An evening brewing black

Last week my wife and I attended an alternative brewing course at Vintage coffee.


It was a real eye opener for me who is mostly a cappuccino / sometimes espresso drinker.  Firstly all coffees are tasted black and secondly, coffees are tasted and allowed to cool down as you repeatedly taste them.

The evening started off with a quick informative talk on the history of coffee as well as the process from bean to cup.  I believe it is good to steep yourself in all things related to coffee.  Your appreciation and knowledge will help you enjoy your coffee more and more.


After the initial talk, we divided into three groups, each discussing and practicing a popular brewing method – French press, V60 pour over and the Aeropress.

First up was the V60 Pour over


At this demo, some principals were highlighted like the importance of weighing coffee and water, the correct water temperature, the correct grind and the timing of your brew.  Even though each method has its own special method, these principals remain the most important.  The pour-over probably produced the cleanest crisp coffee full of fruity notes backed up by a firm but not overpowering acidity.  It reminded me of a fruit juice in some respects.

Next up was the French press.


Since it filters through a metal and not a paper filter, it was more of a full bodied experience.  The difference to the taste and the way I used to make French press coffee before I knew the correct way, was very different.  I used to over-extract my coffee, with the guidelines in the French press blog, this should not happen.  See

Lastly, and perhaps my favourite, was the Aero Press


What made me enjoy this station most was the different ways one can make Aero press coffee, each with it’s distinct characteristics.  The use of an app to guide you through the process was awesome.  Unfortunately, the demonstrated app is only available in Apple’s store, but I found a close second in the android space named MisterBarista at  Although all the baristas was passionate about their method, I found the barista at this station particularly passionate and some interesting discussions was the result!


I can recommend this experience to anyone in the Pretoria, Johannesburg area and wish more coffee shops start to do this type of informal training.

Happy brewing and experimenting everyone!

The Cafetière aka The French Press

French Press?  Sounds like the paparazzi, but it is probably one of the most accessible brewing methods.  In it’s simplest form it is a tubular container with a removable metal filter used to press down on the coffee.  This is the first in the series of blogs about alternative brewing methods from the steeping group.  This is the brewing methods that is the Jacuzzi group where coffee  chills in the water for a while.

It has had a bad rap, as producing harsh, murky or bitter coffee.  Here is a guideline to making good French press coffee. I searched wide and far on the wild, wild web and have distilled the best advice I could find. Following this guideline, should produce a full-bodied, robust coffee with intense flavors.

What you need


  1. A French Press.  Any french press will do, but the best value for money is most likely a Bodum.
  2. Coffee beans. Ideally, you should grind it yourself, but if you do not have a grinder, purchase the coarsest coffee grind you can find.
  3. A grinder.  A decent burr grinder will do, but not the whirly blade type grinder please.  If not, see point two.
  4. Water.  Filtered water since anything else could affect the taste.
  5. Timer.  I know I am walking a thin line here with the hard core coffee crowd, but since it’s not a science class, I am sure after timing things once or twice you won’t need it any more.
  6. Scale.  As with the timer, I believe that this is an aid for getting your brew right and not the rule.


Hand drawing a black process diagam

  1. Get your water boiling.  Boil more water than is needed as you want to warm up your press.
  2. Fill your French press.  This is to heat your press.
  3. Set your timer.  You have a relaxed one minute to prepare your coffee while your water is cooling slightly.
  4. Weigh (for starters) your coffee.  This is where you experiment, but start off on 1:10 ratio on weight between coffee and water.  This works out around a teaspoon (+) per cup.
  5. Grind your coffee.  Use a coarse grind setting. When you finish by pressing down on the filter, too little resistance will indicate too coarse grind and too much resistance will indicate too fine a grind.
  6. Empty the press.  At a minute, your boiled water would have cooled down a tad and will not lead to over extraction.
  7. Add the ground coffee to your French press.
  8. Pour water.  If you are using a scale, set to zero and pour ten times as much water by weight as the ground coffee you added.
  9. Stir.  At about forty five seconds from the time water was added, give a firm, but not over vigorous stir.  We don’t want to damage our press now, so use clean wooden or bamboo spoon.  This will release the trapped carbon dioxide from the coffee crust and most of the coffee should drop to the bottom.
  10. Press down to filter.  At about four minutes from the time water was added, press down slowly on the coffee.  Some people suggest breaking the crust and scooping it off before pressing down.
  11. Enjoy.  Use the coffee straight away or decant since over extraction may take place otherwise.



The biggest mistakes you can make are the following:

  1. Using boiling water. This will guarantee over extraction and the harsh bitter coffee that goes with it.
  2. Too fine grind. Once again, over extraction as well as a murkiness in the coffee.
  3. Too long time before pressing down on the coffee. At the risk of sounding like a broken record… over extraction.
  4. Not using the coffee straight away. I refuse to say it again, so I will only add that your coffee will cool down too much.

Hope this was not too much like school, but once you follow these easy steps, it should be simple enough that you do not even have to think about it.  Remember, life is to short for bad coffee!

Here is a cool video on the French Press from Stumptown Roasters.  Happy brewing!