How to Brew Good Filter Coffee: Coffee Brewing Methods
Last time we focused on the fundamentals of coffee brewing. This time we will concentrate on different coffee brewing methods! I’m, as a Finn, a big fan of filter coffee. Many think that coffee is just a way to survive through your day, kind of fuel for the body but I think it’s really complex and interesting thing to experiment with. So many wonderful and clear tastes!
Traditional coffee brewer
Coffee brewers are easy. About 90% of the Finnish people start their day with filter coffee brewed by a traditional coffee brewer. Basically everyone knows how to use them. Measure your beans and water and you’re good to go. Remember to use fresh water and a separate pitcher to add the water to the brewer with a different pitcher than the glass pot from the brewer.
I’ve noticed that the biggest difference between cheap and expensive brewers is how temperature stable they are and how do them distribute water to the coffee bed. Cheaper brewer might not heat the water to adequate temperature thus not brewing all the flavors from the coffee. Also water distribution might be too “simple” when the brewer is distributing water only to the middle of the coffee bed which doesn’t brew evenly all the flavors. Rule of thumb is that more expensive brewers do these things better and cheaper ones do these things not so well.
Commercial coffee brewers have advanced a lot during the recent years. Nowadays you are able to have same kind of results with coffee brewers than with manual brewing. You can set up different recipes with the brewers (blooming time, blooming temperature, water flow, water temperature). Unfortunately, these brewers aren’t that common, at least here in Finland, because they are quite expensive. But these are going to be the future of coffee brewers and we are able to set up recipes for different coffees and get the best out of them in an easy way.
How to brew coffee manually and what are the differences between brewing methods?
Pour over and other manual brewing methods are my absolute favorites. There is something super interesting about brewing your coffee manually and making it taste better. Also one reason behind the better taste is that with manual brewing the process is much more precise and controllable. I actually gave my coffee brewer to a friend because I fell in love with manual brewing methods and noticed that I wasn't using my coffee brewer anymore.
How to brew coffee with pour over? Watch our video here and learn!
For all of these methods you will need a scale, a grinder, a water boiler, a timer and also a kettle comes in handy. Kettles are in many shapes and sizes but the most important factor is that the kettle has a goose neck so that the water distribution is as controllable as possible.
Hario v60, Kalita Wave
Hario v60 is probably the most common way to brew a single cup manually. Hario had concentrated on manufacturing glassware, especially laboratory equipment, until the late 1950’s when they expanded to kitchenware and invented the v60. But it was 1980’s when Hario started to manufacture the v60 commercially. The v60 gets its name from the 60-degree angle created by the shape of its cone. There are three critical things that make the v60 a unique dripper method;
1. The 60-degree angle; the coffee puck is shaped so that water and coffee have longer contact time.
2. The large hole; you are able to alter speed of your dripper technique and get different flavours.
3. The spiral ribs; these allow the air to escape from the dripper which enables the coffee grounds to expand.
In my own experience, the v60 produces quite a clean and balanced cup. There isn’t going to be much sediment or coffee fat in your cup so the taste profile is quite often medium bodied. But you are able to alter that with your dripping technique. If you pour water slowly to the coffee bed, the water will run through the bed slower and make the cup have more body. On the other hand if you pour aggressively and fast, you will have lighter bodied cup. The most important rule is to pour evenly, preferably in circles, so that your coffee will brew evenly.
Hario v60 does look nice in your kitchen, especially the copper version, but if I was to choose between them just based on looks, I would definitely go with Kalita Wave. The Wave has a flat bottom which makes the coffee taste a bit different compared to the v60. The flat bottom makes even extraction easier and the three extraction holes prevent channeling in the coffee bed (channeling means that the water runs through channels in the coffee bed rather than the coffee bed itself). These factors make the cup taste extra clean and crisp.
Chemex was invented by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in the early 1940’s when he wanted to have something that would brew enjoyable cup of coffee but at the same time be a thing of beauty. He had excellent background for this task being a chemist so he understood the factors behind extraction. In my opinion he hit a homerun in both beauty and taste. What makes Chemex unique, besides looks, is its double bonded paper filter which have a big effect on the taste nuances in your cup. The double filter paper filters most of the fats and fibers that coffee has. The fats and fibers are the ones which make the coffee have full bodied flavor and kind of syrapy mouthfeel.
Due to the great flavors from Chemex, it is also the hardest to use. It requires a bit coarser grind than v60, Aeropress or Wave and creating a good recipe requires excellent and precise dripping technique. Start from the middle and again use spiral moves until you hit the edges. I’ve noticed that with Chemex you have to drip a bit more aggressively to achieve adequate brew time.
We haven’t talked about brew time yet. Brew time means the time that water and ground coffee are in contact. With filter coffee there are two methods how water and coffee can interact with each other; flow through and immersion. Flow through is the more traditional method to make filter coffee where the water flows through the coffee. This method is used in coffee brewers, v60, Chemex and many more. Immersion is the not that common way where the water and the coffee are freely in same space for a certain time and filtered after that. Immersion is used in French press, Aeropress and Clever Dripper for example. To make things even more confusing I have to mention that Aeropress and Clever are both actually hybrids where you have both flow through and immersion.
AeroPress is a brilliant device because it is so versatile to use. You are able to play around with grind size, water temperature, agitation and the list goes on. Let your imagination flow and taste the results! It is also perfect for traveling due to its compact size.
Aeropress was a real game changer when it came to the coffee markets about 10 years ago. A small, light and easy to use brewer which seemed almost impossible to brew bad coffee with. There was a hipster aspect as well because not many people were able to guess that Aeropress is a coffee brewing device. I can still remember 6-7 years back that some Finnish cafés took Aeropress to their selection and what a huge pleasure the first sip was.
Aeropress was invented by Stanford professor Allan Adler who has invented other funny looking plastic things (such as new type of Frisbee) with his company Aerobie. Adler came up with the idea of Aeropress, when his employee’s wife had been complaining about the difficulty of brewing a single cup at a time.
The brewing method(s) is the difference which makes Aeropress so unique. First you will have immersion in the chamber for a minute or so and after that flow through with pressure which is created by the chamber and the plunger. In the cup you will have best of both sides; full bodied coffee from the immersion method (similar to French press) and clean and crisp flavors from the flow through (such as Chemex). In my opinion the best way to describe the flavor is saying it is really dramatic. Aeropress will make an Ethiopian coffee which has flavor notes of blueberry taste like you would have fresh blueberries in your cup. Try it out and taste yourself!
Clever dripper is one of the newest guys on the block. If you like full bodied coffee but with crisp flavors and without any sediment that you get when brewing with French press, then Clever Dripper could definitely be your choice.
Clever Dripper is maybe the easiest way to brew from all the methods I have mentioned here. Clever dripper has a release mechanism on the bottom which drains the dripper from water when placed on a cup. Put your medium coarse coffee to the pre-wet paper filter, add hot water and let it steep for 2-3 minutes. When you have had it to steep for the desired time, just place the Clever Dripper on a cup when the coffee drains into the cup. This draw down should take 1-1,5 minutes. If it takes longer, make your grind coarser. It takes less time, make your grind finer.
One more great thing about Clever Dripper is that you can use the same filter papers (e.g. Melitta) as in your coffee brewer. Chemex, Aeropress, v60 and Wave all need specific filter papers which you need to go buy from a coffee related store.
Which one to choose?
What kind of coffee do you like? Full bodied or lighter? Crisp or balanced flavors? Choose your brewing method according to your taste. I have put together a diagram below which demonstrates the different taste nuances from each brewing method so it is easy to choose your weapon!