Une Tasse Savoureuse de Cafe

Look, we know that we spend a lot of time with fancy high-end machines like the La Marzocco GS/3 or the Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler, but we’re not ashamed to fess up that our deepest appreciation for coffee has always come from the more than capable spout of a French press.

It’s lo-fi, fast, easy and you can take it anywhere — just like us! We have had a few people ask for tips on making the best pot of french press coffee and so we decided to record the method to our madness here for posterity, etc.

There is a growing movement toward single-serve press pot coffee in the cafe industry, similarly to what you see with individually potted tea, and there’s definitely an art and science around that as well — how much coffee, what temperature the water, how long it should steep, etc. Like all things, you can probably get as obsessive about this as you’d like, and there’s going to be differences across the board; the process outlined below is what works for us — if you have differences in opinion/experience, we definitely want to hear them!

Water Works

We could spend a few days debating which type of water to use, but the most important element is to choose water that you think tastes great by itself. Definitely filter out any chemicals like chlorine or fluoride that might be in your tap water, but if you’re working with a highly mineralized water supply, we totally recommend sticking with it. That could just be our preferences talking, however, because we dig the flavor minerals add to the end product. Regardless of your water source, set the kettle on before you grind your coffee, as you want the water to sit a bit after boiling to reach the ideal temperature. We think bringing it to a boil and then allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes works well.

The Grind’s the Thing
You’re probably sick of hearing us chastise you about your cheap grinder, so we’ll stop nagging and just tell you this: As with all things coffee, the more uniform the coffee particles are, the better the flavor. French press is no different than espresso in this regard — consistent, uniform particle size is essential, it’s just the particle size that’s different. You’re going for a coarse grind, and if you have a metal mesh filter on your press pot, your grind should be a little bit coarser than if you have a nylon one. Uniform and coarse grounds = no muddy sludge at the bottom of your cup.

The Measure of a (Wo)Man
Now that you’ve got your freshly ground coffee and your water’s on the boil, measure out 2 rounded tablespoons for every 6 oz. of your press pot’s brewing capacity.

Islands in the Stream
There really is no end to the cheesy puns we can spin utilizing bad song titles, but feel free to challenge us. Now, your water’s just below boiling, your coffee is in the pot and it’s time to pour. The key here is a steady stream that thoroughly moistens all of the coffee. Your water level needs to take into account the space required for the filter, so leave room at the top. Stir up the grounds and water to release the “bloom.”

Steeped in Tradition
Now it’s time for a little patience — but not much! — as you allow the coffee to steep. This can take anywhere from 2 minutes for a smaller pot to 4 minutes for one of the larger ones. We dig multi-tasking, so use this time to warm our cups by pouring in some of the excess water we boiled. Let the warm water sit in the cups until you’re just about ready to filter the coffee, then toss it and wipe any lingering droplets out so that’s it’s nice and warm and dry for your perfectly brewed java.

Take the Plunge
Slowly and steadily, depress the plunger — too fast and you could let some grounds escape (resulting in the aforementioned mud) or you could end up spilling some over the side. Once you’ve fully depressed the plunger, serve the coffee into your warmed cups, taking care to keep the lid and plunger stable as your pour.

Sip and enjoy!

Recipe: Espresso Truffles (Dairy Free)

We’ve never made truffles — or any candy, for that matter — but this recipe looks quite tasty and not too complex. Even better, we’ve been looking for ways to cut down on the dairy intake lately, so this is a yummy option without all the unmentionable side affects! Makes about 30 truffles.


Ingredients

  • 10 ounces very dark good quality dairy-free chocolate, chopp
  • 2 T. dairy-free soy margarine, preferably a “stick” variety
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk or dairy-free soy half-n-half
  • 3 T. espresso
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a heatproof
    bowl, preferably stainless steel, set over a pan (but not touching)
    several inches of boiling water, heat the chocolate and dairy-free soy
    margarine, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely
    melted. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine the coconut
    milk and maple syrup, stirring until combined. Heat until steam just
    begins to rise from the surface of the coconut milk, but do not boil.
    Pour the hot coconut milk mixture over the melted chocolate mixture,
    and let stand, unstirred, for 3 minutes. Starting in the middle of the
    bowl and working your way to the edges, gently stir until the mixture
    is smooth and silky. Add the espresso to the mixture, stirring until
    combined.
  3. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator, uncovered, for 45 minutes,
    removing the bowl from the refrigerator and stirring well every 15
    minutes. After the last stirring (at the 45-minute-mark), place the
    bowl back in the refrigerator for 5 minutes more.
  4. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop the chocolate onto the
    prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for
    20 minutes.
  5. Using your hands, roll the chocolate balls quickly to smooth
    (they will get very messy quickly, so I prefer to wear disposable
    gloves, which also help to keep the chocolate colder.) Return the pan
    to the refrigerator for 15 minutes more.
  6. Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips in a stainless steel bowl
    set over a pan of boiling water. Stirring occasionally, heat until the
    chocolate is completely melted and about 90 degrees F, using a candy
    thermometer if available. Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Using
    two forks, drop one of the chocolate balls into the melted chocolate,
    and, working quickly, coat the ball with the melted chocolate, shaking
    of the excess and placing it immediately in the cocoa powder, turning
    to coat. Using a clean spoon or two clean forks, place the dusted
    truffle on the lined baking sheet, and repeat until all of the truffles
    are coated.
  7. Return the truffles to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Crew Review: Grinder Buying Guide

In the market for a new grinder? One refrain that resounds amongst espresso enthusiasts is that, if they had it to do all over again, they would have invested in a great grinder to begin with. Next to temperature, the fineness and consistency of the ground is one of the most important elements of excellent espresso.

We had Gail talk us through the different burr grinders that are available at Seattle Coffee Gear — you can watch the three part video here.


Part 1: Introduction to grinders and reviews of the Capresso Infinity and Baratza series — including the Maestro, Maestro Plus and Virtuoso


Part 2: More information on grinders plus reviews of the Rancilio Rocky Doser/Doserless and the new Baratza Vario


Part 3: Final installment discusses the high end consumer grinders available such as the Compak, Macap and Mazzer

Comparing Espresso Machines

With so many different kinds of espresso machines on the market, researching which is the best for you can sometimes feel like popping open a big ol’ can of worms. Superautomatic or semi-automatic? Single boiler, heat exchange or double boiler? Is the E61 brew group really that great?

Our goal here at Seattle Coffee Gear is to provide as complete of a picture as we can about as many machines as possible. We read through user reviews to develop general pros and cons, have our techs test out the machines, experiment with different grinders to see how they perform with different machines and, ultimately, drink way more coffee than we should. All of this informs our YouTube videos, the writing we do here, our product descriptions and — one of the best resources we have — our Selecting an Espresso Machine Video.

If you’re just learning about espresso machines and aren’t sure what will meet your needs and budget, this video is a great place to start. We’ve organized the different machine classes by price range and compared their performance against each other, so you can see technical facts like how hot they brew or which type of pump they have and more subjective assessments such as the ease of use or quality of shot.

We’re constantly updating and adding machines, so definitely check out updated Crew Review videos once you hone in on the right machine for you.

The Grind – April 2009

April’s issue of our monthly newsletter, The Grind, is now up! This month’s edition includes a spicy tropical mocha recipe that is not for the faint of heart, details on our espresso machine recycle program, a tip on keeping your brew head clean and the secret code for this month’s Grind Special coupon.

Check it out — or sign up to receive future editions in your inbox.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series

In January, we wrote about the University of Washington Burke Museum of Natural History’s exhibition called Coffee: The World in Your Cup. The accompanying lecture series begins next week, kicked off by Mark Pendergrast on Tuesday, April 7th. Mark wrote one of our favorite books on the history of coffee and its impact on the world as we know it, Uncommon Grounds, and we’re really looking forward to his lecture — as well as several others in the series.

We’re hoping to make it to all of the lectures and will be writing up a synopsis of each of them here, so folks outside of the Seattle area, or those that can’t give up a Tuesday night easily, can also benefit from an excitingly holistic discussion of coffee and its place in the world.

Here’s a brief run down of the series — if you’re interested in learning more, you can read full details and sign up for the series here. If you plan on attending one, let us know — we’d love to meet you!

April 7: Mark Pendergrast
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

April 14: David Robinson
Direct Trade: Bringing the World Community Together Through Coffee

April 21: Eugene Anderson
Why We Love Coffee

April 28: David Browning
A High Quality Cup – Securing Futures by Increasing Coffee Quality

May 5: Paul Rice
Fair Trade – Using Markets to Empower the Poor

May 12: Stacy Philpott
Brewing Biodiversity: Looking at Coffee as an Ecosystem

May 19: Reps from Espresso Vivace, Grounds for Change, Pura Vida & Stumptown
Coffee, Sustainability and Seattle

May 26: Ben Packard & Peter Torrebiarte
Local to Global – Conservation and C.A.F.E. Practices at the World’s Largest Coffee Company