Those big beautiful single serve coffee machines — so much to love: the convenience of a cup of joe in only a minute, effortless clean-up, and a selection of every coffee flavor imaginable. My sister and I bought one for our mother after her stroke six years ago so that she could make her own breakfast in the morning despite her physical disabilities. She loves it. But, kinda knew from the very start that it was all too good to be true.
The little plastic 2×2 coffee pods (aka K-Cups) used in the machines have quickly become an environmental calamity because they are not recyclable and every year billions of them are incinerated, dumping poison into the air, water and soil. And, until we come up with a solution, there’s no telling how many billions more will end up in the ocean and on our beaches as so much plastic waste does.
For about a year, I substituted a re-usable plastic pod in my single serve coffee maker in an effort to reduce plastic waste at home as well as coffee making costs (the price of those pods add up over time!), but discovered the process of filling, cleaning and re-filling the small pods significantly reduces the convenience of a single serve machine, especially when making more than one cup. Also began to realize the taste of the coffee is not that great when using single serve machines, and the machine takes up a lot of counter space. Then, I had a brainstorm while visiting a friend in France — why not use a french press at home?
I love the rich taste of coffee made with a french press, but hadn’t used one in years as the latest and greatest technology took over the coffee making in my home kitchen. Decided to make a change– go back to basics and simplicity. So, I dug the thing out from its hiding spot on a top shelf, gave it a try and became a fan once again. It’s a good feeling to do just a little something to help save our beautiful planet while enjoying a hot cup of coffee with maximum flavor first thing in the morning. Easy clean-up, too.
Don’t know how to brew up a cuppa using a french press? No worries. It’s surprisingly quick and easy, and you don’t have to be a coffee expert or spend a lot of money to enjoy the process of brewing handcrafted coffee. Here are the basics in French Press Coffee tools and technique:
What you need to start:
Kettle — for heating up water. Any kind (both stove-top and electric) will work perfectly, and maybe you have one. If not, I recommend you check out the electric kettles. I like that they free up stove-top space and have automatic shut-off. I’ve been using a Capresso model for two years without a problem, but the Hamilton Beach Electric 1.7 Electric Tea Kettle/Water Heater gets good reviews and costs less.
A French Press (aka cafetière, press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger) — is a coffee pot in the shape of a narrow cylinder with a lid and plunger made of fine stainless steal or nylon mesh. A french press can also be used to make cold brew coffee and brew tea. My favorite is by Bodum as they are well made, seem to retain heat longer than other less expensive brands, and come in all sizes and styles — even single serve and a travel mug version for on the go coffee drinkers → Bodum French Press Selections
Coffee Bean Grinder — Your favorite, coarsely ground. I love the taste of deep dark coffee (and chocolate), and go for the dark roast beans (a friend once told me the best coffee comes from beans that are almost black). It’s typically recommended you grind coffee beans for a fresh pot every day as freshly ground beans make better tasting, flavorful coffee. Whole coffee beans stay fresher longer (a few weeks, if stored in air tight container). I sometimes buy pre-ground french roast (dark) coffee to save a step in the process when I’m in a big hurry to get that first cup or serving coffee to a group of friends, but I can also taste the difference — too bitter for some coffee drinkers. If you’d like to grind beans at home, you’ll need a grinder. There are two types of electric grinders: blade and burr. Krups makes a good blade grinder, and you can purchase from Amazon right now for less than $20 → KRUPS F203 Spice and Coffee Grinder (Tip: Not a good idea to use same grinder for coffee and spices because your coffee will pick up the taste of spices.) Electric burr grinders are typically more expensive, but they do a better job of grinding the beans into consistently sized coarse particulars that are best for using with a french press. Burr Grinders
Instructions: (Tip: Everything you do or don’t do affects the taste of coffee with a french press (good & bad). Take advantage by experimenting and adjusting this process until you find your perfect cup of coffee.)
1. Boil water in the kettle. I use filtered water from the tap, but water selection, just like coffee roasts, is really a matter of personal preference because tap water differs by location. Experts recommend using ‘fresh water’, in other words, don’t re-use previously boiled water.
2. Add coffee grounds to french press. General rule: 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of ground coffee for every one cup (8 oz/30 grams) of water. Adjust this ratio to suit your personal taste — use more ground coffee for stronger flavor.
3. After water boils, let it cool about a minute, then pour evenly over the grounds. There are two methods. i) Blooming method — gently pour hot water just to cover grounds (filling pot 1/2 – 3/4 full), and you’ll see foam start to appear (this is the ‘bloom’). Let it sit for 15-20 seconds. Then a quick stir around before pouring more hot water to fill the pot ii) Stirring method – pour hot water evenly over the grounds and stir. For stirring, I use a chopstick or cocktail stirrer. If you use a metal spoon or stirrer, avoid hitting sides of glass pot of the french press while stirring because that could cause cracking of the glass.
4. Cover and let steep. Place the lid/plunger on top of the french press (careful to allow a little space between coffee and plunger), and let coffee steep 2-4 minutes. The longer the steeping time, the stronger the coffee. Here again, you should experiment until you find exactly the right steeping time for your perfect cup of coffee. Here’s a general guide:
Standard – 4 minutes; 2 minutes for small french press (3-4 cups)
Extra dark & strong – as much as 10 minutes
Short/No steep – 30-60 seconds or no steeping time (produces a less bitter coffee taste, but you’ll probably need to use more coffee grounds to get full flavor)
Tip: It’s easy to forget the time when multi-tasking in the morning. A timer helps. Use kitchen appliance timer or phone app.
5. Plunge and Pour. Press down slowly on the plunger using one hand until the mesh filter reaches the bottom of the french press (just above the grounds). Now. it’s ready to pour and serve! Tip: If you aren’t going to drink the brewed coffee immediately, keep it hot by pouring into an insulated carafe. They come in all shapes and sizes → Coffee Carafes
6. Clean it up. Dump out used coffee grounds in trash or compost because pouring down a drain could cause clogging. Follow manufacturer’s instructions as to how to clean your french press for use the next day. Most can be washed in dishwasher. It’s important to remove all the oily coffee residue because it will quickly turn rancid and ruin the taste of the next pot of coffee.
Kill the K-Cup – a non-profit organization committed to bringing attention to the growing waste created by K-Cups
Pressed Coffee Is Going Mainstream – But Should You Drink It? by Heidi Godman, Harvard Health Publishing (April 29, 2016) – recommended to limit to no more than 4 cups a day and keep a watch on cholesterol levels as pressed coffee may raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels
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Feature photo is courtesy of Quincy Alivio/Unsplash CC0
Enjoy your perfect cup of coffee with a German Chocolate Cup Cake
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