Coffee, why can’t the French make it?

November 3, 2014 by
Filed under: France 

French coffee is always a disappointment to me!

I’ve been living in France now for nearly nine years and the only places I’ve managed to have a decent coffee served is by foreign run bars/cafés.

That’s actually not totally true as I have made my own coffee in French run bars whilst demonstrating how to make a coffee properly.

Maybe it’s different in other parts of France, but I doubt it. I’ve been visiting and working in France since I was about nineteen and I don’t remember a decent cup – anywhere.
So am I a really fussy snobbish coffee bore? I don’t think so. What I do expect though is:
A decent crema
Good strength – not too weak
If with milk a nice head either frothed or smooth.

So when you watch a French person make a coffee the first thing normally seen is the beans are already ground ready for the whole day (if not the week).

Two flicks under the grinder into the groupset (the silver container with a handle) and then a split second press with the grinders built in press.
(I have never seen a tamper ever used). This obviously results in the pressurised water from the machine pouring straight through the coffee making it fairly tasteless and with little crema.

They have the equipment! When I stayed near Biarritz in the Basque country the Basque run cafés made decent coffee and also over the border in Spain.
Milk: How not to prepare milk for a coffee (all types).
Only put the minimum amount of milk necessary to make the order.
Put it under the milk spout on full then walk away and do something else whilst the milk over froths. If there’s lots of bubbles in your milk it’s not been frothed correctly whether you want a café au lait or a cappuccino.

How the French should make coffee.
Put the coffee freshly ground into the groupset, press firmly with either the built in tamper or ideally a correct sized individual tamper.
The pressurised hot water should then pour slowly through the coffee grains. (Depending on lots of things but about eighteen seconds for an espresso).

Fill a metal jug with milk sufficiently for at least double if not triple the amount you need for one cup. Or two thirds full for a small jug (ideally bell shaped with a sprout). Then place the milk wand into the jug and turn on and either lift jug gently up and down or as I do create a vortex with milk until the correct consistency is reached. It starts off bubbly and gradually turns to a nice smooth mousse.
Pour and enjoy.

French coffee made by me!

French coffee made by me!











Further reading:

Coffee, why can’t the French make it?


One Comment on Coffee, why can’t the French make it?

  1. SteveP on Tue, 4th Nov 2014 9:51 am
  2. I’ve heard it said that the first rule of good coffee is that the person making it should like coffee 🙂 And then taste the first three shots every day. I agree with you – I so often see all the “right” equipment but the wrong technique. But then Starbucks has made millions selling coffee to people who apparently don’t actually like coffee (a double vanilla cream syrup what????)

    Spain, Italy, Portugal – the tiniest village or roadside café will have good coffee. France? Unlikely. C’est la vie

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