Updated: March 2, 2022 by Owen Richardson
Some coffee purists are all about a clean cup of coffee devoid of unnecessary milk, sugars, froth, foam, whipped cream, and a whole host of other add-ons. Certain people may tell you that coffee should be enjoyed just like it is. Learning how to make black coffee the right way may convert you to this school of thought.
You may be put off by black coffee because the strong bitter taste is too much to handle, or possibly you have only tried instant black coffee, rather than a full-flavored brew from freshly ground beans. To have that enjoyment it’s best to learn how to make a good cup of black coffee yourself.
Here’s a spoiler: this is not really about a recipe. Black coffee only has two ingredients, coffee beans and water, so making a good cup is all about technique.
Keep reading to find out more tips and tricks to master the black cup of coffee.
How to Make Black Coffee with a French Press
Brewing a delicious black coffee can be a personal and enjoyable experience; you can enjoy the entire process, from choosing the beans right up to the brewing and tasting stages. Here is one of many truly great black coffee recipes for you to try.
This one uses the French press, which is one of the easiest ways a beginner could make great black coffee.
What You Need
- Medium or dark roast coffee beans
- A burr grinder
- A French press
- Hot water
Step 1: Prepare Your Water
Water temperature is a subjective topic when brewing coffee, and while some prefer to only use hot water, others will boil the water and leave it for two or three minutes before using it. Use whatever appliance you have — stove, water heater, even a microwave.
It doesn’t matter which method you use for a French press, but the water should be around 200°F.
Step 2: Grind Your Beans
Start by grinding your beans to a coarse grind. Only grind as much coffee as you need for the amount you are making. If you are using four cups of water you will need half a cup of ground coffee.
Step 3: Combine the Two
Add your ground coffee to the base of the French press and pour in just enough water to cover the coffee. Leave the coffee to soak for 30 seconds to let the coffee bloom. You may see the coffee expand slightly and a golden-brown crema may form on the top.
Step 4: Brew the Coffee
After the 30 seconds are up you can pour the rest of the water over the beans, up to the fill line. If your French press is too small to hold four cups of water, reduce the amount to match your equipment.
Step 5: Plunge and Enjoy
After the coffee has brewed for 3 minutes 30 seconds, press the plunger down to filter out the ground coffee. Pour the coffee into your cup immediately to prevent the grounds from over extracting.
Tips to Make Good Black Coffee
Making good coffee requires a bit of science, a bit of art, and lots of practice. When crafting something like a black coffee you will need to pay extra attention to these elements, as there will be no milk to mask any mistakes you make.
Don’t expect everything to be perfect on the first try, though! Allow yourself to fail, and take note of where you went wrong to improve on it next time. Here are a few tips to get you started, but always keep in mind that coffee is subjective and what you may not enjoy, others could love.
That is why it is so important to be flexible when making coffee and tweak the ‘rules’ to what you prefer.
Be Open to It
The first tip to help you make good black coffee is to be open to the new flavors. Too many people decide what black coffee tastes like before they taste it. This will lead to unnecessary biases that will affect the taste.
Another reason why some people are put off by black coffee is that they have tasted instant or other low-quality coffees. Premium coffee offers bold flavors that some people may need to adapt to and can begin to love once they are open to the new flavors.
Bean choice matters even more when it comes to making black coffee. This method of brewing brings out the true flavors of the beans, so you will want to make sure you are using quality beans when brewing. This method also gives you the opportunity to find new flavors you can enjoy.
The lack of milk, creamer, or whipped cream lets you discover the true flavor of various coffee beans. This is why your bean choice is so important, as not all beans are equal in quality and flavor. Using premium Arabica beans when brewing black coffee is your best choice to craft a flavorful brew.
These beans are used for specialty coffees and are sometimes a bit pricier than Robusta beans. Arabica beans require premium conditions to grow in, which are at high altitudes on steep slopes. There are several types of Arabica beans and each region will offer new flavors. You will have the opportunity to taste the flavors when drinking coffee black, so keep an eye out for new Arabica beans to try.
Learn the Tasting Notes
As mentioned before, each bag of beans offers unique flavors, and with this comes a variety of tasting notes for you to try. Since black coffee offers nothing but coffee, you should find flavors you enjoy.
Some people may try one variety of beans for black coffee and because they don’t like the taste, give up on it entirely. In reality, it may just be that the choice of beans wasn’t optimal. Learning how to make a good cup of black coffee is all about experimenting with different flavor notes.
You can choose between light and fruity-tasting notes with flavors such as citrus, berries, honey, or even a floral taste. You can also opt for bolder chocolatey, cinnamon, and spicy flavors. These flavors generally depend on the roast level.
Discover New Roast Levels
If you have just begun your journey into home brewing and learning about coffee, you may have heard about the common roast levels being light, medium, and dark roast. These roast levels will greatly impact the flavor of your coffee and every coffee lover has their favorite.
The roast level of coffee beans, however, is much broader than just three roast levels; there are levels between these three. This means there is a wide range of roast levels to discover to help you decide which is the best for you.
The levels in the light roast category are generally lighter, softer, and more acidic, whereas if you move to a dark roast the flavors get bolder, more chocolatey, and give off a slightly burnt taste (but in a good way).
Light roast beans offer the most versatility in terms of flavor, and you will be able to taste the difference with this roast as the flavors are preserved and not burnt off. These beans are high in acidity with a light body and diverse flavors and aromas.
Medium roast beans still allow the flavors to shine through; however, these beans are much smoother, as the sugars have had time to caramelize during the roasting process. You will get medium acidity, medium body, and diverse but smoother flavors and aromas with these beans.
Dark roast beans are a lot less unique than beans roasted for less time, but they do offer rich and robust flavors. These beans are the least acidic with the heaviest body, with flavors and aromas which are characterized as earthy, spicy, woody, soothing, deep, and rich.
Once you have chosen the right beans you will need to perfect your grinding skills to enjoy your cup of black coffee. If your grinding technique is not up to standard, your brew will come out bitter or sour causing a very unpleasant result.
When coffee is extracted during brewing, the size of the coffee grounds will determine how quickly or slowly the coffee is extracted. If your grind is inconsistent the extraction times will vary, causing some beans to over-extract while others under extract.
Using a good-quality burr grinder will help you produce consistent grinds that will extract evenly and create a pleasant brew, as long as you are grinding to the right size for your brew method. Each method requires a different size due to the unique brew times of the method. If you have the right grind size you will enjoy the unique flavors of the beans when drinking black coffee.
Try Different Brew Methods
If you are still not finding your black coffee up to standard, then the next step is to try a better method of brewing. There are several ways to freshly brew your coffee at home, from pour-overs to the beloved Chemex, a cold brew, and the popular espresso.
If you are not enjoying the taste of your coffee then it may be time to change up your brew method. If you are looking for a strong-tasting brew then a French press is a good option to try. Alternatively, an espresso machine will give you a flavorful cup of coffee which is often enjoyed by itself.
Brew methods are also subjective and it is best to find the one that works for your tastes. This may take some testing and exploring, which is a fun experience.
Black Coffee FAQs
Is black coffee healthy?
Coffee does offer certain health benefits if you choose to drink pure coffee beans that haven’t been treated with pesticides. Coffee helps boost metabolism to aid with weight loss as well. Drinking black coffee is a lot healthier than coffee filled with sugar, milk, creamer, and other additives.
Can you add anything to black coffee?
If you want to enjoy a true black coffee you shouldn’t add milk or any creamer; however, you can add cinnamon or vanilla extract if you want some fun flavors. Black coffee is healthier than the alternatives that add milk and creamer, so you should try to refrain from adding too much to truly enjoy both the health benefits and bold flavors.
Do you add sugar to black coffee?
The main reasons for drinking coffee black are to avoid milk and creamer or to have a healthier drink. If you are simply avoiding dairy, you can add sugar to your black coffee. If you are drinking it black for the health benefits, then it is best to skip the sugar.
Time to Get Brewing!
Learning how to make a flavorful cup of black coffee is a great way to try out new coffee bean flavors and perfect your brew methods. This manner of drinking coffee leaves no room for error, and any mistakes you make will be evident.
Give yourself time to play around with the brew method, and try new beans to find the ones that work for you. If you are looking to try the French press method to brew up some delicious black coffee, here are some of the best beans for a French press.