Coffee Talk (sans Linda Richman)

My beloved French Press is in semi-retirement.  Much like a child that has sent to timeout, it may reemerge to frolic on my counter once again, but not soon.  In a sense, it did its job too well, taking rough grounds of flavor rich exotic beans and turned them into delightful cups of caffeinated joy.  With any French Press, the drawback is the mouth feel.  Some grinds and sentiment inevitably join the party in the cup, often creating some gritty sips.  The fault may be as much mine as the method, but it is so much more fun to blame the equipment.

Over the last 6 months or so, the thermal French Press became my week end go to.  When we moved 2 years ago, our lovely new kitchen was outfitted with new appliances.  The previous coffee pot had long lost its ability to be removed during the drip process and other issues became apparent.  The new coffee pot grinds the beans right before it brews the coffee.  It makes it as fresh as possible and goes off when I tell it to.  There are two problems.  First, it is really loud; even at the other end of the house it can wake me up most days.

More important, however, is the fact that it makes weakish coffee.  The size of the grind is not adjustable and adding more coffee can create a mess.  So I try to put in the maximum amount of coffee and cut back on the water.  Well, I’ve taught the monkey to do so. The results are acceptable, but far from fantastic.

A new wrinkle in my coffee lifestyle is the rise of medium roast coffees.  Peet’s – which by now you know is my favorite coffee – roasts their beans dark.  Those beans create a rich, slightly acidic cup.  These beans make a passable cup.  But if the roast is any lighter, we may as well be drinking water or Pepsi.  I have found over the last few year several wonderful coffee roasters that make magic with their beans.  The problem is they are all medium roasts.  They aren’t great out of the traditional drip coffee pot.  If you are so inclined, check out Equator Coffees (good enough for The French Laundry) and Intelligensia out of Chicago.  These are fantastic, but their roasts require a different brewing method for maximum flavor.

But of course, I have my trusty thermal French Press, bought years ago from Starbucks.  It is metal, retains heat and travels well.  I have learned to ignore the branding.  Boiling hot water, fresh ground beans (of any roast), a stir and time create a great cup of coffee in the French Press.  It has become my go to on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  It is large enough to fill Lambchop’s Tinkerbell mug (which she INSISTS on for the weekend) and for me to get 2 smaller cups.  That has been the routine the last several months.  It has been decadently wonderful.

Recently I discovered Modern Coffee in Oakland.  They describe themselves as a coffee “taproom,” serving beans from different roasters.  Four Barrel and Verve are 2 of my favorites.  What I discovered there changed my life.  They use a tool called the Clever Dripper.  It meshes the steeping process of the French Press, with the filtration of a drip.  Yes, it does need a filter, but it produces phenomenal results.  The flavor is deep and complex like a French Press, but clean and sharp like a drip.  There is no grit in the sip; no mud in the bottom of the cup.

The only downside is that it makes one 12-16 ounce cup at a time.   I grind the beans to be finer than the French Press, but not as fine as a drip.  I asked at Modern, they use a 5.5 grind.  I believe a standard drip is a 5 and French Press is a 10.  I  had them grind my coffee at 8 on some Peet’s Ethiopian Supernatural (which is phenomenal coffee by the way) and use a heaping scoop to make a great cup of coffee.  I let it steep for about 4 minutes, stirring twice and covered to keep hot.  Then I let it drip freely into a hot mug.  That’s about 5 minutes per cup, ignoring the time to boil the water.  Luckily, on the weekends, there is no rush, even for the first cup of the day.

Next time you want me to use my French Press you might need to remind me it is in the upper cabinet, gathering dust.  My Clever Dripper has moved front and center and my taste buds are very happy.



I’ve seen a few posts on the internet talking about how the Clever Dripper is prone to cracking under extreme heat or the dishwasher.  Mine won’t go in the dishwasher.  It hasn’t cracked.  3 weeks in and I’m thrilled.

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1 Comment

  1. The Coffee Pot Melt Down « Smooth ReEntry

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