A Guide to Coffee Brewing

Today’s post was written and inspired by Ben Blake (of Mount Vernon, Ohio). He loves coffee, blogs over at Draw Coffee, is an amazing illustrator, and I’m excited for him to share his knowledge of coffee here on my blog. I mean…I love coffee and honestly a lot of the methods he explains below really changed my coffee-life. Enjoy!

Three weeks ago, I retired my automatic drip-brew coffee maker for good. Abandoning the “convenience” of tossing some coffee in a plastic pot and pressing a button, I’ve spent the last two years trying out different brewing methods and the results have been fantastic. I’m convinced that if you’re willing to put just a little bit more time into the process of making coffee, you’ll be surprised at how much more enjoyable it can be.

Here are just a few methods you can try:

1. The Pourover: I use a Hario V60. The pourover is a simple cone that you can set right on top of your mug. Once you heat your water to the right temperature, the idea is simple. Pour hot water over freshly ground coffee and into your cup. The pourover gives you control over the temperature of your water, the speed at which you pour, and ensures you’re saturating all the grounds evenly. The pourover makes great coffee and is simple to use.

2. The French Press: The french press has always been a great “next step” for those who are getting serious about their coffee. It’s really easy – place coffee grounds into the pot, steep them in hot water, and press the filter down. The benefit of a french press is the “full immersion” that the grounds go through. Steeping the grounds in hot water for such a long time (about 4 minutes), rather than just pouring water over and through them, allows many of the natural oils and features of the bean to shine. Plus, the mesh filter doesn’t absorb the oils, allowing for a much more full-tasting, flavorful cup. Beware the grit at the bottom of your cup – the french press filter misses some of the more fine grinds!

3. The AeroPress: First off, let’s get this out of the way. The AeroPress looks like a cheap play toy — but don’t let that fool you. Made by the creator of the Aerobie Flying Disc, the AeroPress employs a full-immersion brewing technique much like the french press, and is my personal favorite way to make coffee. The combination of full-immersion brewing and the air pressure used to press the coffee makes for a flavor-packed cup of coffee that limits acidity and produces a much more clean cup of coffee than the french press. In short, you get the mind blowing flavor-benefits of the french press (perhaps more) with none of the grit. Whenever I’m trying a new coffee, it goes through my AeroPress first.

4. The Chemex: The Chemex is a beautiful piece of glass designed by a German scientist in the early 1940’s. The actual brewing technique basically mimics that of a pourover – the difference lies within the Chemex filters. These filters are specially bonded to remove “unwanted oils and fats” that make coffee taste bitter. I love everything about the chemex, and proudly display it on my shelf. It’s that beautiful. Expect a rich, smooth, clean cup of coffee with the Chemex.

5. Siphon Brewer: One of the oldest styles of making coffee, the siphon combines full immersion brewing with a filter, and produces a clean, extremely bright cup of coffee. Water is heated over a heat source in the lower chamber, and rises to the top. Coffee grounds are added, allowed to steep, and the pot is removed from heat, causing the coffee to drop back down through the siphon, straight through the filter.  I had my first siphon at Intelligentsia Millenium Park, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. It’s a bit tricky to master at home, but it’s a very intimate, involved way to brew coffee – I’ve had some of my favorite cups of coffee made in a siphon.

Brewing coffee is more than just pressing a button. For some, it’s an art form, and for others, like me, it’s a hobby.

Each method I’ve tried accentuates different features of the coffee, and has truly increased my appreciation for the entire process. I encourage you to dive into your coffee a bit more – find some locally roasted coffee, buy a grinder, pick up a new brewing method. It doesn’t take much effort, and the end result is a great cup of coffee, full of flavor and made with care.

The methods outlined here are basic summaries, and only scratch the surface. More in depth instructions can be found all over the internet. Some of my favorite places to look for brewing methods and techniques are brewmethods.comdearcoffeeiloveyou.com, and intelligentsia.com.

February 3, 2012