Cuppa

Morning coffee in a big red mug surrounded by the morning paper.

The coffee has been a little thin. Not necessarily weak, but, if I were being truthful, I would admit that it was a bit weak, too.

The grind for French press is fairly coarse. You don’t want the coffee to be powdery, which leads to sludgy brew. Depending where you have it ground, sometimes it presents like the tiny pebbles in sand. Sometimes the bean fragments are smaller, more like pepper shards out of a loose pepper mill. I’ve not done a double-blind study, but it seems to taste better with the slightly finer, but not too fine, grind.

Making the coffee has a few steps that I approach more like washing a car than a tea ceremony. You’ll understand better in a minute.

First, you measure the coffee and put it in the pot. I have a huge scoop so I don’t have to count so much. Sometimes I can loose track of the scoops and then I either have to pour it out onto a plate and start over or say three Hail Mary’s while praying that there is enough. I never worry about too much, it’s only too little that would be the jolt. Or, more accurately, the anti-jolt.

Second, you add the water. I always used filtered water. Although that likely becomes much less relevant in month three and four of the two-month rated filter.

Back to the coffee. The water should be just below a boil. So, after the water reaches the boiling point you need to wait a bit as it cools. The wait can range between me chanting “one thousand one, one thousand two,” as I’m patiently standing next to the kettle, all the way up to to a few (ten? maybe 15?) minutes if I forgot that I started this project. That happens. Mostly on weekends, but sometimes during the week if I get involved with a first-thing-in-the-morning Buzzfeed quiz. Which Disney villain are you? or How many of these 90s songs can you name?

Sometimes I preheat the pot. This usually occurs when I realize that I didn’t wash it yesterday and I have to wash it for today’s coffee. I shake out the dregs, pour them down the sink and rinse the pot with hot water. Very hot water. That preheats the pot, as if by design.

Third is the timing. Those of you with a drip maker or a fancy machine are unconcerned with timing. Your appliances finish all by themselves. With the French press, your coffee floats around in the water to flavor it for an optimal interval. I think it’s four minutes. That’s my goal, anyway. Usually one of three things will occur. I will set the timer and respond at the ring, I will set the timer and ignore it because of some minor distraction, or, I will forget to set the timer and contort my brain to imagine the lapsed time. The timing is actually very important to the taste. I just don’t usually get it right.

Fourth is the plunge. This is pure technique. You need to corral all the floaty grinds under the mesh net and push them to the bottom of the pot. There is sometimes resistance–not always. It’s like an air bubble somehow forms and as you continue to push the plunger down, the pot burps and very hot liquid comes shooting out of the spout. I’m usually lucky and the spout is pointing away from me. Sometimes, though, I get it in the chest like someone yelling, Good morning!

I’m a little sloppy on the plunge so I usually take the first cup. This is the one with grinds that escaped the mesh and washed above the rubber seal when I was not paying any attention. When this happens, I am glad for the grind with the large chunks. You can more easily chase them around the rim of the cup and scoop them out with a spoon. When I’m very sloppy, I get the tea strainer and pour into another cup. When I’m very sloppy and very lazy, I just add milk and go about my business focusing on not focusing on the grains. I’ll spit out the gravel later. Or, if I don’t, I call it fiber.

The coffee I drank this gray morning was amazing. It was perfectly hot and a bit syrupy to balance the goodness of bitter. It was the earthy, composty Indonesian coffee that’s my favorite. It tastes of a little dirt and a little acid, flavored with what tastes of chocolate and maybe maple–or is that dark cherry?

Someone else plunged it this morning, though. Someone who is a much better scientist than I. Someone who made a beautiful cup of coffee for me this morning. No grains. No spills. Just love in a mug.

Now, THAT’S a good cup of coffee.

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