Everyone loves a good cup of coffee. Whether it’s made by a person with more piercings than thoughts in their head, or by a significant other before they kick you out of their house, good coffee is a prerequisite of a good day. So, what’s the problem? The problem is every time you ask your buddy how he makes his coffee he gives you some bullshit story about hiking to the top of a mountain every morning to steal his beans from a wizard, which is way more effort than you care to do first thing every day.
How do you fix this problem? Do you start buying your beans from a sketchy guru online or weighing your coffee grounds before you ceremoniously dump them in the pot? Hell no, I’ll teach you the easy (and cheap) way to get great coffee every morning while simultaneously impressing whoever you’ve lured to your kitchen.
Step 1: Buy your machinery
Any good-for-nothing casual can snag a Mr. Coffee Pot from Wal Mart and some filters, but that isn’t going to impress anyone (ed. You can follow all of these steps with a regular coffee machine for the exact same taste). What you need is a French Press. A French Press yields roughly 2 cups and doesn’t require any filters or electricity to operate. You can find one on Amazon or any other retailer for around $30, but I recommend splurging a little on an insulated one to keep your coffee hotter for longer.
Additionally, you will need a coffee grinder. You can use a food processor, electric grinder, or hand grinder, but the key is having something to break down your beans because step two is…
Step 2: Get some good whole beans
There isn’t anything wrong with pre-ground coffee, but if you’re here to impress everyone, you’ll need to grind those babies yourself. The effect grinding your own beans has on the flavor is twofold:
- Your coffee will taste fresher
- The coarseness of your grind is (semi)important
No matter what you do, however, it won’t count for shit if you buy bad coffee. The first step in buying good coffee is to start sniffing bags of beans like a crazy person. You need have people concerned about you when they see you in the coffee aisle. Does the coffee smell good to you? Does it smell bitter or sweet (usually sweeter blends are due to added cocoa)? This is all personal taste, but here is a cheat sheet if you’re just starting out:
Step 3: Get on your grind
For a full French Press, you’ll want to fill most grinders to the top before you grind them, which yields about 4-5 tablespoons. It isn’t a perfect method, but it’s pretty close and I don’t even own a scale so I can’t give you an approximate weight.
You’ll want to shoot for a medium-course grind. Some grinders come with that setting, but if yours doesn’t, just try to get the texture of pencil shavings where you can still see some partially-whole beans. Once again, this is a good goal to aim for, but the intensity of the grind matters less than the type of beans you’re using. If you really want to impress your friends, you can tell them you’re using this grind because a French Press is an “emulsion” method which calls for a courser grind.
Once you have your grounds, dump them in your French Press with the lid off.
(Bonus action: preheat your French Press with hot water before dumping your grounds in to make the flavor more intense)
Step 4: (almost) Boil that water
Now you’ll want to put some water on the stove. How much water? As much that fits in your French Press probably, but go nuts. Now, start boiling and when you see some bubbles rising from the bottom to the top, but before you get a full boil, pull it off the stove and dump it on top of your grounds.
Step 5: Give it a swirl, and wait 4 minutes
If you use a glass French Press, you might want to be careful, but usually I just mix the grounds and water with a knife. Once they’re mixed (like 5 spins around the cup), put the cap, BUT DO NOT PUSH DOWN, and wait for 4 minutes. Sometimes the maker will push for 5 or 6, but I’ve found that 4 is good enough. The reason you need to wait is because in emulsion methods, the water needs time to pull the flavor out of the grounds (you don’t see the same process in regular coffee brewing because the water just needs to travel through a filter).
Step 6: Push the plunger down and enjoy
The French Press’ defining feature is the ostentatious rod that sticks up in the air, and it’s not just there for decoration. Push that baby down slowly to push all the grounds to the bottom of the French Press and away from your cup so you can enjoy all the work you just did.
Congratulations, you’re well on your way to being a coffee snob, but there’s no need to be an asshole about it. Please don’t use this guide for evil, like judging your friends for making their (shitty) coffee in a Keurig or asking what temperature your drink is at (but it shouldn’t be more than 185 degrees F, or it’ll burn the grounds).
Coffee is my favorite beverage and I’ve found that this guide is the best (and cheapest) way to brew it without buying a steel kettle or a Chemex. You can dress this method up or down as much as your morning brain requires, but I promise you’ll be on the right track! (but seriously, stop going to Starbucks)