Santa Barbara: A pleasant southern California town that is home to Oprah as well as some of the most beautiful coastline there is and my recommendation for a much needed mini-vacation . Downtown is the hub of the destination resort city which has catered to luxury and relaxation since the 1870s when the cultured aristocracy of the Victorian era flocked to Santa Barbara’s relaxing shores to cure illness and stress. The modern day city now bustles with window-shoppers, street performers and tourists strolling past pristine Spanish-Mediterranean inspired architecture set against a backdrop of breathtaking Pacific Coastline.
I started my vacation off picking up my tickets to the annual Santa Barbara Film Festival and headed to the pier to catch my bearings before heading for a cup of the good stuff. The festival has been around for 28 years but made its mainstream renaissance with the new executive director, Roger Durling, in 2002. I was lucky enough to get tickets to several movies along with two award presentations and interviews with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawk, then Steve Carrell my last night.
Now a casual, cali-cool festival, not as formal as Sundance and Cannes, you can find the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and the Pitt-Jolie family strolling down the main State Street to take up time between films and enjoy the stunning sights of the town. Therefore making it the obvious place to go.
After a palm tree shaded stroll down State Street, I approach a well-renowned coffee shop, The French Press. Behind black wooden double doors is a slender, minimalist shop with plenty of air circulating through. I notice the balmy, refreshing breeze at my back and that this is a moment only an idealistic SoCal community could bring. I’m already eyeing a table at the outer edge of the shop to people watch while I sample the Castle Roasters Coffee. As a part of The French Press Shop, they roast their own beans under a different name, Castle Coffee Roasters.
I am wanting to sit for a while, so I decide to order a coffee, rather than an espresso, but then I find myself faced with the big conundrum: Do I order a French press at “The French Press” or pour-over?
For the sake of blogging and science I’ve decided to go with BOTH.
The level of caffeine I ingest in order to educate you on both methods just shows my dedication-do not fear for my health or safety-I love this!
Make sure to grab a few handmade, baked goodies to help the caffeine intake.
Today, it is time to learn about the difference between the two most common coffee brewing methods that you will see offered in most great coffee shops. As you might or might not expect, they are in fact, incredibly different. Some of you are probably asking, “Just how different are these two methods and what type of impact do they REALLY have on taste, Amanda?” The methods can produce such drastically different flavors from the same bean. Obviously you need to know where you stand and what type of experience you want.
In the photos alone, you can see the color difference: the pour-over is transparent and has a light color whereas the French press is turbid with a murky, dark color that I lovingly describe as “mud”. Do not be put off by the potentially unappetizing appearance: my favorite way to brew coffee at home is French press. As it is my favorite, I think we should discuss it first.
The French press brewing method starts with course grinds sitting in the croft to be plunged through with a mesh screen. The coffee sits in the grounds, brewing longer than the pour-over because with the courser grinds, the coffee picks up more insoluble matter. This is the “grit” you find on the bottom of the cup and provides that muddy appearance to the liquid. That grit is what gives the drink a full bodied, earthy taste. Many people believe that taste is the flavor of the bean, however, it really is just the grit touching the palette. A French press yields a heavier cup of coffee that is a bit oilier due to the strainer filtering only the more sizeable chunks of coffee beans. You end up having more particles in your cup which fills you up more-like a hearty meal of meat and potatoes.
On the opposite end of the brewing spectrum is the pour-over method. While it has many variations of filters and filter cones, a pour over is named for the way that water is “poured over” beans that have been finely ground. The hot water quickly flows through the cone, filtering through only the soluble bean fragments. The result of a pour-over is a crisp, clean flavor that is easy to drink and tends to taste a bit sweeter than its counterpart. The poured over water filters the dissolvable bits of grounds thus significantly shortening the brew time.
Next time you find yourself craving coffee versus an espresso beverage, you can put your newly acquired information to work in deciding if you want to experience the thicker robustness from a French press or the smooth clarity from a pour-over. If you want to push yourself, I suggest taking the Cali and Coffee Challenge: Try both methods and decide which you prefer. Whichever tickles your tastebuds most, remember to breathe, sip, enjoy and repeat for best results.