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Hand grind and black.

The unexpected joys of a French Press coffee.

“What do you want?”
“Just coffee. Black – like my soul.” 

Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

I do enjoy my coffee. In fact I have to watch my daily consumption, which if not metered can quickly climb to a rather unpleasant level of mind fibrillating over-caffination.

I have written before about my unexpected affair with Nespresso. A series of events that expunged the expensive Italian espresso machine given to me as a 50th birthday present by Kelly. A present that now sits forlorn and abandoned on the kitchen bench. The Nespresso is now my go-to for a quick and easy flat white.

Thing is, I have always taken my coffee with milk. Preferably gently frothed and served lip scaldingly hot pre-dawn to the accompaniment of distant thunderstorms and spirit engulfing adventure books.

Perhaps not the temperature a barista would advise you drink it at.
Hey, come on, it’s cold at dawn.
And. I like to rebel in my own small measured ways.

So hot and milky it is. I have tried black coffee many times, but I always find it way too bitter. It tastes like old feet.

Recently I stumbled across an article How to enjoy coffee. This is a really good read. But one particular section burnt my tongue….

Coffee is complex by nature: a typical roasted coffee bean contains more than 800 different chemical compounds that contribute to flavour and aroma. The broad coffee flavour categories include fruity, floral, sweet, nutty, cocoa, spices, green/vegetative, sour, fermented and, of course, roasted. Within those are dozens of flavour references – such as rose and jasmine in the floral category, for example.

These flavours can be subtle, requiring a developed palate, or they can hit you like a train. If you’ve never experienced a coffee that tastes extremely fruity (usually of blueberry), try to find a naturally processed single-origin Ethiopian coffee from a craft roaster. Tell them you’re looking for a flavour bomb or blueberry bomb; they’ll know what you mean. For many coffee lovers, this type of bean was their ‘a-ha’ moment. Coffee flavour is often more understated than this, but this one is a great place to experience coffee’s potential in the extreme.

Jessica Easto

Wow. A blueberry bomb?
Is it possible that I have been missing out on some of the deeper, richer, more complex flavours of black coffee? Flavours, exempt from the cheap mass-produced instant coffee or obliterated by incorrectly ground or unskillfully extracted espresso I have previously tried?

Is it possible that black coffee might just be delicious and I don’t even know it? I had to know.

Brew time, 4 minutes. Looks like chocolate no?

After doing some more reading, it seemed the easiest way to experience black coffee that isn’t flashing old feet would be by using a French Press.

I ordered a single cup French Press on Amazon for 15 bucks. At the checkout, I impulse augmented it with a handheld grinder at 25 bucks (for travelling, I told myself).
Well played Amazon.

My equipment arrived a few days later and I was ready to test it with some beans. I couldn’t find the fabled blueberry bomb, but I did snag some single-origin Guatemala coffee beans alleged to have been picked from a valley between three volcanoes in the region. Coffee promising flavours of dark chocolate and raisin.
Not so much as a hint of foot.

That night, following my newfound expertise in everything French Press, I measured out the correct amount of beans for my particular volume of water (about 3 dessert spoons).
I boiled some water and coarse ground the beans.
Coffee was tipped into the press (I had preheated it with a little hot water first) then, enough boiling water added just to cover it. Stirred gently a couple of times ….and filled to the top.

The smell was absolutely amazing.

Thing is with a French Press, you must course grind your beans and you must wait at least 4 minutes (some say 8-10) to effect the optimum extraction of all the complex flavours.

I sat there looking back and forth between the clock and the pot.
It indeed looked like chocolate. I could not remember my coffee ever looking like chocolate.
It smelled like 1950’s jazz saxophone.

Four minutes later….
Plunge.

Alright already. So how was it?

It would be great to round off this post by telling you that a favour bomb exploded in my head. That I had an almost psychedelic, orgasmic epiphany as I was welcomed into the fold of converted French press fanatics by the caffeinated volcano Gods of Guatemala.

The truth is not quite so dramatic.
It did NOT taste like old feet.
It was strong and hot…a little bit sweet and, I’ll be damned, I could taste chocolate and raisins!
So. It was rich and it was good and it was flavoursome. It also seemed to hit me with much more of a sustained coffee ‘buzz’ than the flat white espressos I usually drink.

No epiphany, but a good that has, over subsequent cups, approached delicious.



2 replies on “Hand grind and black.”

Hi Ian, glad you have found a new method and appreciation.
As part of the presents to my son for his 21st Birthday this week we gave him a Bialetti brikka/ stovetop espresso pot and also the manual grinder
2 associated YouTube videos later and he’s all set up
Something nice to keep and a lifelong skill and ritual to use when he feels like it. Our beautiful Italian neighbours introduced him to their espresso and assisted in the choosing of the gifts.

Liked by 1 person

I have only drank black coffee.. and you definitely do taste more of the notes you describe. Hence there is no getting over a bad coffee.. you can’t hide it with a frothy top.
Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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