Make the Perfect Coffee at Home, Using Only a French Press
So, it’s official: the vast majority of us are staying home for the foreseeable future. But how are we supposed to get our daily coffee fix?
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While it might seem silly to talk about something as trivial as coffee at a time like this, it’s actually far from it. When I worked as a barista (for three years!) I came to the realisation that coffee isn’t just a beverage, but an experience. For so many of us, coffee is our most reliable daily ritual. It gives us something we can look forward to every day without fail. It’s an opportunity to take a moment for yourself, to put life on pause and be in the moment — all packaged in a warm cup of delicious brew, made just the way you like it.
My favourite part of my barista job was seeing the smile on people’s faces as they took time out of their busy days to take a coffee break. Now, faced with one of the most challenging events in our history, we truly crave these little moments to pause, smile and be in the moment. We need things to look forward to. And no matter how many things are out of our control, coffee is one thing we can rely on.
Ditch instant coffee + upgrade your daily ritual
Whether you’re relaxing or working from home over the next few weeks, chances are you’ll be taking a lot of coffee breaks. When things are going to plan, I treat myself to a flat white at a local speciality coffee shop on a daily basis. I’ve written a whole list of my favourite independent coffee shops in Dublin — make sure to save this for the days when travel bans are over!
In the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, trips to the local coffee shop are out of the question. So where are we supposed to get our daily latte fix while we’re stuck in quarantine or socially distancing?
The thing is, as businesses shut down in succession, we find ourselves filling new roles each day. Teacher, fitness instructor, motivational speaker (because we all need a pep talk to get out of bed in the morning) — the list is growing. Why not add ‘barista’ to the list?
If you’re lucky enough to have an espresso machine and milk frother at home, you’re pretty much good to go. I’m a little jealous! But for those of us with slightly more modest setup, here’s a really easy cheat to make the perfect latte using only a french press. It might not be conventional, but if it brings a smile to your face, its job is done.
Ditch the instant coffee and upgrade your daily coffee ritual with this useful trick.
A post shared by natalia (@whatnownat) on Mar 23, 2020 at 1:11pm PDT
Step 1: It’s all about the basics
To make good coffee, you need good coffee. It’s that simple.
Start off with a good quality ground coffee, ideally from a local speciality coffee shop. I’m using locally roasted coffee from my all-time favourite, 3fe. If you have a local favourite, check their social media — they might still be open for takeaway or delivering locally. It’s a great way to support small businesses at a difficult and uncertain time. If you don’t have a grinder at home, your local coffee place should be able to grind your coffee beans for you.
And of course: you can always stick to pre-ground coffee from the grocery store. Try to look for freshness and good quality — 100% Arabica is a safe bet.
If you’re not sure which type of coffee you should get, ask — whether in person or by popping into your local coffee shop’s DMs. Baristas and roasters are best equipped to advise you on the coffee you would like best. Introverts, feel free to take a look at the tasting notes until you see something you fancy. You can also take this fun quiz to find out which blend suits you!
There’s a whole science to tasting notes, but this is not the place to explore that avenue. Generally speaking, the tasting notes will split between fruity and chocolatey flavours. If you prefer a darker, more nutty roast, go for the chocolate notes. If you like a lighter, brighter coffee, go for anything that sounds fruity or acidic.
Step 2: Measure it out
Baristas are very precise in their measurements, making sure every espresso adheres to brand standards. For example, the coffee shop I used to work in had a 14-gram dose and a 21 second pour time for every double shot of espresso.
The good news: you don’t need to meet these standards when you’re making coffee at home. You should, however, stick to one basic rule when making coffee in a french press: 60g of coffee for every litre of water.
For a small french press like mine (about 250ml) this would amount to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. A bigger french press would mean doubling that figure. Figure out how much coffee you need, and spoon it into your french press.
And by the way — my adorable french press is from Bodum, and was one of my fave birthday gifts last year!
Step 3: Hot water to the top
The next step is simple: pour hot water to the top. Once poured, stir and then leave it for 4 minutes to brew. Set a timer and come back to it — the full brewing time is super important here.
Here are the details, if you’re into that sort of thing. Filtered or mineral water will make your coffee taste better. I just use water from my Brita filter jug. Also, temperature matters. It’s best not to use just-boiled water. Give it a few seconds to breathe — the perfect temperature for coffee extraction is around 90°C/200°F. You don’t want to shock your coffee too much!
Step 4: Heating up the milk
While the coffee is brewing, gently heat up your milk or alternative milk of choice. 30-60 seconds in the microwave will do the trick.
My favourite is oat milk. I feel like it makes any coffee taste creamy and premium, and it works a treat when foaming. You can use dairy milk too, but keep in mind that low fat will probably foam up better than full fat.
Step 5: Press + Pour
Once 4 minutes is up and the coffee is done steeping, pour it into a cup. Not too high if you’re planning to get lots of frothy milk in there! I ended up splitting mine into two cups.
Step 6: Where the magic happens
Clean your french press, and pour in the warm milk. Then, quickly press it with the plunger. This will quickly aerate and froth up the milk, making gorgeous foam for your coffee. You’re looking for it to double in size. You can take things a bit further if you prefer very foamy cappuccino style, or underdo it to achieve a flat-white type result.
Once you’ve reached your preferred amount of foam, leave it to sit for a few seconds before tapping it on the counter to get rid of any major air bubbles.
Note: Be careful in this step. Don’t go too fast, as this can damage your french press. You can also use a different method with similar results — just put the milk into a jar and shake it vigorously until you get a nice froth. Definitely a handy workout for self-isolation days!
Step 7: Pour and enjoy
Let’s be honest — you’re probably not going to get perfect latte art with this method. But you sure can try! Plus, it’ll test delicious with or without the latte art. I was chuffed with the hearts I managed to get in mine!
So there you have it — an easy way to fake a latte at home, with only a french press. Sure, it won’t turn out exactly as if your favourite barista made it, but it’s a close second!
Make sure this coffee break is a moment for you. Enjoy this opportunity to pause, reflect, and be present. You deserve it — we all do.
I hope you enjoyed this easy trick to making the perfect coffee at home using just a simple cafetiere or french press. Hopefully it tides you over until your favourite coffee shop opens its doors again. In the meantime, stay safe, and take care to enjoy the little moments of peace and quiet interspersed throughout your day.
Let me know how you like your coffee down in the comments or over on Instagram! And while you’re here, why not check out my top tips for adjusting to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic?