I believe coffee should be prepared one cup at a time and consumed right away, no matter what technique you chose. The most low-tech way to make coffee, and one of my favorite methods, is the pour over. It feels elemental, sort of like cooking over an open flame: just coffee, water, a cone, and a filter. You grind the coffee, weigh it, put it in the cone, and pour water over it—slowly so the coffee has enough time to absorb the water and the water can extract the correct solubles from the coffee.
At Blue Bottle, we put a lot of energy into pour-over coffee in our cafés, and I do the same in this book because it’s one of the most basic, approachable, and effective ways to make a beautiful cup of coffee. But whether you are making a pour over or an espresso, the elemental process is extraction—which simply means hot water dissolving the compounds that are in roasted coffee. First the grinder breaks the coffee beans down into much smaller pieces with varying surface areas. Then these surface areas are exposed to hot water. The hot water dissolves particles from the coffee grounds’ exposed surface area, creating brewed coffee. If the ground coffee is underextracted, you’ll miss out on a lot of flavor, and if it’s overextracted, water may leach unpleasant properties out of the coffee that mask its deliciousness. How the coffee is ground, the water temperature, and the amount of time the ground coffee is exposed to water are all crucial factors in extraction. In this chapter, I’ll show you how to work toward mastering those variables for a few recommended methods of preparing coffee.
I’ll explain how to make beautiful pour-over coffee, step-by-step. I’ll also explain how to choose a grinder, use a nel drip, and a siphon, and even an ibrik for Turkish coffee, if you decide to explore those methods. Then I’ll delve into the murky waters of trying to write about making espresso. You may not leave the discussion convinced that you should buy a home espresso machine. But if you choose to go that route, I’ll tell you how best to do it.
Making coffee is a simple art, yet it also has so many aspects: practice, precision, and the sheer pleasure of making something you know you’re going to enjoy. It’s an expanding universe of wonderfulness; you never run out of things to get better at. French Press Coffee
For each 355 milliliters (12 fl oz) of water, use 20 to 35 grams (0.7 to 1.2 oz) of ground coffee, using more coffee if brewing a darker-roast coffee or adding condiments. For denser, lighter-roasted coffee or serving without condiments, I recommend the slotted-spoon method for removing grounds prior to plunging, with a brewing ratio of about 12 to 1, which translates to about 28 grams (1 oz) of coffee per 355 ml (12 fl oz) of water. What You’ll Need
Coffee grinder, preferably a burr grinder
Thermocouple or other thermometer
Chopstick or wooden spoon
Medium-size slotted spoon (optional)
However much finished coffee you wish to brew, put double that amount of good-quality water in a kettle or other vessel used only for heating water. (You’ll use some of the water to preheat the empty French press and cup.)
While the water is heating, weigh out the coffee; the amount depends on the brewing ratio you’ll use, for each 355-milliliter (12 fl oz) serving, use from 20 grams for a 15-to-1 ratio to 35 grams for a 10-to-1 ratio. Grind the coffee—not too finely. The grind should be gritty, resembling beach sand that’s pleasant to walk on, but not too powdery.
When the water is hot but not quite boiling, at about 198°F (92°C), remove it from the heat. Pour some of the hot water into the empty French press to warm it up. After a few seconds, pour the water from the French press into your cup to warm it as well.
Put the ground coffee in the press pot and pour the amount of water desired in a thin stream over the grounds. Gently stir the coffee with the chopstick. Place the stem on the pot with the filter about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) above the grounds. Let the coffee steep for 3 minutes.
Remove the stem, and for a full-bodied final result, briefly and gently stir with a chopstick. For a finer-bodied coffee, don’t stir; instead, use a medium-size slotted spoon to remove the coffee grounds from the top of the pot.
Replace the stem and gently push the grounds down to the bottom of the pot. If the plunger thunks to the bottom with almost no resistance, your grind is too coarse. If you have to strain to get the plunger to the bottom of the pot, your grind is too fine. Using too fine a grind can be dangerous. If the stem torques as you’re wrestling with it, near-boiling water and coffee grounds could spray all over you. Ideally, the plunger will lower smoothly and gradually with 15 to 20 pounds (6.8 to 9.1 kg) of pressure. If you’re not sure what that feels like, press down on your bathroom scale with the flat of your hand until the scale reads 20 pounds (9.1 kg). It should take 15 to 20 seconds to push the plunger to the bottom.
When you have pushed the plunger down as far down as it will go, serve immediately.
“Once you’ve tried Blue Bottle coffee there is no going back—and thanks to this book, you can now understand exactly why. This be-all book on today’s coffee culture is a how-to and why manual that will thrill coffee geeks, amateurs, and professionals alike. And for those whose experience is that food is an afterthought at a coffee bar, you can now have Blue Bottle’s sumptuous recipes that are like the crema in the cup.”
-Danny Meyer, restaurateur and author of Setting the Table
“Knowing James is like knowing a prophet; my friendship with him opened my eyes to a whole new planet of coffee possibilities. What he’s taught me about coffee changed my world, and this beautiful brew of useful tips, surprising information, and tasty inspiration will change yours, too. I’m still buzzing.”
-Mourad Lahlou, chef-owner of Aziza, San Francisco, and author of Mourad: New Moroccan