus on freshness. Grind the beans shortly before brewing. Do not use coffee that is over two weeks (maybe three, but the taste will definitely be sub-par) past the roasting date (all of the previously mentioned coffee roasters provide the roasting date). One other factor might be your grinder. You might be using a low quality burr grinder. A good grinder will set you back at least $150.00, although you could get away with a cheaper grinder (like a Baratza Maestro- $99.00 or Bodum Antigua- $120.00). Use a very coarse grind. Always use filtered or bottled water. Spend a little time on CoffeeGeek (www.coffeegeek.com) and you will pick up a few tips for improving your brew.
     
  5. CunningSmeagol

    CunningSmeagol Senior member

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    First, you need throw out all of your Starbucks coffee and replace it with quality beans. I recommend Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Counter Culture coffee beans (my personal favorite is Intelligentsia). One pound of coffee from any of these roasters will only cost slightly more than Starbucks, but will taste many times better.

    Second, focus on freshness. Grind the beans shortly before brewing. Do not use coffee that is over two weeks (maybe three, but the taste will definitely be sub-par) past the roasting date (all of the previously mentioned coffee roasters provide the roasting date).

    One other factor might be your grinder. You might be using a low quality burr grinder. A good grinder will set you back at least $150.00, although you could get away with a cheaper grinder (like a Baratza Maestro- $99.00). Use a very coarse grind.


    Always use filtered or bottled water.

    Spend a little time on CoffeeGeek (www.coffeegeek.com) and you will pick up a few tips for improving your brew.


    [​IMG]
     
  6. rdaws

    rdaws Senior member

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    Sounds like great advice! Where can I get the higher-end beans? I'm guessing not in the local whole foods...

    I'm located on the North Side of Chicago, any recommendations for where to get the good stuff?
     
  7. scottcw

    scottcw Senior member

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    I order my beans from Blue Bottle Coffee when I can't pick up in person. Alternately, I buy in person at Four Barrels in the Mission district of SF.

    Fresh quality beans are a must for any coffee, not just press. And a quality grinder is a close 2nd.
     
  8. KitAkira

    KitAkira Senior member

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    Sounds like great advice! Where can I get the higher-end beans? I'm guessing not in the local whole foods... I'm located on the North Side of Chicago, any recommendations for where to get the good stuff?
    Actually I've heard good things from Whole Foods coffee. You should have some roaster or coffee shop that sells decent stuff... Or you could always go online I have some cold-brewing Kona in my fridge right now, going to be so good [​IMG]
     
  9. Roikins

    Roikins Senior member

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    Sounds like great advice! Where can I get the higher-end beans? I'm guessing not in the local whole foods...

    I'm located on the North Side of Chicago, any recommendations for where to get the good stuff?



    Doesn't Intelligentsia have a place in Chicago?
     
  10. moops

    moops Member

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    Intelligentsia is headquartered in Chicago, so it works out great for you.

    Here are their Chicago locations:
    Broadway Coffeebar- 3123 N. Broadway St | Chicago, IL 60657
    Monadnock Coffeebar- 53 W. Jackson Blvd. | Chicago, IL 60604
    Millennium Park Coffeebar- 53 E. Randolph St. | Chicago, IL 60601

    www.intelligentsiacoffee.com

    Blue Bottle Coffee is great, but if you live on the East Coast, the shipping costs and the decreased freshness due to the increased travel time can dampen the experience.
     
  11. kaxixi

    kaxixi Senior member

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    I have never understood why people insist on buying expensive grinders. I don't understand the chemistry/physics behind the importance of a more consistent grind (though I do understand that it yields clearer coffee, since you don't get as much dust filtering in).
     
  12. rdaws

    rdaws Senior member

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    Intelligentsia is headquartered in Chicago, so it works out great for you.

    Here are their Chicago locations:
    Broadway Coffeebar- 3123 N. Broadway St | Chicago, IL 60657
    Monadnock Coffeebar- 53 W. Jackson Blvd. | Chicago, IL 60604
    Millennium Park Coffeebar- 53 E. Randolph St. | Chicago, IL 60601

    www.intelligentsiacoffee.com

    Blue Bottle Coffee is great, but if you live on the East Coast, the shipping costs and the decreased freshness due to the increased travel time can dampen the experience.


    Awesome - going there today. Thanks!
     
  13. CunningSmeagol

    CunningSmeagol Senior member

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    Intelligentsia is great stuff. I also like Ritual and Ecco (of the ones that place their stuff all over the US).
     
  14. Despos

    Despos Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I have never understood why people insist on buying expensive grinders. I don't understand the chemistry/physics behind the importance of a more consistent grind (though I do understand that it yields clearer coffee, since you don't get as much dust filtering in).

    The more consistent in size the ground particles are, the more even the extraction of flavors and oils.

    Coffee should be no bigger than a grain of cous cous after grinding. Water temperature just under a boil. When you see the first tiny bubbles appear, it is ready. Boiling water is too hot. Add the water, wait one minute and then give the pot a stir. I use a chop stick. Put the top on and wait 3 minutes. Push down the plunger, you are done. Total brew time is 4 minutes.
     
  15. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos Senior member

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    First, you need throw out all of your Starbucks coffee and replace it with quality beans. I recommend Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Counter Culture coffee beans (my personal favorite is Intelligentsia). One pound of coffee from any of these roasters will only cost slightly more than Starbucks, but will taste many times better.

    Second, focus on freshness. Grind the beans shortly before brewing. Do not use coffee that is over two weeks (maybe three, but the taste will definitely be sub-par) past the roasting date (all of the previously mentioned coffee roasters provide the roasting date).

    One other factor might be your grinder. You might be using a low quality burr grinder. A good grinder will set you back at least $150.00, although you could get away with a cheaper grinder (like a Baratza Maestro- $99.00 or Bodum Antigua- $120.00). Use a very coarse grind.


    Always use filtered or bottled water.

    Spend a little time on CoffeeGeek (www.coffeegeek.com) and you will pick up a few tips for improving your brew.


    +1
     
  16. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos Senior member

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    May 15, 2009
    Best advice, in order of importance: 1) Good grinder for even and consistent grind (to the right specifications for the brewing method) 2) High-quality, fresh beans not over-roasted (as Charbucks is known for doing) 3) Grind just before brewing 4) Good quality water 5) Water not quite hot enough to be boiling The key to all of this, on a molecular level, is the oil in the coffee beans. If it gets too old, it gets rancid. If it gets scorched by boiling water, it makes the coffee bitter. It's very volatile, viz., oxidizes quickly in air. And so forth. Coffee brewing is all about bean-oil management when you really come down to it.
     
  17. Kyoung05

    Kyoung05 Senior member

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    Coffee brewing is all about bean-oil management when you really come down to it.

    So in a sense, it's just like sex, huh? [​IMG]
     
  18. scottcw

    scottcw Senior member

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  19. Roikins

    Roikins Senior member

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    Which is why I cold brew - http://www.bluebottlecoffee.net/coff...-guide/chemex/

    Yep, my friend has been cold brewing for a while and sold me on it recently, and so before I leave work each day now, I'll grind up some Blue Bottle, toss it into my French Press, then when I come in the next morning, a nice cold brew concentrate I can use for the day.
     
  20. TheButler

    TheButler Senior member

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    Location:
    Canada
    Sounds like great advice! Where can I get the higher-end beans? I'm guessing not in the local whole foods...
    Whole Foods actually does a fairly good job. It is freshly roasted, in fact my local whole foods will roast to your specification while you are shopping for the rest of your groceries (like, oh, say, veal chops [​IMG] ). Freshly roasted is 75% of the battle. You can do better with some of the specialty roasting shops (say A&S level bespoke quality) but Whole Foods is up there with your RLBL's and a damn sight better than your Hugo Boss's (Starbucks).
     

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