Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

How to Make Coffee

Some days I feel like I really know what I’m doing. Some days, not so much. But no matter how bad the lapse in self-confidence, there’s one thing I always know: How to make coffee. And since this site has my name at the top of it, I’m here to tell you the Derek Powazek Preferred Method of Coffeemaking. Feel free to take notes.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

  • blue bottle makes me crazy with joyBeans. Always buy whole beans, and buy organic Fair Trade beans when you can. And not because they’re politically correct – it’s because they taste better, period. People who care about coffee make better beans.

    Want the best beans ever? The Blue Bottle Coffee Company is seriously the best coffee I’ve ever had. And lucky for you, they sell online.

    Buy the roast that sounds best to you – there is no bad choice. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. The darker, the more flavor. I tend to shoot for something in the middle.

    One last thing about beans: Never, ever put them in the freezer. Ever eaten an ice cube that’s sat in a freezer for a while? You know that icky metallic taste? That’s what freezers do to coffee. Store your beans someplace with consistent temperature and very little moisture. The fridge is fine. So is a nice dark cabinet. Just no freezing!

  • Grinder. If you get whole beans, you’ll need a grinder at home. Get one. Doesn’t really matter what kind.
  • Water. Use filtered water – Brita or the like. The better the water that goes in, the better the coffee that comes out.
  • French Press. Anything from Bodum is perfect. No offense to you electric coffee pot brewers – I did it for years. But once you go press, you never go back.

Step 2: Make Some Coffee

  1. Take the beans out of that cool, dark place that’s not your freezer and put some in the grinder. How much? Experiment and figure out what tastes good to you. Don’t be anal about measuring. Nobody likes a math geek, Scully.
  2. Grind ’em for about half as long as you think you should. Do not pulverize them into powder! I usually give it about five Mississippi’s and then stop. The grind should be coarse, with some big bits left over. If you grind it too fine, little bits will slip into your coffee and make it too bitter.
  3. Put the grinds into the bottom of your clean French Press. Take a moment to smell the aroma of the ground beans. Personally, this is usually the first moment I realize I’m awake and standing in the kitchen with my nose in a Bodum.
  4. Put some of that lovely filtered water into whatever boiling conveyance you’ve got and heat it up. For the best coffee, the water should be just under boiling – right when the bubbles start going but before the whistle blows.
  5. Pour the just-shy-of-boiling water over the virginal ground beans. Make sure you get them all nice and swirling around in there. Put the top of the press in and slide it down to where it meets the top of the pre-coffee.
  6. Go check your email for 4-6 minutes. Don’t forget! Leave ’em in too long and it’ll be too strong.
  7. Plunge. Slowly push the top down, moving the grounds to the bottom of the press. Do it slowly and evenly. And try not to tip it over and shatter it on the stove. Trust me – it’s impossible to get all the glass shards out of the coffee.
  8. Serve immediately. If you’ve made too much, pour it into an extra mug and cover. Do not leave it in the press – it just gets nasty.
  9. Flavor to taste – sugar, milk, whatever. Anyone who says coffee has to be black is a bigger coffee snob than me. Personally, I put a single scoop of Ben and Jerry’s vanilla ice cream in there. It’s a habit I picked up in college when my shitty fridge couldn’t keep milk from going bad to save its life, but the freezer worked like a charm. The roastmaster at Blue Bottle Coffee said it was okay, so I’m sticking with it.

So that’s what I know about coffee. It’s not much, but it’s gotten me this far.

UPDATE: How to Make Coffee 2: Revenge of the Nerds!

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.