Perfect French Press Coffee

22 Mar

While on a short vacation recently, it dawned upon me that the thing I miss the most about being at home is not the fact that my mattress does not list to one side, or that my neighborhood grocery store does not charge $5 for 6 ounces of blueberries (both of those being things that I encountered while vacationing), but that when I am at home, I know that I will always drink really, really good coffee.  Perhaps living in the Pacific Northwest has done irreparable damage to my ability to tolerate subpar coffee, but I know for a fact that when I was served yet another watery, limp, and tasteless cup of coffee last weekend, it made me more homesick than that saggy mattress made me stiff and creaky.  (And that’s saying a lot.)

Though I can claim no allegiance to a single coffee roaster or type, it’s no secret that when it comes to the quality of coffee, Stumptown Coffee has set a very high standard of excellence.  Such is the strength of Stumptown’s dedication, they have taken the time to print out a tiny little instruction manual detailing the precise steps one should follow in order to produce the most delicious cup of coffee possible.

This “coffee zine,” as they call it, covers the basics of home brewing, from using a simple stovetop Moka Pot to mastering the challenge of making good quality espresso on a home machine (a delicate and intricate effort that is nearly tantamount to performing at-home vascular surgery on oneself—you may give it a go, but chances are things won’t turn out so well).

Considering how much I respect and adore coffee, combined with the fact that I was a barista 15 years ago (and took the job very, very seriously), it is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit that, up until last summer, when it was required of me by a camping trip, I had very little experience making French press (also called press pot) coffee.  I knew the basic principles of using a French press, and I even owned one, but I hadn’t utilized the thing for nearly a decade.

It took only a brief sit-down with the Stumptown manual to familiarize myself with the proper process of using a French press, and I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing all those years I spent chained to my drip machine.  Don’t get me wrong—the drip machine is fine, and it produces good, tasty coffee, but the French press is incredible, producing a rich, velvety cup of coffee with intensely pronounced flavors.

It’s the difference between a strawberry purchased at the grocery store in February and a strawberry grown in your backyard and then eaten straight from the garden on a hot June afternoon.  You can appreciate both, but only one of them will offer a net result that is good enough to write home (or on your website) about.

How to Prepare the Perfect Press Pot at Home

From the Stumptown Coffee Roasters Brewing Guide

If you follow the link above, you’ll get a more in-depth explanation of Stumptown’s preferences when it comes to why they want you to use certain tools and methods.  I have, in the interest in brevity, chosen to eliminate those details here, but I do encourage you to read up on Stumptown’s wealth of information concerning coffee and its preferred preparation.  If nothing else, it’s fascinating to read such in-depth information about coffee (well, at least I think so).

What you’ll need:

press pot (French press)





cups (and thermal carafe if preparing more than fits in the cups)

Step One: Grind Coffee

It is important that the coffee be ground coarse and that it be ground with a quality burr (rather than blade grinder).

Step Two: Add Coffee to Pot

You’ll need 1 tablespoon of coffee for every 4 oz of water.  In other words, if you have a 16 oz press pot, you’ll want to use 4 tablespoons of coffee.  Feel free to adjust the amount based on your own personal tastes.  Make sure the pot is clean and dry.

Step Three: Add Water

You should bring the water just to a boil and then let it cool for about 45 seconds.  Then pour it aggressively into the pot so that it saturates the grounds.  The key is to saturate all the grounds evenly.  Do not fill the pot entirely, as you will see significant expansion of the coffee in a sort of “foam” at the top of the liquid once you add water.  Adding too much water can result in a very messy countertop.

Step Four: Start Timer

You’re going to want to have a timer that counts down from 4 minutes and has an alarm at 4 minutes (I generally just watch the clock like a hawk).  It’s very important that you use a timer to guarantee high quality coffee.

Step Five: Stir Pot

After 1 minute, you should stir the grounds in the pot.  If you need to add water to top off the pot, make sure it is again right below boiling.

Step Six: Put Press/Top on Pot

Make sure you line up the spout and the corresponding exit in the lid.

Step Seven: Press the Pot

At exactly four minutes, you should push the press (slowly) into the pot to force all grounds to the bottom.  You might have to press and then release and repeat to do this.  Do not crush it with all your might–use some finesse.

Step Eight: Pour the Coffee

You need to do this as soon as you’ve pressed the pot.  If you’re making more coffee than you can fit into a cup and want to hold some for later, pour the coffee into a thermal carafe.  Do not simply leave the coffee in the press pot–it will get nasty quickly.  If you want to avoid any stray grounds and sediment, you can pour the coffee through a mesh basket filter.

Step Nine: Drink the Coffee

I drink my coffee with a small amount of warmed milk (I pour the coffee directly into the milk in my cup) and it is heavenly.

2 Responses to “Perfect French Press Coffee”

  1. Celia November 29, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    As a Portlander, and of Scandinavian descent, I love my coffee. Thank you for sharing. (Stumptown has the best cappuccinos) Skoal!

    • savorysaltysweet November 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      The Stumptown cappuccino truly is a thing of beauty, isn’t it?

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