Thursday, December 27, 2012

French pressed

So here I am at 5 a.m. trying to figure out why I whole-heartedly embraced another French press coffee maker after it fell into my arms in the aisles of a bigger-city department store Wednesday. Besides, who knew Mr. Coffee made French presses? Here's the long version of how and why it happened.

When condensing two living spaces at opposite ends of the state into one some years ago, five coffee makers turned up: (1) The big red Cuisinart --- still the main machine (never buy a brightly colored appliance; it will be the one that goes on forever); (2) a Mr. Coffee of comparable size now out on loan; (3) an espresso maker not used often enough to justify shelf space and therefore given away; (4) a nicely made French press, also given away because French presses are so darned fiddly; and (5) a four-cup Mr. Coffee, used for afternoon brews.

I need two coffee makers --- a big one for mornings when caffeine is the principal consideration and taste isn't. The big cans of HyVee or Folgers work fine, since half of that pot gets poured down the drain as the morning progresses. And a smaller one for late afternoon, when something more tasteful is needed but in lesser quantity.

As the years passed, the little Mr. Coffee began to make sizzling and crackling noises. When electrocution or a counter-top fire seemed possible, it went to the landfill --- shortly before Christmas.

So I set out Wednesday to find an afternoon replacement, thinking a one-cup maker would be nice. Keurigs are trendy now and I looked at the absurdly overpriced things and eventually decided that for that amount I could boil water and pour it through grounds myself. Besides, who wants to invest in K-cup packs, too? Yes, I know adapters are available to allow use of regular grind. But the whole Keurig concept, while popular now, probably won't have a long shelf life.

Maybe another four-cup Mr. Coffee? Nah. Then I spotted the cheap Mr. Coffee French presses --- and was smitten --- again. Besides, French presses are green --- sort of: minimal plastic, no paper filters. Years had dimmed the memory of just how fiddly the darned things are.

Here's the deal: A French press produces what probably is the best cup of coffee that can be made. But in order to get there, you have to start with coffee of a coarse enough grind (preferably freshly ground) to alleviate the sludge issue. Pour that into the carafe. Carefully measure and bring almost to a boil an appropriate amount of water and pour over the grounds. Allow to steep. Then press down gently on the filter press plunger, trapping grounds at the bottom and leaving the fresh brew ready for cups at the top. Wonderful!

But this is a ceremonial process, tricky for those not fully awake and therefore more likely to scald themselves. Plus there's no way to keep the fresh coffee hot, so it needs to be consumed promptly. Then there's cleanup, which involves disassembling everything and washing the parts with some care. I also like to save coffee grounds for the garden, which requires another step, this one involving a sieve.

I'm not sure how long this French press is going to last. I'll try it again this afternoon.

But for now, having brewed a mug and a half for photographic purposes, I'm going to fire up the Cuisinart and get those caffeine levels back where they need to be. The quality blend, unfortunately, is now cold and contained in a mug with a gold rim that cannot be microwaved. Down the drain it goes.


Ken said...

Two words, Frank: Hy-vee instant. Before you recoil in horror, consider these advantages: (1) each cup can be "brewed" to provide just the right amount of caffeine, (2) it tastes just as good reheated as it does "fresh brewed"; (3) no grounds or filters to dispose of, (4) nothing to wash (unless you count scraping the grime off the mug every month or so), and (5) it's cheap (although, now that we've discovered Aldi, we've moved on to an even cheaper store brand). Granted, instant won't win many taste tests, but it's actually more to my liking than that overpriced Starbucks swill.

Frank D. Myers said...

Recoiling in horror. Dear. God. Not. Aldi.