Which coffee brewing method is best for your tastes?

Pour over, french press, Chemex, the science-y Syphon?

^ Here we see the coffee geek (c’est moi) in his natural habitat

Alright, all you basics. You PSL’ers and extra-caramel caramel macchiato’ers. I’ll give you fair warning right now: this post will probably bore you. This isn’t about Starbucks secret menu drinks or frappucinos; this is about coffee in the same way Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins are quality pastries.This is the bare bones stuff. This is for the people who want to savor coffee and the experience it offers for more than just the cream and sugar put in it. This is about appreciating the coffee bean at its core. For those who want to get the full taste, warmth, and complexity out of each cup they brew. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against sweetened coffees – a vanilla latte or caramel macchiato can do wonders for me when I’m both sleep-deprived AND craving something sweet. I just wanted to give fair warning to those who don’t look at the coffee they drink much beyond the taste and how many pumps of flavor go into it.

Whether you already consider yourself a coffee afficionado or just want to learn more about your daily dose of caffiene, this post will aim to differentiate between different brew methods and which would best suit you based on your situation (and tastes!). In future posts, I will go into growing regions, roasting processes, etc. But for my first coffee-centric post, I wanted to start with something that nearly all home coffee drinkers can relate to – how to make it taste good. 

I don’t claim years of expertise on this subject – in fact, I’ve only been genuinely interested in coffee culture for about two years. I do claim a passion for it though. I’ve loved coffee since the first sip I’ve had, but only recently have I truly begun to appreciate the work that goes into growing it, the care that goes into tasting it, and the love that goes into preparing quality drinks with it. My work as a barista has allowed me many chances I wouldn’t get otherwise to really delve deep into coffee culture, and I’m grateful for those opportunites. That being said, I know that many people out there love their coffee, but don’t know the heart and soul of preparing it to make it the best it can be. So, without further ado, brew methods!

….but before that! Only you know how much coffee you can handle, so I won’t be listing specific sizes for each of these brew methods. However, a commonly followed rule for coffee brewing is:

                    2 tbsp. coffee per 6 oz. water (ideal water temp. just below boiling, just above 200F)

For each brew method I’ll list the ideal brew time and coffee grind (coarse, fine, or somewhere in between), as well as the differences between each end result, which should hopefully help inform your brewing decisions. Coffee brewing is largely about preference, so feel free to skew that formula a bit as you please. But for newbie brewers, this is a good starting point. So, with that in mind, let’s actually get started.

Pour over (V60)


How it works: The pour over method is as simple as it gets. Also known as drip brewing or gravity brew, this method is completed with a cone shaped funnel being put into either a stand with a vessel below it (as shown above) or straight onto the cup. A paper filter is placed inside, folded along the seams and rinsed with hot water. After rinsing the filter, emtpy the rinse water and add the grounds directly into the filter, pour roughly 1/4-1/5 of the water over the grounds, saturating them enough so that they all get wet, allowing the coffee to “bloom.” After 30 seconds, pour more water over the coffee. Upon 90 seconds, all of your water should be poured over the grinds. Allow it to finish dripping.

Overall brew time: 2:30-3:00 mins for 15g of coffee

Grind size: Medium fine

End result: A clean, medium bodied brew

Chemex


How it works: At first glance, a Chemex appears very similar to a regular pour over method. In many ways, it is – they both brew coffee by letting gravity do the work, drawing water down through the grounds and into a chamber. The big difference between the two comes down to the filter. Both use a paper filter, but the Chemex’s is much thicker. As such, the coffee produced is much cleaner and, depending on the coffee, tangy. The Chemex method is great for entertaining groups, and even the stingiest of people can’t deny it looks pretty. Like the pour over method, add a filter to the top chamber, putting the triple-layered side facing the pour spout (this allows a proper rate of flow from the top chamber.) Rinse the filter through and empty the rinse water, and proceed to follow the same method as a common pour over. Pour just enough water to rinse the grounds completely, allow them to bloom, then add the rest of the water over a 90 second mark.

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 25g of coffee

Grind size: Medium

End result: A clean, fairly light brew

Coffee (French) Press


How it works: One of the most reliable, hardy brew methods, the French Press (or cafetière, as it’s officially called) has loyal followers all around the globe. Often recommended as a beginner’s brew method, the French Press makes a great cup of coffee simply by taking water, coffee grounds, and time. Take your 55-60g of coffee and insert in into the press. For an 8-cup press (the most common kind), pour 850g of just below boiling water over the grounds, make sure to evenly distribute the water as much as possible. Place the plunger cap on, but do not press down yet. Set a timer for four minutes, and then stir the grounds/water three times with a spoon. Place the plunger cap back on, and push down. The metal mesh filter will push the coffee grinds down to the bottom of the press, while leaving the brewed coffee ready to be poured from the spout. (Note: Cups of coffee brewed on a French Press will very often have a small amount of grinds in the bottom of each cup. This is normal and very rarely affects the taste – it is simply a side effect of the metal mesh filter on the plunger.)

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 55-60g of coffee

Grind size: Coarse 

End result: Heavy-bodied, fuller tasting coffee and complex, roasty flavors

AeroPress


How it works:  The AeroPress is a newcomer in the game of coffee. Light, portable, and quite cheap, it stands as the preferred brew method for travellers. It comes in two seperate pieces, a bottom chamber, and a plunger-like top chamber used to extract the coffee. They are pictured above together. To start, place a paper filter into the AeroPress cap and secure it to the cap. Place it over your cup directly, with the cap facing down. Run hot water through the AeroPress, which serves both to rinse the vessel and preheat it. Discard the rinse water, then insert your ground coffee into the contraption. Pour in 250g of water, ensuring that all ground are wet. Using a spoon, gently stir the coffee inside for 20-30 seconds. At an angle, insert the plunger, then pull it up slightly to create a vacuum. Let it steep for another 30-60 seconds, then plunge. Be careful – make sure to push down evenly and not to one side, unless you want to end up with coffee all over the counter. Put your back into it! Extracting all of the coffee should take roughly 30 seconds.

Overall brew time: 2 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A medium-bodied cup, with a fairly intricate flavor profile

Syphon


How it works: One of the most unique brewing methods out there, the Syphon (or Siphon, depending on where you’re from) has been around for nearly two centuries, mixing coffee with science and beaker-like containers. Keep in mind that for this method, not only will you need an actual Syphon, but also a heat source to fit under it, such as a burner or a halogen bulb (as pictured above). To begin, add 385g of water to the bottom, bulb-like chamber. Activate your heat source, allowing the water to reach a gentle simmer. Whilst waiting for the water to reach that simmer, take the two metal discs (filter assembly) and add the pre-cut circular paper filter in between them, screwing the discs together to hold it in place. Using the chain hanging from the filter assembly, fit the hook through the tube of the top chamber, hooking it to the bottom rim of said tube. Once your water has reached a simmer, gently put the top chamber into the bottom, making sure the seal is airtight. This will create a vacuum, and between it and the now boiling water, the water will rise to the top chamber. A small amount of water will remain in the bottom chamber – this is normal. This keeps the bottom chamber from overheating while the water is in the top chamber. Once most of the water has risen, add 25g of coffee directly in, stirring gently to ensure all grounds are wet. Reduce the heat to a medium-low, allowing the coffee to brew in the top chamber for 90 seconds, evenly stirring 2-3 times during the process. After 90 seconds, remove the heat and the coffee will flow down to the bottom chamber, with the paper filter keeping the grounds in the top.

Overall brew time: Depends on the strength of the heat source, but the coffee grounds and water should be in contact for about 1:30-2:00 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A unique, very aromatic cup of coffee, clean with a complex flavor range

So there’s my spiel. Again, I’m no expert on all things coffee, but I like a good cup of coffee just as much as the next guy. If you’re out shopping and see one of these brew methods, check to see if it results in a cup of coffee catering to your preference. You could end up finding a new favorite!

– Ryan

Author: Ryan

23, Chicago, mentally all over the place.

3 thoughts on “Which coffee brewing method is best for your tastes?”

  1. Great article! I was a barista for a year and really enjoyed it. I use my aeropress exclusively now, but I do enjoy a good french press as well!

    My current recipe for the aeropress is 17-18 grams of coffee and 270 grams water. I pour water to the 1 line (about 50 grams or so) and let it bloom for 25 seconds. I then quickly pour the rest of the water in and do a very, very slow plunge. I aim for a total time of 1:40 seconds. Not sure if this is the best way, but I’m open to experimenting with new recipes! I always struggle with getting the grind right though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great! I’ve thought about picking up a Chemex since I heard it makes a great cup of coffee, but the fact that it’s the only method on your list to result in a lighter brew makes me a bit more tentative; I like my coffee dark, fierce, bitter and strong. Thanks for the read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, thanks for reading! I’m the same exact way – I prefer my coffee roasty and nutty, which is why, although I can appreciate the Chemex, I wouldn’t trade the my French press for the world.

      Like

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