French Press troubleshooting

kanhje

New member
Aug 31, 2011
1
0
Visit site
I'm new to this forum and not a huge coffee drinker (at least compared to my freshman year of college when I had French class at 8:30 4x week). Although I usually get a mocha, I'm not a fan of overly sweet whipped cream drinks. Just something mild with a bit of that rich espresso flavor and a hint of chocolate.

Since mochas are twice the price of a slice of pizza, I wanted to make coffee at home more often. After extensive research of the best brewing methods within my price point, I decided to get a 3 cup Bodum French press. I found what I thought would be the perfect coffee at Trader Joe's - an Arabica dark roast called Cafe a Cocoa.

I've read countless Google results on the right way to use a French press and have addressed typical troubleshooting issues:
1. Based on my research, it seemed ground correctly - coarse & even enough not to clog the filter.
2. I let the water rest to just off boiling and tried measuring the temperature a couple times (but my digital thermometer seems stuck on the "poultry" setting and won't go higher).
3. I've tried different brewing times.
4. I've tried cold brewing for iced coffee and hot refrigerated and then poured over ice.
5. I store my coffee away from sun, although maybe the summer heat and humidity affected it?
6. At this point in time, I don't have the money to invest in a quality grinder, so even if grinding beans right before brewing is best, it's not in my budget.
7. I use the scoop that came with my Bodum, precisely measure the water each time, and experimented with different ratios based on various recommendations.
8. Do I have to make a full pot every time, or can I make just a regular-sized cup?

I'm still getting a bitter tasting coffee, despite controlling for these issues the best I can. At this point I've had the coffee for a month or two, so is freshness really that much of an issue? It still smells delicious when I open the lid. What can I do to make a better cup from a French press? There's so much conflicting information out there, so even any rules of thumb or explanations would help me immensely understand and enjoy my coffee!
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,917
64
Boca Raton
Visit site
Have you tried different coffee? I suggest going to your local coffee shop/roaster and sample their coffees. When you find one you like purchase that coffee and try again. As to making smaller amounts...a three cup bodum is only 12 oz of liquid.
 

Yarbooa

New member
Aug 21, 2011
24
0
Israel
Visit site
Hi there. From my experience, French press is bitter, and a little sour. It does not come only from the blend you choose but mainly from the method - French press, which boils the ground beans without extracting the essence like in espresso.
Try to add brown sugar (not the light brown but the sticky dark brown one) as it gives a caramel taste and contrasts (and combines) with the bitterness of the press.
Hope I helped.
The Yar.
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,917
64
Boca Raton
Visit site
I have to disagree with you Yar. When French press is done properly it is amazing. You do not use boiling water with French press..you use water just below boiling...boiling will make the coffee sour. The reason I said the blend could be the problem is because they had gone through and checked all the things that could have gone wrong and still had a problem. The only thing they hadn't changed was the blend.
 

John P

Active member
Jan 5, 2007
1,052
1
Salt Lake City
Visit site
When diagnosing problems with any coffee it is in this order:

1) Beans - Quality. Freshness. (Trader Joe's would be neither) The quality of beans always takes precedence over freshness. Freshness is very important, but not nearly as important as the bean quality.

2) Grinder/Grind - Quality of grinder. The ability to have a consistent grind and an adjustable grind. Grind changes depending on brewing method and specific fineness of filter/mesh screen, etc. So if you grind too fine for said brewing method, you will introduce bitterness into the coffee. But as a general rule, you should grind as fine as possible for said device to maximize flavor and back off a couple of notches if you detect bitterness due to the grind.

3) Brewing time - French Press should be 3-4 minute max.

Coffee to water ratio should be approximately 17 parts water to 1 part coffee (based on weight).
 
Top