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

MntnMan62

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I didn't read through your entire post but I did read the first half. When you mentioned that there was little foam, only around the edges, that makes me wonder how fresh your beans are. But I checked the website for Roast'd and I'm betting the beans you are getting are fresh. I don't think a few degrees of heat loss will make any difference either. I do recall hearing that you may be plunging the plunger all the way down. Not only does Hoffmann recommend NOT plunging but I found a random method during my Google search for french press method and if you look at the instructions, paragraph 7 says to only lower the plunger to just under the surface of the liquid. I place mine just above the surface. Same difference. Hoffmann says plunging only leads to bitter coffee. Not sure about sour though. Here's the link to the site I found.

https://willaskitchen.com/blogs/on-bar/how-to-make-the-best-tasting-french-press-coffee-at-home

Here's another thought on the subject of sour tasting coffee. I did a Google search using "what makes coffee taste sour". The answer I got was that it is typically from underextracted coffee. The beans were not able to brew enough. Which gives some credence to Hoffmann's approach at allowing the coffee to sit for an additional amount of time, 5 minutes, 6, minutes, 7 mintues after the first 4 mintues. Apparently two different sites said that longer brew times allow the acids to calm down and the natural sweetness to come forward. Below are those links.

They also say if the brew water is not hot enough, that could cause underextraction as well. But it seems like you are above 195 degrees F, which is where you want to be. Between 195 and 205. So that's probably not yoru problem. I hope these two additional links help.

https://coffeebros.com/blog/coffee-tastes-sour-here-why-and-how-to-fix-it/

https://beanbox.com/the-perfect-cup-coffee-forum/why-does-coffee-taste-sour
 
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MntnMan62;
Thanks for the good info and links. I read all of it, and bookmarked the sites for future ref.
I still seem to be having a problem determining whether I am tasting sour or bitter. Perhaps it is a deficiency of my sense of taste.

This morning I brewed a total of 4 cups. The first two were for experimental purposes only, and were very small. The following is a summary of my results:
All brews used a grind setting of 40 (on scale of 0-50) on the iZPresso JX Pro grinder.
Water temps were measured first in the electric kettle immediately before pouring, and in the French Press immediately after water was poured onto the grounds, using a Klein Tools MM200 multimeter with thermocouple probe.
The French Press was preheated for at least 3 minutes using boiling water before each brew.

#1 120g water, 9.2g coffee. Water temp in kettle: 207F, in FP: 190F, steep time 5:30. Result: Much better than yesterday. Less sour, some flavor.
#2 120g water, 9.2g coffee. Water temp in kettle: 210F, in FP: 193F, steep time 5:30. Result: Same as #1. I did not expect any real change increasing water temp by 3F.
#3 240g water, 18.5g coffee. Water temp in kettle: 212F, in FP: 198F; Note: Poured from kettle at boil. Steep time about 5:45. Started timer a bit late, and almost went to 6:00 but tasted a sip at 5:30 and it was already bitter, so poured remaining coffee.
#4 240g water, 18.5g coffee. Water temp in kettle: 206F, in FP: 194F, steep time 5:30. Much better than #3. Did not detect as much flavor as #1 and #2, but aroma might have a slight hint of chocolate (but not citrus).

Notes: For brews #1, #2 and #4, I started the timer immediately after or while the water had been poured into the FP. For #3 I was a bit slow starting the timer, and due to the longer time it took to pour the water, the actual steep time was closer to 5:45 than to 5:30.
For #4, I started the timer as I was pouring water into the FP.

#3 was by far my worst brew of the batch. I believe that by pouring right off the boil, I scorched the coffee. Even though the temp was at 198F (in the FP) when I measured it, there was a brief time when the grounds were subject to boiling water. My thinking was that the water would cool fast enough from the boil not to scorch the coffee. I guess I was wrong. I used 2x the water for #3 that I did for #1 and #2, thus the water cooled more slowly. I should have been able to figure that out; it's basic chemistry.
So this has me thinking that by doing very small brews (120g water) I am not going to get a true representation of what I will get when I increase the brew size significantly. Originally, I had been brewing 475g water with 36g coffee.

I bought some (0-6) PH strips, thinking that I might be able to measure the difference between under and over-extracted coffee, but after further reading on the subject, I'm not so sure. I should have the strips for tomorrow's brewing, so I will leave the last couple of sips in my cup and test the ph of each brew. I am not adding anything to the coffee, so should get an idea of the true PH.
Perhaps I need to do some taste testing to determine the difference between sour and bitter. A lemon and a piece of bakers chocolate should be good samples.
 
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MntnMan62

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I have a question. What coffee have you ever had that you recall taking a sip and saying to yourself, "Damn, that's some amazing tasting coffee."? What was the brew process for that coffee? You might reflect on that memory and take some cues as to what you like and how to go about replicating it. I know that when it comes to just coffee with some milk, I once went to a diner in god only knows where, ordered a coffee and recall taking one sip and thinking that was the most flavorful and delicious cup of coffee I've ever had. Since it was a diner it was clearly drip coffee. But I should be able to replicate it with french press. But I haven't........yet. I may get there but I at least remember the flavor that make me take notice. I'll know it if I ever can make it for myself. Rather than focusing on being able to taste the same things that the roaster says the coffee tastes like in their tasting notes, just worry about whether you like it. Nothing more than that. For what it's worth, I never taste all those things described in the flavor descriptions. I just know what I like. Same goes for wine. I can't taste roof tar, asphalt, elderberries and cigar ash like they say in this wine descriptions. LOL. As for water temps, I do think you want to keep the temp around the 205 range. Play with your coffee to water ratios, steep times, rest times, and size of your grind. Chainge only one thing at a time. Eventually, you should get there.
 
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I recall while driving home to NJ from San Francisco with my brother and his wife we stopped at a Denny's for breakfast. I took one sip of the coffee black (I usually sip it black before adding anything) and it was so good that I drank it black. I don't recall the flavor, but it was very smooth. No sourness or bitterness. I have had excellent coffee at IHOP as well.
When I get a cup at a Starbucks or DD, I always order a more fancy drink such as a latte, so I'm not so conscious of the taste of the coffee itself.

This morning I made two batches, each 240g water and 17.1g coffee (reduced coffee from yesterday).
Brew #1: Water: 240g, temp in kettle: 204F, temp in FP after water had been poured: 190F
Coffee: 17.1g grind 40 on the JX Pro (same as yesterday)
Time: 5:30
Result: Just a tad on the sour side. No real flavor

For my 2nd brew, I decided to go a bit finer on the grind, hoping to extract a bit more flavor.

Brew #2: Water: 241g, temp in kettle: 205F, temp in FP after water poured: 191
Coffee: 17.1g grind to 35
Time: 5:30
Result: Less sourness, smoother. Spicy aroma, but could not taste any real flavor.

I also poured a small amount of coffee into a separate cup so I could measure the PH with the litmus paper i received yesterday.
I waited for that sample to cool to room temp as instructed.
The coffee measured was higher than 4.0 but lower than 4.5.
These strips have a range of 0-6, and have 0.5 steps.

I made the PH measurement for both brews, and it was the same.
I also measured the water in my kettle (after a sample had cooled) and it measured greater than 6, which was the same as my tap water. (my strips cannot read higher than 6, so I assume the PH was close to 7).

One final note: I have always used filtered water for my coffee. I have an under-sink dual filter system that is much better than something like the Brita pitcher system.

I suppose I will continue going finer with the grind until either I start to get bitter coffee, or there is too much mud in my cup. So far, with a grind setting significantly finer than what is recommended for French Press (according to 1ZPresso), I have not had much mud in the cup.
Once I reach a point where the coffee is bitter, I will try reducing brew time in 0:30 increments.
 
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Just had a thought: Maybe I should try brewing a cup or two in a percolator, just to find if I can taste any more flavor. I have an electric percolator. I would of course use the correct grind for the perc.
 

MntnMan62

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I find it interesting that when asked about the best cup of coffee you ever had, you can't recall the "flavor" aspect of it. Yet in all your comments you seem to be looking for more flavor. I recognize your desire to eliminate bitter and sour tastes. That makes sense. But you seem to be chasing "flavor" yet can't recall having a real flavorful cup of coffee. In contrast, the time in that diner that I recall having what may have been my best cup of coffee ever, I can vividly remember how noticeable the "flavor" was and how it hit me. It's one of those moments when you say to yourself, "Now THAT is a good cup of coffee." While i can't tell you what made up the flavor or point out different flavor notes. But I can recall in my mind that full bodied taste that translated to me that this is what coffee is supposed to taste like. I will add that my sister in law makes a mean cup of coffee as well and recall similar flavors in hers as to the diner coffee I remember. I've asked her what she did to make such great coffee and I always get unhelpful responses. I can't stand her anyway. Ironically, when I made a few batches of my french press brew last Xmas she came to me and gushed about how amazing my coffee was. So there you go. Anyway, back to your adventures. I suppose you're chasing that same "flavor" that I have been. It's indescribable yet you'll know it when you taste it. But I wonder if you've ever tasted it since you mentioned the best cup you've had flavor isn't part of your recollection. Just an observation. I know you seem to have an issue with the Hoffmann approach and insist on steeping for a set time and that's it. Why not do a few pots by doing a 4 minute brew and then letting it rest after scooping the crust, foam and floaties off? Frankly, it's that part of the process that I think made the different for me in making my coffee taste so good. Anyway....
 
OP
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Thanks for your help MntnMan62. I appreciate your sticking with me on this as I experiment and learn.
So far as the flavor I didn't talk about, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you can't tell me what made up the flavor or point out different flavor notes, but just that was what coffee is supposed to taste like. That's what I thought. I wasn't much into trying to taste any particular flavor in the coffee; just what I expected coffee to taste like.
You are right about my getting overly concerned about the particular flavors the roaster claims to be in my beans. I should be looking for what I consider a great cup of coffee, regardless of the flavor.

I have been having a similar experience with the beer I drink, except that I am not doing any brewing - yet.
Before I got into premium beers (espeically IPA's), I could enjoy any decent beer, such as Fosters. But after I began drinking Brooklyn ales, my tastes became more discerning. I found that I really enjoy the IPA's, especially the fruity ones like Dogfish Head 90 and 120 minute. So now I'm not just enjoying a great beer; I'm enjoying tasting the complex flavors in these beers.
With beer, and I expect coffee as well, smell plays a very important role in the flavor you taste. When I drink my beer, I always pour it into a glass and wait for most of the head to drop. Then I stick my nose into the glass and inhale as I take a sip. It makes a big difference from drinking out of the bottle.
So I'm thinking that, since I am able to detect the aroma in the coffee I am brewing, I should be brewing more, so that my cup is at least full enough to pull in the aroma as I sip it. Perhaps I am making a mistake by drinking less than 8oz of coffee from a 12+oz cup. I should be drinking this amount of coffee from a much smaller cup, or brewing more. But since I am still experimenting, I don't want to 'waste' coffee, so I'm sticking to 240g of water for each brew. I had been brewing only 120g water, but decided that there was too much cooling of that small amount of liquid once it hit the pot, and the results I was getting weren't a good representation of my brew method.

Funny that you should mention the James Hoffman method. Before I came back here and read your post, I had exactly that thought. I want to try his method, but I think that first I would like to determine how fine a grind I can go with, as he says to use a medium grind. I don't know what 'medium' is on the JX Pro grinder. If I want to assume it's halfway between the finest and the coarsest, then it would be a setting of 25. My last brew was at 35, so I'm already headed in that direction.
My French Press seems to be of high enough quality to have a fine screen, so I can go with finer grinds than generally recommended for this method.

I won't do any more brewing today, as I have had enough caffeine for one day, but will resume tomorrow morning where i left off today, and probably try the JH method by noon.
 
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Well, I changed my mind. i decided to do another brew today.
I changed the grind size to 30 (from 35) and left everything else the same.

What I have noticed with the finer grind is that the coffee tastes smoother. I detect a very small amount of sourness, which seems to increase as the coffee sits in the cup.
One thing I did with this cup is I did not start sipping until the temperature in the cup dropped to 148F. I had been taking small sips much sooner after pouring, and came to feel that it was too hot, and possibly burning my taste buds.

With the setting of 30 on the grind, my first brew tomorrow morning will be the JH method. I'll follow his instructions to the tee.
 
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Had another thought:
How much does brew size (total quantity of water and coffee) affect flavor and taste in general. What I'm thinking is that perhaps my brewing small batches of 240g water to 17g coffee is too small a brew.
 
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MntnMan62

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Had another thought:
How much does brew size (total quantity of water and coffee) affect flavor and taste in general. What I'm thinking is that perhaps my brewing small batches of 240g water to 17g coffee is too small a brew.

I don't think it matters. I usually brew enough for two mugs of cafe au lait. So I'm doing 23 g of coffee to 300 g of water. I do this in a 8 cup carafe. And I have been pretty happy with the coffee I've been making. It shouldn't matter since all the coffee is in contact with all of the water, total immersion. I don't think that's the issue.
 
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So I did two brews using the JH method. I used 240g water and 18.5g coffee, ground at 30 on the JX Pro.
The water I poured from the kettle was at 205F.

For the first brew, I mistakenly stirred immediately after adding the water. JH does not stir at this point.
After 4:00, I scooped off the foam. There wasn't any crust, as I had stirred it down at the start. The foam was pretty light, tiny bubbles. I scooped off as best I could using two spoons.
Then I set the timer to 5:00 and waited.
I plunged only to the top of the liquid (when I could feel the resistance to my plunge I stopped)
The coffee was OK, but not great. There was a hint of sour or bitterness (I can't really tell). I did detect some flavor, but cannot really describe it. I guess it tasted like coffee.

For the 2nd brew, I made another mistake.
I followed JH instructions until the 4:00 had elapsed. Then I started to pull off the foam and crust, but remembered that he stirred slightly to submerge the crust. I hadn't actually scooped off anything at that point, so I stirred slightly, then scooped off the foam.
I set the timer for another 5:00 and waited.
Unfortunately, this cup of coffee was terrible. I guess it's bitter now, and of course that masks any flavor. It did smell nice though.

So I really don't know what's going on. Perhaps the beans I am using do not lend themselves to this type (the JH method) of brewing. Maybe a lighter bean would work better.
I am nearly out of beans, so will be going to buy more tomorrow. Maybe I'll try a lighter variety.

I am going to return to the short method I had been using, and beginning to get satisfactory results from. That would be a grind of 30 and 5:30 steep.
For my remaining beans, I am going to try starting with cooler water; 200 instead of 205, although I really don't expect any significant change.
Perhaps I should shorten the steep time from 5:30 to 5:00 while keeping everything else the same.

There is one more factor that might be throwing me off: my sense of taste. It is possible that the really strong, dark coffee that JH gets with his long method is simply not to my liking.
Again, I think I'll try the lighter roast next time.
 
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And now for something completely different...
After feeling bummed by my failure with the JH method this morning, I quit brewing and went out for a run.
While I was running, I had an idea: How would my beans taste if I put some in my mouth and chewed them?
So that is what I did. I took a small amount of beans and popped them into my mouth and started chewing.
My first sensation was of sweetness. Then, there was a nutty flavor. While I chewed and swallowed the beans, I had a pleasant experience. There was no sourness or bitterness. There was plenty of flavor.
So, why aren't I able to taste this flavor when I brew the beans?

So I start to cogitate...
The best cup of coffee I have had from these beans so far was yesterday when I ground finer (setting of 30) and brewed for 5:30 with water at 205.
It occurred to me that after going to a finer grind, I never tried shortening the brew time. Perhaps with the finer grind I should go back to 4:00.
It could be that all the while I was really tasting bitterness from over-extraction, not sourness from under-extraction.
It seems that what made the most difference was to grind finer.

So, what I am going to do tomorrow morning is brew very small amounts so I can gain the most information from the small amount of beans I have left.
I will start with keeping the grind at 30, but going back to a 4:00 brew time. I'll take it from there.
 

MntnMan62

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First, you didn't make any mistakes. Stirring immediately after pouring the water is what you are supposed to do to make sure all of the grounds are submerged and immersed in the water. So your efforts on the first attempt were just fine. And for the second batch, whether you stir or just scoop off the stuff on top should not make much difference. As for the beans, I use a dark/medium roast from Sumatra. I like it. But everyone's taste is different. Maybe you just haven't found the right beans for you.
 

MntnMan62

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Question. When you get coffee from a coffee shop, do you always drink it black? Or do you drink it with milk or sugar or both? If you don't drink coffee black normally, then it's possible you just don't like black coffee. I'm in that camp. I never drink my coffee black. Always with milk, most often skim. So I judge my coffee based on how it tastes the way I normally drink it.
 
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Good question. No, I don't usually drink it black. I have only on a couple occasions; one being that Denny's I mentioned earlier. If it's in a restaurant or diner where I add my own milk, I will first try it black, and go from there. I never use sweetener though. My sister uses not one, but two envelopes of Truvia and Coffee Mate in her Kerug swill. I had been drinking it with only Coffee Mate before I decided to go "barefoot". It was then I realized how bad Keurig coffee really is.

I did something today that I should have done when I first bought the fresh beans at the local barista/roaster. I bought a cup of the same coffee I was buying as whole beans.
it is pour-over, not french press, but I now have an understanding of what the coffee is supposed to taste like.
While the cup of Legender I bought today was better than what I have been brewing (most of the time), it was not as full of flavor as I had for some reason come to expect. You pointed that out to me earlier when you asked me to describe what a good cup of coffee tasted like, and I never mentioned anything about flavor.
What I had today at the barista tasted like good coffee. I could detect hints of the flavors they talk about in its description, and I didn't taste much of the sour or bitterness I have been experiencing in some of my brews.

I talked with the barista for several minutes. He seemed to be quite knowledgeable. This is what he told me about French Press brewing:
Water temp: 194-195F
Grind: Medium/Coarse. On the JX Pro, setting of 45 (out of 50) and no finer than 40. I had been grinding as fine as 30.
Steep time: 3:30. I had been going from 4:00 to 5:30 (I had tried 3:30 early on, but had my ratio too low, so the coffee was too strong for my liking).
Ratio: 1:15 to 1:17. I had gone as low as 1:12.2.

Looking at my database where I am recording my brewing, I see that I have been all over the place. I seem to be too quick to change grind size rather than stick with one grind through different timing, water temp, and ratio.
I see that I did use a grind size of 45 with a time of 3:30 early in my experimentation, but I recorded that brew tasted 'bitter' and too strong. Now I'm thinking that it was just too strong, but at 3:30 it should not have been too bitter, unless water temp was way too high. But then I look at the ratio for that brew, and see that it was 1:11.87, which explains the 'too strong' comment.
Also, I did some calibration of my electric pot, and found that when its temp display was reading 194, the actual temperature was 203. That display is inaccurate, and even inconsistent. It is very slow, so always lags the actual temperature until it reaches boiling; then it always reads 212. So I have been using the Klein Tools MM200 thermocouple probe to measure the water temperature before pouring into the FP.

I bought another 1lb bag of the Legender Brazil Med/Dark roast beans, and a 1lb bag of 'Timor Indonesia Med/Dark' beans. (They were having a sale; $25 for two bags priced at $15 each) I was at first concerned about buying 2lbs of coffee at once, but the barista assured me that so long as the bag remains sealed, it will stay fresh for quite a while - much longer than it will take me to use up the first bag. These bags have the CO2 valves on them.

So tomorrow, I'll start again with the recommended values and take it from there.
If I finally decide that I don't enjoy the coffee black, I will add a small amount of milk.
 
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