I can't find coffee beans I like. Help!
Hi – I’ll start my post with a disclaimer. I’m not a coffee aficionado and I’ll likely say something dumb somewhere in my question. Also, I'm sorry if this is the wrong area. Now that that’s out of the way…
Here’s a bit of backstory for you. I grew up drinking terrible coffee because I didn’t know any better. I’m talking the cheapest grind possible brewed in an ancient drip machine. A new pot of coffee would be brewed once or twice a week and we’d just drink cold leftovers when it wasn’t fresh.
Once I moved to my own place, I started brewing coffee in my new drip machine -- fresh, at least -- until I found a French Press on Amazon. I’d never heard of one before, but knew I had to have one. With it I started grinding my own coffee. My grinder is a blade-grinder, not a bur-grinder, and I know that’s not ideal. But it seemed so much better than what I was used to.
Here’s my problem: All of the coffee I buy tastes terrible, French press or not. My eyes were opened to this a few days ago when I tried Starbucks VIA Brew. Until then, I had no complaints. Now, I’m sure many of you hate the stuff, but that Starbucks instant coffee tastes 100x better than what I’ve been making in my French press. The coffee I was drinking is from Amazon, titled: French Roast, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag (I'd link it, but I'm a newbie and don't have permission.)
It smells musty and tastes it, too. After trying the Starbucks VIA, I couldn’t stomach another cup of the stuff. Literally. I poured it down the drain after a sip. Its taste reminded me of cigarettes after the heaven that was Starbucks VIA. Given that I’m not a smoker, that’s very unappetizing. So, I bought this coffee and shipped it overnight: Kicking Horse Coffee 454 Horse Power Dark, Whole Bean Coffee, 12.3-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2) (Once again, sorry for the lack of link.)
I couldn’t wait. It was oily, it smelled better and it has great reviews. Well, it’s better, but still tastes terrible in comparison to the Starbucks VIA. What am I doing wrong? Do I just not like real coffee? Is that musty smell normal? I don't freeze my beans, I store them at room temp in the dark, but I know the new stuff isn't rancid.
Here’s how I brew in the French press, maybe my error is hidden in here. I grind beans coarsely and add about 3 tablespoons of them to the press. Next, I boil some water in the kettle, let it sit removed from the heat for 20 seconds and fill the press about 2/3 full. I let it sit for about 3 minutes, press, and sit for an extra minute. Then I pour and drink. Am I doing something wrong? What beans should I be buying? That musty flavor (or cigarette as I interpret it) can't be normal, can it?
Help me. I don’t want to spend tons of $$ on instant coffee each month, and I don't want to abandon my French press. But if I can’t figure out how to make my coffee from the French press taste as good, I will. I was about to break down and order a huge pack of Starbucks VIA before my spouse suggested I try a coffee forum. So here I am. Asking for help from those who know more than I do.
PS My spouse agrees that the two coffees that I posted above taste horrible and that the Starbucks VIA is delicious in comparison. Though he says the Kicking Horse has a pickle-like aftertaste. I don’t get that effect, thankfully.
PPS I've tried brewing with bottled water, the taste isn't coming from my tap water.
Last edited by Katrina_O; 10-19-2012 at 10:54 PM.
Reason: Removed Typo, Added PPS
10-19-2012 09:40 PM
Try buying fresh coffee from a roaster. If you buy Kicking horse it could be stale since it is mass produced.
Both roasts you mentioned are dark. Maybe try a medium or mild roast. Everyone likes their roast level different so try a few different ones out.
With a french press it is ideal to brew 3 tblsp of whole beans per 1 larg mug (or 2 spoon fulls of the spoon it comes with). Brew for 2-3 minutes for a dark roast and 3-4 min for a medium/mild. Do not let it sit after it is pressed! just pour in water, stir it a little, sit for 2-4 min, then press and pour
Play around with brewing times. Try just 2 min. If 2min is not strong enough go 2.5, then 3, and so on until you find that perfect time.
It sounds like you have the french press method of brewing down pretty well. I would change nothing but the coffee used. Not sure how large your french press is, but two T (tablespoons) of ground coffee per 6-8 oz of water should be a good starting point.
A dark roast tends to taste smokey. A lighter roast will give you the flavor of the bean.
Good luck and welcome.
I agree that you may want to try a lighter roast, preferably from a local roaster when it is still fresh. You also may want to modify your press methods to get a cleaner cup. Before you plunge, after you steep it for 3-4 minutes take a spoon and scoop out as much grounds as you can than slowly press it. That alone can change how your coffee tastes from the press. When you prepare it try it black then try adding one teaspoon of sugar to the cup and test again. Enjoy and keep experimenting. And welcome to the forums, you can find lots of info here to help you out.
I want to complement you on a very well written question. All the detail is very informative. I bought my first french press from Amazon as well. I have also been impressed with the quality of the answers that you have received.
Fresh roasted beans has been mentioned a few times and that is good advice, but it does not target the taste you are shooting for. Starbucks have achieved some enviable qualities, but fresh roasted flavor is not one of them. Starbucks are masters of constancy. They manage surprisingly constant levels of roast and grind size from batch to batch. A constant uniform grind is impossible with a blade grinder.
The one missing piece of information that I noticed was which VIA you tried. The only one I have tasted is the Colombian, and I think it is the most common. They call it a medium roast. The other VIAs are Veranda (light) and Italian and French roast (very dark). The two beans you have used are very dark roasts. If it is the Colombian VIA that you like, medium roasted Colombian beans are very common. If uniformly ground, I enjoy french press from Colombian beans as inexpensive as Melitta or 8 O'clock more than VIA.
I suspect that non-uniform grind size is a significant part of the problem. If you have a fairly fine sieve you could try sifting out some of the smaller fines to reduce over extraction problems. You could also have a small amount of beans ground on a professional grinder where you bought them (Starbucks, etc.) and brew them as soon as possible after.
If either of these ideas help, you will probably eventually want a conical burr grinder. I would recommend spending at least $80 and getting a Bodum Bistro, refurbished Baratza or a Capresso Infinity. I use the Bodum at least 2 or 3 times a day for french press and I am very happy with it.
In response to tankin_tummy, Eldub and prairieguy: First off, thank you for your help! I will seek a local source and try fresh-roasted coffee, if for no other reason than to satisfy my newfound curiosity. I experimented with five different pots of coffee in my French press with varied brew times and amounts. I also tried scooping out the grounds once. I discovered that I (seem to) prefer brewing it for three minutes and leaving the grounds in. Not letting it sit after pressing did improve the taste.
Also, I tried adding sugar, which I found unpalatable but my spouse enjoyed. I then tried adding a splash of milk, which to my taste buds just seems to water down the coffee. I donít have any heavy whipping cream, but Iím sure that would have a better effect than my 1% milk.
I will purchase a lighter coffee roast. Having been raised on the darkest coffee possible, I never gave the roast much consideration. I feel silly for that oversight, looking back.
In response to VerS: I appreciate your compliment and helpful response. I contacted my friend to find out which VIA she made for me, it was the Colombian. So with that in mind, Iíll try purchasing medium-roast coffee next. Also, given the information you provided, it might be time to invest in a bur grinder. For quality coffee, $80 doesnít sound unreasonable. About four months ago, I tried 8 Oíclock French Vanilla (I think thatís what it was, at least. It was a gift.) and didnít like it. Perhaps that was because of my blade grinder, though.
Okay, I feel like Iím babbling now, so thank you all again for your helpful responses, itís more than I couldíve asked for. Iíll be sticking around these forums and canít wait to learn more about the wonderful world of coffee. Iíll report back with the results from a medium roast and a bur grinder. Iím quite excited to taste the coffee ground from a bur grinder and hope that solves my issues.
I would agree with the above. Make sure your using good water (not tap). Try fresher, locally sourced beans from a roaster. With a blade grinder its tough to get a nice even coarse grind so when you upgrade to a burr you will notice a difference. When you chop (blade-grinder) the beans its never even so your extraction ratio is going to be off. Anyways, good luck.
Hi, it feels a bit meaningless to give an update on what I considered such an issue while so many are in peril from Sandy, be here we go.
I purchased a bur grinder; it made things more palatable with my current beans. I then purchased some medium-roast beans from a local roaster and the coffee is even better.
My Husband convinced me to buy some VIA to keep on hand for traveling and the occasional treat, as he still likes it better than what I can make in the French press. Also, we purchased some Bailey’s to use as creamer, which I use on occasion when I want a change from black coffee.
I’d like to thank everyone here for your help. I don’t know if I’ll be around the forums for a while, though. A recent issue with our landlord has forced us into an impromptu move. We’ll be bouncing around, trying to decide where to move to, and I likely won’t have the time.
Thanks once again. Your help in finding enjoyable coffee will surely make this part of our lives easier.
Glad that the forum was a help to you and I hope your life journey gets better and easier.
The answers easy Katrina, you need to try some more organic blends. They taste so much better and are better for your health so you can't lose. A good place to start is global organic coffee, they have a great site with different brands and roasts to try, and their prices I've found to be the best. Hope that helps
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