Coffee is a personal preference, and the correct way to brew it is how you like it best. Any cup of great coffee begins with acquiring great beans. If a decade ago someone were to ask you, How do you brew your coffee? Your answer would most probably be either instant coffee or espresso, right?
Today, with all these new, high & low-tech brewing techniques, you may have a tough time deciding on your go-to method for a cup of java. You may swear by your trusty Moka pot or your grandmother’s favorite French press or the rather elegant Chemex, but without trying them all, how do you know what you’re missing?
This short guide will walk you through a few popular methods for brewing a good cup of joe. From age-old to new-age techniques, we hope this guide will excite you to brew coffee at home in ways beyond the household automatic coffee maker.
Coffee aficionados might insist that instant coffee isn’t real coffee, but despite personal feelings, we must admit that it is! And to justify this statement, let’s see what it is and how it is made.
Instant coffee is a type of brew made using dried or dehydrated coffee extract. Just how regular coffee is made by brewing ground coffee beans, this dried coffee extract is made by brewing ground coffee beans. Once brewed, all the water is removed from the brewed coffee, leaving behind dehydrated granules or crystals.
These crystals are what you get in stores as instant coffee. The most common way of preparing a cup of instant coffee is by adding a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to a cup of hot water. While instant coffee is very portable, affordable, and easy to make, it lacks the richness of a brew made using an espresso machine or manual brewing techniques.
Manual Brewing Techniques
Manual brewing methods allow for a higher degree of quality control and arguably a superior coffee experience. But putting that argument aside, it’s just a lot more fun in having a hands-on approach with the coffee brewing process rather than pressing a button on some automated machine. This growing trend of gourmet-style coffee making has resulted in an astonishing range of gadgets and devices. Following is an attempt to classify these devices as a function of their operation:
● Pour over/drip – Coffee Cone, Chemex
● Plunger/Press – French press, Aeropress
● Percolation – Moka Pot
Following are some tips on using a few popular, affordable, small-batch coffee brewing devices.
This is one of the oldest, cheapest, simplest, and consecutively the fastest ways to brew coffee. The two components used are a coffee cone and a paper filter. The paper filter is first rinsed with hot water to eliminate the taste of paper in the final product and to seal the filter on the cone.
After putting the filter in the cone, add medium-fine to coarsely ground coffee to the filter and pour boiling water evenly and in a circular motion onto the grounds. Wait for 30 seconds, allowing the grounds to bloom, and continue pouring boiling water till the coffee grounds are fully saturated, and you have reached your desired final brew weight. Gravity does the rest, and brewed coffee drips slowly and directly into a cup or pot placed underneath the cone.
The grind size of the coffee, the shape of the cone, and the quality of paper filters will significantly influence the flavor of the final product.
Chemex is an elegantly designed pour over glass flask invented by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. It looks more like a glass vase or a decanter than a coffee brewer. The primary benefit of a Chemex over other drippers is its brewing capacity – you can easily make 3 to 4 cups at a time.
It works similarly to the previous pour over; boiling water is poured evenly and in a circular manner over medium-coarsely ground coffee in a paper filter. But a Chemex uses special filter papers made from laboratory-grade filter papers, which are 20-30% thicker than regular paper filters. A typical Chemex brew is far less bitter than that produced using any other method, and the full credit for that is attributed to those special filters. Chemex filters allow for proper steeping time of coffee grounds. This regulation of filtration rate gives your coffee a richer flavor while filtering out the unwanted oils and fats that make coffee bitter.
A Chemex is really for those who love the taste of a pour-over coffee and want something that doubles a piece of art.
The French press method, invented in 1929, has an almost cult-like following in the home barista community. It has been used for brewing coffee in households since before your grandparents were born. Its widespread use can be attributed to various reasons, but our money is on the fact that brewing using a french press is super easy, and you can pick it up from any store for pocket change (almost).
The procedure couldn’t be any simpler! You add ground coffee to the carafe (glass container), fill it with boiling water, and to ensure that all of the coffee is entirely soaked, give it a quick stir. Then, wait for four minutes, put on the lid, and gently depress the plunger all the way down to press all of the coffee grounds to the bottom of the carafe.
The French press, rather than letting water pass through the grounds, brews coffee by soaking the coffee grounds directly in hot water, hence using the right coffee grind is paramount for a robust and richer tasting brew. You want a coarser grind than what you use for a drip coffee; since the coffee is in constant contact with water, a finely ground coffee will result in a bitter-tasting over-extracted brew. As no paper filters are used in the process, the taste of coffee is richer, because no flavourful oils are lost in the process.
Pro Tip: The brew can get sludgy and over-extracted if it sits in the french press for too long because even after the plunger has been pushed down, the brew is still in contact with the coffee grounds. So, as soon as your coffee is brewed, decant it into a mug.
It’s the new kid on the block, created in 2005 by the maker of Aerobie Frisbee, Alan Adler. An AeroPress looks more like a science project rather than a coffee brewer. It is one of the fastest coffee makers, and its compact and lightweight design makes it excellent for brewing coffee while traveling or camping. This simple three-piece tool functions in the same way that a syringe would, and it allows you to make regular coffee, cold brew, and even an almost espresso.
AeroPress’ 3 part structure includes a plunger at the top, a brew chamber, and a filter cap at the bottom. A replaceable paper filter sits at the bottom of the brew chamber in the filter cap. Now, add medium-finely ground coffee to the brew chamber, and then immerse them in hot water. Put on the plunger and let it steep for two minutes, then the plunger is gently but firmly pressed down, forcing the brewed coffee through the filter and into a cup.
Looking for that espresso-shot-like kick but don’t want to spend a few hundred bucks on an espresso machine? This Italian invention called the Moka Pot is the next best thing. Invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, this stovetop espresso maker uses a three-chambered brew process to make a pressurized brew that provides you with a bittersweet, super-strong concoction. A typical Bialetti Moka pot can brew either 3, 4, or 6 cups at a time. You’ll want to use a grind size that is somewhere in between that of espresso and an automated dripper.
Following is a short guide on brewing coffee using a Moka pot.
1. Pour hot water into the bottom chamber.
2. Fill the funnel-like middle chamber with coffee grounds. Do not tamp it!
3. Put the funnel over the bottom chamber and screw the top and bottom halves shut.
4. Put the Moka pot on a gas stove. (It does not work on an induction stove)
Once on the stove, water from the bottom chamber boils, and the resulting steam creates pressure, forcing the water to rise up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber.
Craving for a good hassle-free iced coffee this summer? Cold brew is a simple method which neither requires barista-level skills nor does it call for any special equipment; all you need is a large container for making the coffee and a strainer.
In a large container, soak 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee in 4 cups of water. Give it a good stir before letting it steep for at least 12 hours. These 12 hours allow the coffee to gradually infuse into the water, creating a concentrated and robust brew. While the coffee steeps, you can store the container in a refrigerator. Do not let the coffee steep for more than 15 hours, and once the steeping period is over, strain the concoction through a fine-mesh strainer or a cheesecloth. Finally, serve the coffee over a few ice cubes, or if you prefer something sweeter, add milk and some honey to the brew.
There are a lot of factors affecting the taste and consistency of your brew, namely – the type of beans, freshness of said beans, grind size, the device used, coffee-to-water ratio, water temperature, brewing time, etc. But in the end, your preferred method of brewing coffee will boil down to your personal taste, available time, and skill!
Say you’re one of those people who enjoy the ambiance of a cafe, or you’re someone that enjoys coffee socially, or like most of us, you’d rather have someone else make your coffee. Click here to check out some of the best cafes in Dubai.