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Giving up on Keurig, tried stove-top perc, want to try French Press

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Thanks. I ordered the Secura 34oz stainless steel French Press from Amazon. Interesting that the 34oz was about 0.50 less expensive than the 17oz. Anyway, I have been reading a lot about how to make the 'perfect' cup, and there has been some disagreement. One site (and I think here) says to use course to medium grind, while another says to set the burr grinder on the coarsest grind.
Another thing I hadn't thought of before is to weigh the beans, not the ground coffee. That way, there shouldn't be any variable as to how much coffee gets ground. I will run the grinder until there are no more beans in it.
I have an inexpensive burr grinder, but at least it is a burr grinder...

In the end, I will have to experiment until I find the perfect cup of joe. I will make notes on my process as I develop it. I just have to remind myself that I'm only making a cup of coffee, not building a rocket to go to Mars!
 
I have the 34oz Secura French Press.

For one cup, I use a Bonavita Wide Base Immersion Dripper.
I have been using it for 8 years now.
Brews just like a French Press, but the cleanup is much easier.
Not very good reviews on Amazon, but my experience has been excellent.
I use my Secura French Press when I serve up to 4 cups.
Above 4 people I use my commercial equipment, which does a considerably worse job than either of the above methods.

Unrelated: This morning I used my Bonavita with some expensive but delicious Yemen coffee and REALLY enjoyed it.
 
When using a French Press, I recommend not pressing the filter thru the coffee.
Rest it above the liquid but below the pouring lip and merely use it as a filter.
When you press the filter thru the coffee, it stirs it up and causes much more "mud" in your cup.
As the Secura comes with two metal filters, I actually use them both together for even better filtration.
 
OP
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When using a French Press, I recommend not pressing the filter thru the coffee.
Rest it above the liquid but below the pouring lip and merely use it as a filter.
When you press the filter thru the coffee, it stirs it up and causes much more "mud" in your cup.
As the Secura comes with two metal filters, I actually use them both together for even better filtration.

That's interesting. I thought the function of 'plunging' was to squeeze the last ounce of flavor from the grounds, and the filter would stop most of the grounds getting through. Otherwise, I would think to just leave the plunger out, and pour the coffee through a mesh filter into the your cop.
But I suppose that with anything like this, YMMV. It will take some experimentation to come up with the flavor vs amount of grounds I finally settle with.
 
OP
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I have a Cusinart DBM-8 burr grinder. It has settings for the grind and the number of cups.
The Secura manual recommends a course grind for the French Press. I would assume that for the Cusinart grinder, I would set it about 1/2 way between the most course and the medium for a course grind, but I guess I'll have to experiment a bit.
 
OP
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I recommend watching the "ultimate french press technique" by James Hoffman:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st571DYYTR8

Actually, I recommend watching all his coffee videos, they are extremely informative.
Yes, I did watch his videos. Interesting that he brews for a total of 10 minutes. I would think that the coffee would be over-extracted by that point. Perhaps stirring the top and removing what doesn't settle after 4min is how he keeps it from getting bitter.

I have brewed 3 cups in the French press so far. My results have not been what I am looking for, so I continue to experiment.
I have used 4-5 min brewing time with a grind that should be coarse, but on my Cusinart grinder it's difficult to know what the grind is going to be. I read a review of the grinder, and it wasn't all that good. A cheap flat, not conical burr grinder which produces inconsistent grind. It does say that medium to fine settings are more consistent.

I have been using inexpensive beans I purchased at BJ's.
Columbian Supremo Arabica.
Low/Medium body, Med/Dark.

The roast date was 6/21/2020. I bought the bag on Aug 6. Not exactly the freshest beans.
But it's what I've got. I want to experiment with the cheap coffee beans, get my process down to a 'science', then try some more expensive (and fresher) beans.

Next I'm going to try the James Hoffman method. I have plenty of time to wait for the brew.
 
OP
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My 4th try at this:
I used the James Hoffman method described in his YouTube video. Here is what I did, and what I found:
My French press is the Secura 34oz stainless steel model suggested in an earlier post.

1. started with 1.2 oz beans for 16oz water, about 1:14 ratio. My grinder is the Cusinart DBM-8 (not a high quality grinder). I set it to 3 notches on the course side of medium.
2. Boiled a total of 32oz water. Poured the first 16oz into the pot to pre-heat.
3. After pre-heating pot, dumped water and added grounds. Shook pot to distribute grounds evenly.
4. Slowly added 16oz water. Stirred gently and covered.
5. Set timer to 4 min.
6. At 4 mins, opened pot. I was supposed to stir the crust and remove what did not settle. But there was absolutely no crust. Only a bit of foam. I stirred gently a few strokes anyway.
7. Covered and set timer to 5 min (James said 6 mins, but I had wasted some time opening and stirring at 4 min, so I deducted 1 minute).
8. After 5 min, I pushed the plunger down only enough so that filter was below spout.
Poured coffee into ceramic mug (not pre-heated)

I first tasted the brew black. Eh... not terrible, but not much flavor, and a bit on the bitter side. In my opinion, this brew is no better than when I used the simple 4 minute method.
A few notes:
1. I first opened the sealed bag of BJ's Columbian Supremo Arabica beans 72 hours ago. After opening, I transferred most of the beans into two jars which have seals, designed to hold coffee beans.
I have been using the beans that were left in the bag after transferring to the sealed containers - they weren't large enough to hold all the beans from the 40 oz bag.
This bag has a metal strip used to re-seal after opening, but it is in no way an airtight seal.
This bag of beans has a roasted date of June 21 2020, and a use by date of Jun 2021. I assume that use-by date assumes you do not open the bag until that date, as I cannot imagine using beans that have been exposed to air for a year!

The first time I brewed in the French press, I thought the coffee had more flavor than it has since. On that first day, I used the following brewing process:
1. Pre-heated pot with hot water from tap
2. Ground beans using Cusinart on 4th notch from coarsest. 0.9oz beans for 12oz water, about 1:14 ratio
3. Boiled water, waited about 30 secs to cool.
4. Poured only enough water to cover grounds. Stirred gently, waited about 20 secs.
5. Poured remaining water. Stirred gently, covered.
6. Set timer to 5 mins.
7. At 5 mins, plunged all the way down to grounds, then poured.

Coffee seemed to have more flavor on that first day than it has since. There was bitterness, but it was acceptable.

So, what has happened? Have my beans been exposed to air for too long? Remember that I am using the beans left in the bag, not from the sealed jars.
Tomorrow, I will try again using the method I used on the 1st day. At least then I will have a valid comparison.

I can accept the fact that I may be using poor quality beans, but want to perfect my method using these cheap beans before moving on to something more costly.

I am most definitely open to suggestions.

Thanks
Ultrarunner
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Central North Carolina
Thing is having fresh/quality coffee and balanced water is absolute key to making progress. I read quite often of those starting espresso and they try with stale coffee to save $ while 'dialing in' and it's really a waste of time/effort as freshness is the ultimate variable to control and keep in check. Comparing fresh to stale affects not only taste/texture, but also technique as well.
 
OP
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Thing is having fresh/quality coffee and balanced water is absolute key to making progress. I read quite often of those starting espresso and they try with stale coffee to save $ while 'dialing in' and it's really a waste of time/effort as freshness is the ultimate variable to control and keep in check. Comparing fresh to stale affects not only taste/texture, but also technique as well.

I agree. I am only trying to 'use up' the bag I purchased, and at the same time, experimenting with the brew before buying better beans.
That said, I made an interesting discovery this morning.

My brew had been tasting pretty bad; strong, very bitter, and no flavor. I have been pretty much blaming the poor quality beans. After all, I did buy a 2.5 lb bag at BJ's for only $12.
I have been using a Cusinart DBM-8 (flat) burr grinder. Certainly not a quality grinder, but I'm not ready to spend $100+ on a grinder just yet.
I started out setting the grinder halfway between medium and the coarsest setting.
I have been adjusting the steep timing, blooming, and coffee to water ratio (only slightly). Mostly I was using a 1:14 ratio.
I found that blooming did nothing for me. I suppose it has to do with the freshness (or lack thereof) the beans. No point in blooming when the beans have already finished outgassing CO2.
My first brew was steeped for 5 mins. There was more flavor than when I reduced steep time, but the coffee was still pretty bitter.
From all the info I had gleaned online, I thought I was over-extracting. So I reduced steep time to 4 min, then 3 min. Still no flavor and lots of bitterness.

Then, yesterday I read something online about using a finer grind; Maybe it was James Hoffman who said he uses a medium rather than coarse grind. I had tried his 10 minute method but used a coarse grind, and was not happy with the result.
But I got to thinking that perhaps the coarse grind is not allowing enough of the flavor to be extracted before the bitterness is extracted.
So for this morning's cup, I set the grinder to medium. I left the ratio alone (1.2 oz coffee to 16 oz water).
I pre-heated the pot with hot water (from the tap), waited 30 secs after removing the boiled water from the heat, and poured the entire amount of water at once (no bloom).
I stirred, and started a count-up timer. My plan was to take a sip at 2:00, and another at 2:30.
At 2:00, the brew was too weak.
At 2:30, I decided to let it go to 3:00.
At 3:00, I plunged, but only until I started to feel resistance - not all the way down.
The coffee has more flavor and is less bitter than previously.
The only difference between yesterday's flavorless, bitter cup and today's better one was the setting of the grinder from coarse to medium.

Why does a finer grind produce more flavor and less bitterness, when all I have read tells me otherwise? Here is my theory:
It's not the bitterness that was the problem; it was the lack of flavor.
3 minutes shouldn't be long enough to extract too much bitterness, but it may not be enough to extract the flavor. If steep time is increased to 4 or 5 minutes, more flavor may be extracted, but more bitterness will also be extracted.
Going to a finer grind allowed more flavor to be extracted without increasing bitterness, thus a better cup of coffee.

It is not unlike my experience with drinking IPA beers.
While most IPA's are more bitter than other types of beer, I have found that a beer with a higher IBU (International Bitterness Unit) is not necessarily the one that tastes the most bitter. In my experience with IPA's, flavor trumps bitterness, if one is to believe the IBU is a standard measure.

Perhaps this is an individual taste phenomena. It would explain the varied brewing methods used for various types of systems. One size does not fit all.
I will not be at all surprised if I get completely different results with higher quality beans, so I will keep an open mind, not stick with whatever values I used for my current batch of beans.
I may also invest in a better grinder for more consistent results.

Oh, BTW; Using the finer grind does produce some silt in the cup, but it doesn't bother me. I am happy to accept a little silt if I get more flavor.
 

MntnMan62

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Nov 15, 2019
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Yes, I did watch his videos. Interesting that he brews for a total of 10 minutes. I would think that the coffee would be over-extracted by that point. Perhaps stirring the top and removing what doesn't settle after 4min is how he keeps it from getting bitter.

I have brewed 3 cups in the French press so far. My results have not been what I am looking for, so I continue to experiment.
I have used 4-5 min brewing time with a grind that should be coarse, but on my Cusinart grinder it's difficult to know what the grind is going to be. I read a review of the grinder, and it wasn't all that good. A cheap flat, not conical burr grinder which produces inconsistent grind. It does say that medium to fine settings are more consistent.

I have been using inexpensive beans I purchased at BJ's.
Columbian Supremo Arabica.
Low/Medium body, Med/Dark.

The roast date was 6/21/2020. I bought the bag on Aug 6. Not exactly the freshest beans.
But it's what I've got. I want to experiment with the cheap coffee beans, get my process down to a 'science', then try some more expensive (and fresher) beans.

Next I'm going to try the James Hoffman method. I have plenty of time to wait for the brew.

He actually says that the grounds that float to the bottom have been extracted and are no longer brewing. Removing the "floaties" stops the brewing process. So in reality he is saying brew for 4 minutes and then let it sit for 7. The "brew" time is not 10 minutes.
 
OP
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Sorry, I misused the term 'brew'. I will assume that the extra 6 minutes sitting is to enhance the flavor. I'll try that method again once I have some decent beans.
 
OP
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Well, after so much experimentation, I believe it's time to ditch the Cusinart DBM-8 grinder. For the past 3 days, I have it set to medium, yet the consistency of the coffee has been different.
Two days ago, my coffee had some silt in it, but the flavor was significantly better with less bitterness than the coarser grind.
Yesterday the coffee was quite bitter, and lacked flavor. However, I had changed the steep time from 3:00 to 3:30, and I did not plunge all the way down. While I drank the coffee anyway, I have discarded that result from my experimental results.
Today, I used the exact same grind, and followed the process I run 2 days ago, but ended up with a cup that was flavorless and bitter, with very little silt, even though I plunged fully before pouring.
Why would the same setting on the grinder produce two different silt results? The only answer that makes any sense to me is the grinder. It is not consistent.

I unscrewed the bean hopper from the unit and cleaned it out. There was quite a bit of coffee in the chute, and the burrs had pretty much crud in them as well. I will try once again with the same grinder on the same setting, using the same procedure with the same beans tomorrow and see what I get. I am not expecting anything amazing, but it might be interesting.

On the subject of a grinder; I really don't want to spend $150 on a grinder, so I thought perhaps a manual one rather than an electric. I researched a bit, and found the Zpresso JX and JX pro. These appear to be excellent grinders - the Pro model has finer adjustments, which I don't think would be necessary for French press. My only question is whether the JX would be suitable for French press at all, considering it is designed mainly for espresso. But according to the info I have found, these grinders can be adjusted over the full range from French press to espresso.
I would be interested to know the opinion of anyone who owns one of these Zpresso JX or JX pro grinders and use it with a French press.

Thanks for your help
Ultrarunner
 

MntnMan62

New member
Nov 15, 2019
443
4
New Jersey
Well, after so much experimentation, I believe it's time to ditch the Cusinart DBM-8 grinder. For the past 3 days, I have it set to medium, yet the consistency of the coffee has been different.
Two days ago, my coffee had some silt in it, but the flavor was significantly better with less bitterness than the coarser grind.
Yesterday the coffee was quite bitter, and lacked flavor. However, I had changed the steep time from 3:00 to 3:30, and I did not plunge all the way down. While I drank the coffee anyway, I have discarded that result from my experimental results.
Today, I used the exact same grind, and followed the process I run 2 days ago, but ended up with a cup that was flavorless and bitter, with very little silt, even though I plunged fully before pouring.
Why would the same setting on the grinder produce two different silt results? The only answer that makes any sense to me is the grinder. It is not consistent.

I unscrewed the bean hopper from the unit and cleaned it out. There was quite a bit of coffee in the chute, and the burrs had pretty much crud in them as well. I will try once again with the same grinder on the same setting, using the same procedure with the same beans tomorrow and see what I get. I am not expecting anything amazing, but it might be interesting.

On the subject of a grinder; I really don't want to spend $150 on a grinder, so I thought perhaps a manual one rather than an electric. I researched a bit, and found the Zpresso JX and JX pro. These appear to be excellent grinders - the Pro model has finer adjustments, which I don't think would be necessary for French press. My only question is whether the JX would be suitable for French press at all, considering it is designed mainly for espresso. But according to the info I have found, these grinders can be adjusted over the full range from French press to espresso.
I would be interested to know the opinion of anyone who owns one of these Zpresso JX or JX pro grinders and use it with a French press.

Thanks for your help
Ultrarunner

It is certainly possible that your grinder is the issue but there are other factors that could result in more silt. First, it doesn't matter whether you plunge or don't plunge at all and just leave the plunger at the top of the liquid. The size of the screen on your french press doesn't change and it is doing the exact same thing whether you plunge or don't plunge. I don't plunge because of Jim Hoffman's suggestion that by plunging you stir everything up and create bitterness. So I just keep the plunger at the top of the level of the liquid and use it merely as a filter. I also pour the coffee slowly so as not to stir up silt. As a result of this approach I rarely end up with any silt or fines in my cup. And I rarely end up with bitter coffee. I suggest you go back and watch James Hoffmann's video again and do everything he suggests. I can almost guarantee you will love the end result. Ignore Hoffmann's suggestions at your own peril. :coffee:
 
OP
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It is certainly possible that your grinder is the issue but there are other factors that could result in more silt. First, it doesn't matter whether you plunge or don't plunge at all and just leave the plunger at the top of the liquid. The size of the screen on your french press doesn't change and it is doing the exact same thing whether you plunge or don't plunge. I don't plunge because of Jim Hoffman's suggestion that by plunging you stir everything up and create bitterness. So I just keep the plunger at the top of the level of the liquid and use it merely as a filter. I also pour the coffee slowly so as not to stir up silt. As a result of this approach I rarely end up with any silt or fines in my cup. And I rarely end up with bitter coffee. I suggest you go back and watch James Hoffmann's video again and do everything he suggests. I can almost guarantee you will love the end result. Ignore Hoffmann's suggestions at your own peril. :coffee:
Thanks. I did watch James Hoffman's video again. When I did use his method, I found some foam, but no crust at the top after 4 mins. But when I used that method, I was also using very coarse grind. I will try it again using medium grind.
Also, not plunging makes sense to me. Only issue is that my pot is stainless steel, not glass, so I have to estimate how far to push the plunger. But I suppose it really isn't critical, so long as the filter is below the spout, and I pour slowly.

I'm thinking of buying some Lifeboost organic beans. They're offering a 50% off coupon for first-time buyers, but after that, I really don't have the cash to spend $100 on 36oz coffee. Of course, if I add up how much i would spend at DD (forget about SB) if I purchase my coffee, the cost isn't so high, so long as I can use the entire 36oz before the beans lose significant flavor.
If I do go for some expensive beans, I will also invest in a good storage jar/can and a better grinder.
 
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