Cafetière à Piston

You are right, I am talking about the famous French Press!
The first time I saw one of them was at my girlfriend’s house in Monterrey in 2008. This was the first time I talked to her dad and he offered me a cup of coffee. He prepared the coffee on one of these coffee makers and I was intrigued by the little glass and metal artifact in front of me.

Since I just met him I wanted to leave a good first impression and I did not ask anything about the coffee maker. However,  months later, back in the bay area, I went for brunch with some friends and when I ordered my coffee they brought me one of this little, shiny things. But I was prepared to deal with it since I knew what I needed to do...
It is also known as Coffee Plunger and it is a relatively recent design (around1929) and because of the name I assume it was invented in France (cafetière à piston). It is basically a glass or clear plastic cylinder with a lid and plunger that has a fine mesh filter which is normally made of metal.  The plunger fits tightly in the cylinder, similar to a syringe, and as one presses down the plunger, the ground coffee is pushed down, leaving only the brewed coffee on top.
These are the step by step directions to prepare a cup of coffee using a French Press:
1)      Add about one rounded spoon of coffee for every 6 oz cup you want to make
a.   You need your grind to be  more coarse than the one you use on a drip coffee maker and a lot more coarse than the one you would use for an espresso shot.  The following figure shows the difference between the one used for a drip coffee maker and the one used for a French press (Pictures taken from  Remember that the plunger has a fine mesh filter, and it could get clogged if it is too fine. In addition to this, if you grind it too fine, the more sediment you will find in your coffee when you pour it.

2)      Add water that is about to boil. It is important here that your water is not boiling when you pour it because it could degrade the taste of coffee
a.      It is recommended that the water is between 195 to 200 F degrees, but if you don’t have a thermometer, just monitor your water and remove from the stove before it starts boiling.
b.      Another recommendation is to avoid filling it to the top since water could spill when you start pressing the plunger.
3)      Slowly stir the coffee with a wooden spoon (to prevent any damage to the glass) and place the lid once you are done stirring.
4)      Let it rest (brew). For how long? This will depend on how strong you want it and on the size of your French Press
a.      Some people recommend 4 minutes for larger presses (12-16 oz or more),  for smaller ones you could get a good result in just 2 minutes. What works for me is normally between 2 to 3 minutes for small batches (2 cups)
5)      With one hand hold the lid and with the other one start pressing the plunger at a steady pace.
6)      Pour and enjoy
As you can see it is an easy way to prepare great coffee. If you are very demanding on your coffee it might take you some time to find the combination of grinding, water temperature and brewing time that works for you, but it is worth it.
Some people do not like the French Press since it leaves some sediments and also because the longer you leave the coffee in the press, the more it will brew and it will become bitter (there might be people that like this!). However, I personally think that it is a great coffee maker.  I would say it is a nice to have in your kitchen; it is a perfect item for a dinner or coffee session at home where you want to have a simple and at the same time elegant way to pour the coffee. Due to its simplicity, you can use it to prepare small and large batches in a very easy way.

I have seen them going from $9.99 all the way to $49.99 USD depending on the store, size and brand. Considering the price of other types of coffee makers I believe this is one of the cheapest you could find and there are many aesthetic designs out there. I would not spent more than 20 USD for a 16 oz one.
It is funny how after you become familiar with something, you start seeing it everywhere. Next time you go to a department store look around and you will see that there are all classes of French Presses: made of metal and glass with cool designs, plastic ones in all different colors, there are even some of them that have a dual purpose: French Press and travelling mug

Japan and my coffee experience

Yes, I know: what does Japan has to do with coffee? Well, I am going to be honest with you: In Tokyo I enjoyed one of the bests lattes I have ever had. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I think I can find an explanation to this, it has to do with the culture of doing things right.

Let me tell you the story first, the name of the place is Le Café Doutor. It is located in Ginza, that is a very chic avenue in Tokyo (I would assume the equivalent of 5th Avenue in NYC or Masarik for my friends in Mexico).

After a day of riding the subway and visiting some of the typical touristic places in Tokyo (the Toyko Tower, Buddhist monastery, the fish market auction among others) I went to Ginza since I heard a lot about it. As soon as I started walking down the street, names such as Gucci or Apple started showing up; I stepped into some of the stores and I immediately sensed how all these brands seemed to be more expensive in Yens. The complete experience is amazing and hard to describe, you are surrounded by rivers of people coming and going at an incredible fast pace, all of them wearing the latest trend in fashion and immersed in their mobiles. I was enjoying just being there and suddenly, I saw it in a corner, the place that would put the cherry on top:  A chic café, with big windows and seating outside; it seemed like the perfect place to crash and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Since I was already drinking lattes in the US, I thought that I would give it a try, but I wasn’t expecting anything exciting about the coffee; from all the things I knew Japan was good for, I didn’t know coffee was one of them. So, there I was asking for a latte, and suddenly something amazing happened…

…the guy crafting my coffee was not your average Starbucks barista; this guy was an artist, he used the milk he was pouring to draw a leave in my cup (which later I discovered it was called a Rosetta). This was the first time I saw someone doing something like this. He was creating art in my cup. Still wondering how was he able to do that I stepped outside and I was lucky enough to find a seat with a perfect view. At that moment, out there, far away from home, but with a familiar smell and a warm cup in my hands I felt in peace and relaxed, it was one of those moments where time stops around you and you are able to appreciate small details like the wind and people’s expressions while they stare at their phones. It is amazing what a good cup of coffee can make!

The following morning I decided to test my luck at another café in a much discrete area in Tokyo, and once again, I was not disappointed, it was delicious too. The taste, smell and looks of the coffee were perfect. I left that day Japan with a very good impression.

As I told you before I was surprised to get such a good coffee experience over there, but now that I think about it I shouldn’t have been that surprised. After all, the milk, beans and the espresso machine could easily be bought from any place in the World. But what about the barista’s skills, as far as I could tell he was Japanese, and I have heard wonders about Italian baristas, but not a lot about Japanese ones, so how did he acquired those skills?

If you have ever heard about Total Quality Management (TQM), Just in Time (JIT) and other terms to talk about quality, you know that a lot of them started in Japan. It is not just about doing things, but doing things in the best possibly way you can. When a culture is so oriented towards quality and detail in every aspect, you could easily see how important it should be for any business to pay that much attention on their raw materials, equipment, and on the training to their employees.  They already did it with cars, are coffee shops their next target?

So now you know, If you are ever around the Ginza area, and you want a nice place to seat down and watch the crowd walking through the streets, here is the address: Le Cafe Doutor, Sanai Dream Center 1, 2F, 5-7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo(

For those of you that are not familiar with a Rosetta, here is a link to a video showing it:

Once that I was back home I discovered that the latte I have been drinking at Starbucks although it is technically a latte, it is not the kind of latte I wanted. With this experience I learnt that drinking a cup of coffee could be a delight for the senses: smell, taste, touch and sight, and now I try to make every cup count…

Starbucks and Coffee

Starbucks and coffee

It is hard to define Starbucks role in coffee culture since people has very strong opinions about it: they either love it or hate it

To be honest, nowadays I almost never go to a Starbucks, unless it is an emergency of course (i.e. I’m at the airport and it is the only coffee place available).  However, I believe that just like me, a lot of people were introduced by Starbucks to the World lattes, macchiato, mochas , ice coffees and all the different ways you could enjoy this beverage. 

Several books have been written about Starbucks and their success. More than the coffee, I believe that the Starbucks brand provides and sells an experience to their consumers.  

People who claim to know about coffee complain about the mass-production of the beverage and all the flavors and combinations they add, where you can taste from caramel to ginger and lose every trace of coffee.   It is always funny to watch the person in front of you to order an "iced decaf tall sugar-free vanilla" (??)
My main complain towards Starbucks is because of their baristas. If you go to a real coffee place each cup seems to be unique, handcrafted by an artist and in Starbucks you will never see this. I agree that it looks more like an assembly line manufacturing coffee-like drinks in paper cups. You don’t believe me? Watch the following video and compare what you normally drink at Starbucks with this one:

Does it look the same to you?
However, as I said before, it was thanks to them that I started drinking other variations of coffee, and once that I started, I said goodbye to brewed coffee, no more Cafe Americano for me!
For many years I was happy drinking only Starbucks, until I travelled to Japan…

The Journey..

...of discovering coffee

I started drinking coffee in a regular basis probably when I was around 16 years old. At that time I used to think that a good cup of coffee meant hot water with one teaspoon of instant coffee, sugar and some milk; two teaspoons if I needed to stay awake through the night (?). Hey! it had a better flavor than ground coffee!!! At least that what they said:

Eventually, my family bought a coffee maker and we started drinking brewed coffee, and for many many years, that is what I used to drink.  We never had an espresso machine at home, and now that I think about it, no one I knew had one at that time.

Every now and then, if we went out to celebrate someone’s birthday, I was able to order a cappuccino; Oh my God, so delightful! They were mainly reserved for special occasions, and since they were so scarce, I really enjoyed when I was able to have one. However, for many years it was a mystery for me what made it so different to the coffee I drank at home; was there something in the milk?  Was it made with a different type of coffee, a sweeter one? Do they put a spice on it? Was there a secret ingredient on it? Why there’s a monkey called Capuchin and how is it related to coffee?
This is how I look in the mornings before my first cup!

It was until years later, when I got my espresso machine, that I learnt that a cappuccino starts with an espresso shot and that many factors contribute to its really flavor: the type of coffee, the roasting, the grinding, the barista’s skill, etc. There was no secret ingredient after all!

It is important to note that I wouldn’t have bought an espresso machine if it wasn’t because I was introduced to the world of lattes, macchiato, mochas and more by a very controversial player in the coffee world: Starbucks! Everything changed after they came to town...

Why coffee?

Once I read in a scientific magazine that the sense of smell has a greater influence in the part of our brain where our memories are located, and therefore a known aroma could easily trigger our memories. 

Coffee, with its characteristic aroma, has a very unique way to bring things to my memory: Those late nights at college working with friends on a project while some coffee made us company; coffee also brings me memories of trips and places I have been, I cannot differentiate or even remember the taste of water or soda from city to city, but I can precisely tell you what coffee did I drink, how good was it and in which coffee place I had it.  Do you remember when you used to go out on a date for a cup of coffee and a movie? I am pretty sure that you can remember where you went, and I am pretty sure that while having those long conversations to know each other you have in front of you a steamy cup of coffee.
As you will find out later, I love to travel, and for me another way to discover a country is through its food. I have discovered that Coffee is unique from country to country, the beans they use, the barista’s skills, the method they use and many other factors make each cup unique. And every now and then, when I am able to get a cup of coffee that resembles the one I tried somewhere, my mind travels, it is not longer at my home or at a local restaurant, it is in a plaza San Sebastian, a small restaurant in Bolivia or in a cold night of a Greek winter savoring for the first time a Coffee made in a briki
Drinking coffee for me is a relaxing experience that helps me to enjoy even more a book, a conversation or whatever other activity I am doing.

To the Coffee Aficionado that is inside of you

Let’s admit it, in terms of food, every single one of us has an aficionado inside, the object of your affection could be wine, beer, cheese, steak or others; once I met a guy who was a connoisseur about olive oil. Mine happens to be coffee, and if you are reading this it might be the same for you.

If you are like me, there are few things that you enjoy more than a warm cup of coffee first thing in the morning. At the same time, you probably have a full time job or school and no matter how much you would like to prepare a cup of coffee like a professional barista, you only have a limited amount of time to learn about it and also limited resources ($) to buy beans, coffee makers, grinders, etc. Therefore, your homemade espresso, cappuccino or latte rarely tastes as good as in a good espresso bar.

With this blog I am not aiming to teach you anything, I am far away from being an expert on the topic. What I really want to do is to share with you my past and present experiences on this fascinating topic. I also want to read your comments and learn from you. I hope I can do this enjoyable enough so that you stay with me during the journey.

So lets get started…