How to Brew a Good Cup of Coffee

Posted on October 03, 2012 in Culture by Travis Nesse
Tags: Coffee

No one needs to convince me of the power of coffee. Living in Seattle you cannot walk a block without seeing at least one cafe a buzz with customers seeking a boost of caffeine to jump start their day. We at Sofionik love working together, mug in hand at Caffé Rococo in downtown Kirkland. However, in an effort to pursue economic sustainability, we also brew our own coffee at home, and thought we should share some of our hard earned tips and tricks with you.

For this ‘lesson’ we will be focusing on the French Press (for a brief history of the French Press click here). This time tested design is incredibly environmentally friendly, and produces consistent results, but it can also produce a certain sense of trepidation in the novice user. But not to fear, that's why we are posting this blog here! All shameless rhyming aside, let us begin.

We cannot stress the importance of coffee bean selection enough. Unlike people, not all coffee beans are created equal, and while many factors go into this the essentials of a perfect cup are as follows:

  1. Never buy pre-ground coffee. This is the golden rule, even considering a purchase of pre-ground beans can ruin a cup of coffee. The reason for this being, all the coffee's delicious flavor is wrapped up inside that little bean, but when it is ground this flavor begins to disappear like hairs on a middle aged man's head. Grinding your coffee just prior to brewing is best because we want the flavors not to disappear into thin air, but into your fresh brewed cup of coffee.
  2. Water quality. If your water tastes bad from the tap, do not expect coffee beans to redeem  it. However... A water filter, preferably of the carbon variety, can make your water as right as rain.
  3. Water temperature. The common rookie mistake is to boil water for the French press. However, boiling water (212°F-100°C) is so hot it will burn your beautifully ground beans. Ouch! Instead let water boil and then wait 7 minutes for water to cool to around 200°F, or buy an electric kettle that has a dedicated coffee setting; this is by far the most efficient method, but is not essential.

With these three essentials dedicated to memory you will be well on your way to becoming a novice barista. Now for the last few steps to coffee nirvana.

  1. Rinse out and preheat French press. This ensure no old grinds are lurking in the press and preheating gurantees that the water used for brewing the coffee does not cool on contact with the press, allowing the beans to be brewed at the appropriate temperature.
  2. Heat water to 200F and grind beans coarsely. Coarse ground beens give a fuller flavor and do not pass through the press element and into your cup as easily. Note, grinding beans to finely creates an extremely bitter coffee, and too coarse yields a far too sour cup. Experimentation is the best road to perfection, or you could always buy a grinder with prescribed settings for fine and coarse. 
  3. Empty the French Press of preheating water, add coarsely ground beans to press, and Immediately pour water from kettle onto beans using a circular motion to 'stir' beans up. Stop adding water once press is approximately 1/4 full and allow coffee to bloom. Letting the coffee bloom takes about 10-30 seconds and gives the coffee time to develop a nice crema (crema = layer of foam). Continue adding water to the point just below the silver band of the press.
  4. Place lid with plunger extended on top of press. Set a timer for 4 minutes.
  5. Once the timer expires remove lid and give coffee a quick stir, this reduces bean build up and allows for an easier press with a thicker crema. Yum.
  6. Press coffee and enjoy!

For added drinking pleasure pre-heat for coffee mug as well. Your coffee will stay hot longer, and your life expectancy will increase as well.

Well there you have it! Sofionik's French Pressing skills! Please send us any comments and tips. We would love to know of more ways to get to that perfect cup of coffee.

Here is a list of our favorite coffee roasters and brewing equipment.

For a great looking French Press look no further than Bodum.

For a electric water kettle we find Breville’s Variable Temperature Kettle to be the best.

Some of our favorite Coffees are from Stumptown, Intelligentsia and of course Café Rococo.

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