More About Brewing . . .

If you start with good, fresh beans, you can almost always get a good cup with a minimum amount of fuss.


There are some simple steps you can take to get the best cup. Most coffee companies prescribe a "scientific method" of brewing which will ensure repeatedly good results. I believe in the scientific method of brewing; I just don't seem to have the discipline to follow it! By all means follow this advice if you can; or if you are like me, try to follow my "practical method" for brewing. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

You can also download this PDF file on How to make French Press coffee.

Here’s another PDF file from the Bodum website for How to make French Press coffee.


The Scientific Method

This method relies on measures: water temperature, grind particle size, amount of coffee and water, and time of brewing.


1. Start with 'good water;' filter water that is chlorinated or use bottled water. Never use water from the hot water tap.


2. Brew with water between 195 and 205 degrees fahrenheit. At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees F, so you have to wait till it cools a bit after boiling to avoid extracting bitter elements from the coffee. (A real scientist would use a thermometer!)


3. Use the correct grind (fineness) for your brewing method. A courser grind for plunger pots, a medium grind for old-fashioned drip machines, a fine grind for filter drip machines. (You can learn to distinguish grinds by rubbing the grounds between your fingers and noting particle size.)


4. Measure the water and coffee grounds carefully. The standard measure is two level tablespoons (one standard coffee scoop) for each six ounces of brew water. Remember, if you make a 12 ounce mug of coffee, you should use four tablespoons (two standard scoops).


5. Control the contact time of water on the grounds. For plunger pots, allow three minutes of brew time before plunging; good automatic drip pots are calibrated to optimize contact time.


6. Never use disposable, paper filters. Permanent, 'gold filters' are preferred as they don't impart any 'papery' flavors to the brew. Plunger pots, of course, don't use filters, so they are a recommended method of brewing.


My Practical Method

Every once in a while, I resolve to follow the 'scientific method' of brewing, convinced that I might find some improvement in the quality of my brewed coffee. This resolve sometimes lasts a week or so, sometimes only a day. Then, on a groggy morning, in the dark of winter, I revert to my simple, practical method. I wish I could say I notice the difference in the cup, but I don't. When the coffee beans are really fresh, I always get an enjoyable cup, even with my abbreviated method.


1. I always (almost) filter my brew water because our municipal water is chlorinated. I don't bother with bottled water. When I am at a place that has good well water, I use it straight from the tap.


2. I fill my Krupps grinder up to the top with fresh beans (this is a standard 'measure' of sorts). I grind them long enough to let others in the house know that fresh coffee is on the way; I pulse the grinder a couple of times and shake it a bit during the process.


3. I pour the ground coffee into a cone filter (yup, a paper filter), put it in my spiffy Braun automatic drip machine, fill the machine's reservoir up to the "7 cup" line, and hit the brew switch. This formula gives 4 mugs of good, strong, morning coffee. (Some day, I'm going to try one of those gold filter; really I am.)


That's it. Though a simplified method, you can see how it relies on the principles of the scientific method - a standard amount of coffee and water brewed in a reliable way. Just develop some repeatable habits, and you will enjoy the results.


Variations on My Method:

1.     When I make coffee for myself, I use my simple and inexpensive Mellita single-cup cone brewer.  The cone fits over a mug, and a paper filter holds the coffee.  I use 3 tablespoons of ground coffee to brew one mug (about 9 ounces).  Just slowly pour fresh-boiled water over the grounds until the mug is full.


2.     When I use my grandmother's Neapolitan coffee maker (the old 'flip/drip' kind), I fill the coffee compartment as full as I can with ground coffee, fill the pot with water up to the seam, set it on the stove and wait. When the water boils, I flip the pot and wait for the water to filter through the grounds into the empty, serving pot. While this method is a bit messy in clean up, it makes excellent coffee.


3.     When I use my Melior plunger pot (French press), I heat water in the kettle, measure and grind the coffee just as above. After the water boils, I pour some into the pot to preheat it. I dump out this water then add the ground coffee to the pot. I pour the now slightly cooler hot water over the grounds and let it sit long enough for my mug to preheat (Sometimes I notice this takes about 3 minutes). I plunge the screen and pour the thick coffee into my mug.

 4.    When I use my stove-top 'espresso' machine (you know, the kind made from aluminum or stainless with the six-sided base) I grind the coffee longer to get it finer. Then I fill the coffee chamber, fill the water chamber to the vent, set it on the stove, and watch it very carefully! When the water boils, it 'perks' up a spout (along with steam) through the ground coffee. It collects in the upper pot ready to serve. I have both the aluminum and stainless varieties of these pots, and I love the coffee they make. This is a good method for those who like a morning cafe au lait; just heat some milk in a saucer while the coffee brews (cold milk ruins fresh espresso).


        Paul Ralston

        President and Roastmaster