for the life of me I can't make a decent cup of coffee. First I thought it was the coffee, so I made sure to buy a good-quality brand. Granted, I do not have a grinder at home (I am young, and still am setting up house)I buy coffee in smaller quantities and grind it at the store. Then I assumed it was the apparatus, so I switched from a drip coffee maker to a french press. Still, bitter and stale tasting coffee. So now I am assuming its the water. HELP!-do I use spring, distilled, filtered...what?
Thankfully where I live now the water is great, but we used to live in a town where the water was not so good tasting. When there we did pretty good with a Brita pitcher to filter out some of the nasties. Allot cheaper than trying to use bottled water or having a filter installed in the house.
Hrm, I'm no expert really. I use filtered water, and when you use a french press make sure you don't reheat the same water if you don't use it all.
Also wait a few minutes after the water boils to cool off a few degrees or else it will do something bad with the coffee and make it bitter. Maybe you are using too much coffee? And when you grind the coffee is it nice and oily? Or dry? Oily is good.
Enorah gives great advice here. The French press screen through which the water passes is not as fine as filter paper and needs more coarsely ground coffee.
Also, the coffee in a supermarket, even if you grind it yourself, may have been there for a while. The only way you can guarantee that you get fresh coffee is to buy it at a coffee outlet, like Peet's or (gasp, groan) Starbucks. I don't like Starbucks, but it's usually better than the market.
If I absolutely can't use up my coffee within a short time, I put it in the freezer. Better than the fridge.
This all probably seems like waaaay too much trouble, but the coffee you get will be soooo much better.
I can think of 3 possibilities:
1. You are using too little coffee and thus over-extracting from what you have, getting more bitter oils.
2. You are choosing your coffee varieties poorly for your taste. I'm not sure what a "good-quality brand" means. It's not necessarily the brand (though to my taste, Starbucks overroasts and ruins their beans) but the variety. Try Indonesian varieties, in particular Sumatran, which is full-bodied but low acit.
3. You are using water that is too hot. Check coffee lover's sites for ideal temperature, which I believe is at least 10 degrees below boiling.
I buy coffee from the fresh market where you can determine the quantity of beans. I am currently using the Fresh Market Blend, and Buy only 1/4-1/2 lb at a time. I did grind them fine, so I guess I will try coarse next time. I will also try the low acidity as reccommended, AND I was using too hot water apparently. Thanks for all the advice!
French press requires a coarse grind so it's likely you are getting an over extraction.
Some basics are good water, good coffee and good extraction
Too weak can result in bitter oils being extracted. Too strong can also lead to bitterness. Better to brew strong and add water to weaken to taste than brewing with too little coffee for which there is no remedy
Sweetmarias.com has excellent information on most methods of coffee prep. as well as products for making the perfect brew.