So last night, my fiancee surprised me with a 12oz bag of “Night Owl Blend” from James Coffee Co. Advertised as an “organic blend of rich heavy bodied coffee with dark notes of hazelnut and maple syrup”, I could not wait to get home in the morning and brew up some of this joe.
First off, the coffee smelled amazing before I even opened the bag. I love when you can catch the wonderful scent of coffee while the bag is still sealed. The beans were a real solid brown, with some of the beans a much darker shade than others. This was my first opportunity try a hand-cranked burr grinder, and I put a solid three tablespoons worth of grounds into the bowl with the grinder set for medium-coarse. The grinder worked great, and after about a minute I had solid bowlful of medium-coarse grounds.
All this time, I had the water boiling in our electric kettle, which is not a goose-neck kettle, nor does it have a thermometer for gauging the water temperature. I’ve read that the ideal temperature for brewing coffee is somewhere between 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’ve been basically estimating the right temperature of the water.
So, I have the grounds at the bottom of my French Press and I pour the first part of water, just barely covering the grounds. This is called “blooming”, from what I’ve read. What happens in this stage is that the hot water and the freshly ground beans mix together and do a bunch of sciency stuff that bring out the flavors of the coffee. When you have a lot of bubbles in the bloom, you know the coffee is fresh, and it will actually rise a couple of centimeters, too. Pretty neat.
The coffee bloomed for about 30 seconds and I poured the rest of the water into the press, filling it up to about three quarters of the way. Once this was done, I let the coffee sit for about three and a half minutes, all the while watching the coffee anxiously. However, a watched French Press doesn’t brew properly.
First thing I noticed about the brew was that it was very light, not quite translucent but also not super brown. That had me worried. Upon pressing, I also realized that much of the grounds where actually at the bottom of the press. To my amateur brain that meant that the grounds did not have a long time of swirling around in the water before I pressed the plunger down. Uh oh. My first thought is that the water might have been too hot? I’m not completely sure how water temperature affects coffee grounds in a French Press, if at all, but more investigation is needed.
As I poured the coffee, I was slightly relieved to note that the coffee looked….like coffee in the cup! It wasn’t a pale brown. It had a bold coloring that settled my coffee nerves for a time. I served two cups and set about readying for the tasting. First taste…..too hot!! The water was definitely too hot when I first poured it into the French Press. Bummer! As the coffee cooled down, more flavors started to emerge and you could definitely tell that this was GOOD coffee. I’m still working on coffee palate, so I didn’t really pick up any hints of hazelnut or maple syrup right away. I thought maybe I tasted some at the end of the cup, but I’m not confident.
All in all, I definitely need to perfect and fine tune my brewing process. The most obvious flaw that sticks out to me was that the water was much too hot, both during the brewing and the drinking. So that will be the first thing I’ll correct. I may experiment with stirring the grounds in the French Press before just letting them soak, as well. What’s most important, however, is that I was still able to enjoy a very drinkable cup of coffee!