Coffee 101

It’s time to get serious about the only thing I love more than  wine: Coffee.  This is a serious point of contention, people.  Everybody has a favorite way to make it, everybody’s all “How many scoops?!” and I just felt like it was time we covered it.  See, I know a thing or two about coffee.  I know I ingest 30 ounces of it a day, and I know a sure fire way to RUIN MY LIFE is messing up my coffee.

So let’s talk about it.  There are many ways to brew a cup of joe, today we are going to talk about the three most common, Drip Coffee, French Press, and the Chemex.

Let’s start with the most common process, the coffee pot.  Drip coffee is most widely used by most American households, it’s quick and easy, and it’s best for bulk coffee making.  Are you the kind of family who burns through 12 cups of joe? If so, drip coffee may be the best way to go.  The biggest point of contention about drip coffee, is how much coffee to use.  Trust me when I say, if you are the kind of person who uses 5 scoops per pot of coffee, I am going to jump off a bridge, stomp, cry and throw a fit before I drink it.  Seriously, I can’t function with weak coffee.  The standard rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon per 8 ounces of water you’re brewing.  So if your coffee pot holds 60 ounces, you would need at least 7.5 full tablespoons to make a balanced cup of coffee.  I use more than that, because I want my coffee to be able to get up and walk away from me, but I get that I’m not normal.  Are you looking for ways to improve your drip coffee? Okay.

  1. Start with whole coffee beans, and grind fresh before you brew
  2. Use cold, filtered water
  3. Use paper filters instead of reusable metal ones, they impart flavors on your coffee
  4. Once the coffee is done brewing, remove it from the hot plate, the continued heat will change the flavor profile of your joe
  5. Use enough coffee.  That’s right, up your amount of coffee grounds by a tablespoon each time until you find the right strength for you

Feeling more adventurous?  Making coffee for only 1 or 2 people? Want a more textured feel to your coffee?  Invite the French Press to your home. What are the main differences in drip coffee versus french press? Well the french press isn’t filtered, so the likelihood of a thicker, grittier coffee is greater with french press.  When I say gritty, I don’t mean that negatively.  If you like a little body and different mouth feel, a french press may be up your alley.  You want to use a medium to coarse grind with french press.  The smaller your coffee grounds, the more difficult it is to “plunge” the coffee after it’s bloomed.  (Bloom: the process by which you release gas/aroma from the coffee ground.) Also, you are in control of water temperature with a french press whereas a drip coffee pot manages that for you. So, how do you french press coffee? Okay, here we go:

  1. Start with a good coffee grinder.  Grind whole beans to a medium/course consistency.
  2. Here, we use 2 rounded tablespoons per eight ounces of water.  My press holds 30 ounces, so I use 5 rounded tablespoons.  Place them in the bottom of the press.
  3. Heat your water on the stove to 200 degrees (use a candy thermometer, instead read thermometer, or if you are feeling blah about temperature, until it ALMOST boils)
  4. Slowly pour the water over the coffee grounds, stirring to make sure all the grounds are wet.
  5. Place the plunger/top on the french press, but do not press the plunge down.  Just let it steep.
  6. After 3-5 minutes, slowly press the plunger down.  How do you know when?  Is your coffee a little more finely ground, err on the side of 3 minutes.  Is your coffee pretty course, give it the full 5.
  7. The screen will catch the grounds and collect them at the bottom, releasing the water through the screen in the top.  Once the plunger is as far down as it will go, you are good to pour.

Here is what I can tell you about a french press.  It’s thick, it shows a stronger flavor profile, it has a higher likelihood for residue, and it’s darn good if you like a strong coffee. It does have a tendency to show coffee’s bitter notes.

And finally, to the more scientific method, the Chemex.  Because brewing in a beaker is just way too much fun, right? The process of the Chemex is similar to the french press, only it takes more time to brew.  The difference though, is a strong coffee which has the benefits of a drip (filtered, clear, pure coffee) with the benefits of the bloom method that a french press provides.  While you can buy a chemex to brew 8 cups of coffee, because of the length of time it takes to brew said coffee, I’d stick with making chemex coffee for 1 or 2 people at a time.

Here’s how it works:

  1.  Open the square filter and place in the top of the chemex.  There should be 3 layers near the spout, and 1 layer on the other side.  
  2. Using a standard ground coffee (medium), place 1 heaping tablespoon per 5 ounces of coffee (as recommended by Chemex)
  3. Heat your water on the stove to 200 degrees (use a candy thermometer, instead read thermometer, or if you are feeling blah about temperature, until it ALMOST boils)
  4. Here is where it gets different: pour just enough water over the coffee grounds to wet them, do not let the coffee float in the filter. (this is the bloom.)  
  5. After the first wetting, you can then continue to pour more water over the coffee grounds, making sure the water level doesn’t get too high.
  6. After you’ve brewed your coffee, you can just throw the filter and grounds away.

While a Chemex produces wonderful coffee, because it takes so long, the coffee isn’t as hot as I would like it once it’s done brewing.  Also, it’s time intensive, you can’t just make a pot of chemex coffee and walk away from it.  BUT, that being said, it’s worth the time and energy on a lazy Sunday for sure.

So, all that being said, I’d love to know what your go to method of coffee making is!  I am using Vicelight as a way to see what your preferences are!  It’s a great crowd sourcing app that gives you the honest opinion of strangers. Amazing.  So download Vicelight and go to this question, and let me know which method you prefer, Drip, French Press, or Chemex!



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About Whitney

Whitney is the Founder of Whit's Amuse Bouche, a nationally recognized food and humor blog. When she's not in the kitchen, you can find her with a glass of california cabernet in one hand and a hot glue gun in the other. She prefers sweat pants to real ones. View all posts by Whitney →

3 Responses to Coffee 101

  1. Since Vicelight so rudely doesn’t have an Android equivalent, I’m gonna leave you a comment:

    I have a French Press travel mug, and I absolutely HATE drip coffee in comparison now!

  2. I’m leaving a comment since I actually take a 4th route to my morning cup – an Aeropress. Its like a giant coffee syringe, and makes a very smooth cup in about 1.5 minutes. Highly recommend it! :) They’re on Amazon for about $25.


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