Solarblogger has asked me the same question twice now, in comments made to posts. I decided it was finally time to answer, and that the answer deserved a post of its own rather than an unceremonious burial as a reply to a comment about an old post. It also gives me something to write about ― as you can see, my summer material has been rather thin.
Anyway, the question was twofold: 1) How do you make good coffee in a French Press/press pot? 2) Why do I prefer press pot coffee to espresso?
To part one, mostly out of laziness (more on that later) but also to give a link to the man who got me all started, see Mark Prince’s sweet tutorial on coffeegeek.com. His lengthy, precise, and accurate description of the scientific art of preparing wonderful press-pot coffee (complete with beautiful photos) is an edifying joy to study and practice. For me to try to duplicate or summarize his instructions would be just silly.
To part two, well, here we go…
The first reason I prefer press-pot coffee to espresso is a quantity-over-quality issue. I drink a liter of press-pot coffee every morning, partly out of comforting habit and partly out of caffeine necessity. I don’t know what the caffeine ratio of pressed coffee vs. espresso is, but I imagine that it would take quite a few shots of espresso to achieve my minimum daily dosage requirements. Making shot after shot in my Pavoni would chain me to the kitchen for the majority of my coffee-drinking time. There’s something about languidly sipping a hearty mug of joe while reading email or sitting on my back porch that just can’t be equaled by tossing back a few shots of espresso while standing at my kitchen counter. It feels like the difference between a long, relaxing home-cooked meal vs. a quick bite wolfed down over the sink on the way out the door. I guess I think I prefer a nice pot of coffee ― if I drink espresso, it’s over too quickly.
And as to quality ― yes, I make great press-pot coffee (imho, if I do say so myself). But espresso is just one step higher on the necessity-for-analness continuum than even press-pot coffee. It’s a step I haven’t been able to consistently take, yet. I can get away with a press-pot made from slightly substandard beans (even ― gasp ― pre-ground beans) from time to time. I don’t have to be quite the cleaning nazi with the press pot that I do with the espresso machine (but don’t get me wrong ― a clean press pot in a good thing). Maybe it’s just my hyper-refined palate, but if I mess up a shot of espresso even a little bit…yikes. Milk-based drinks are a bit more forgiving, yes, but even the traditional cappuccino that I have been known to drink now and then requires a darn good shot of espresso behind it, or its just not worth drinking.
But the more I write the previous two paragraphs, the more I can sum up my preference for press-pot coffee to espresso in one simple word: laziness. I’m simply too lazy to go to all the trouble to grind, tamp, pull, froth, mix, drink, clean and repeat five or six times to get the same coffee goodness that one simple grind-wait-press-drink gets me in the ol’ Bodum. I’m simply too lazy to roast up fancy espresso-blended coffee three or four times a week, when a once-a-week session with my trusty single-origin standbys will do. And I’m too lazy to change my morning ritual just because I have a really spiffy machine that sits in my kitchen cabinet and only gets broken out when I have company to impress. Sad, I know, but true.
However, in spite of recently turning 32, I wish to prove that I am not yet a dog that is too old to be taught new tricks. Therefore, I am throwing down a gauntlet for myself. All next week, 24-30 July, I will drink only espresso (or the occasional espresso-based drink). The press-pot will be relegated to the back shelf, and the Pavoni promoted to kitchen-countertop status. I’ll be as fussy as I need to be to produce the finest espresso in all the land.
And I will enjoy myself thoroughly.
I’ll let you know how this turns out.