Not long ago, the coffee-brewing industry revolved around convenience. It was all about where you could you grab a hot cup of joe on the go, finding the fastest way to extract the caffeine out of those magical beans and inject it into your bloodstream.
Fortunately for all coffee lovers, the coffee culture has greatly evolved since then. Now, some coffee geeks are bravely roasting their own beans at home. The nerdiest are buzzing about the most-expensive beans — like civet coffee (known as “cat poop coffee”), or the newest strange coffee to join the scene, Black Ivory Coffee, which is similarly made using elephants. And others attend regulated coffee cupping rituals to evaluate and discover certain flavors, aromas, and nuances of different coffees.
But it doesn’t matter how fancy, refined, or perfectly-roasted your coffee beans are if you aren’t giving them a proper brew. By not focusing on how your coffee is made, you could be missing out on the beautiful flavors and aromas your specialty beans possess. I recently discovered the difference it makes at a home brewing class at Joe, a rapidly expanding small chain of coffee shops, where I learned of the many kinds of brewing gadgets and devices you can buy in order to make a better cup of coffee at home. Surely you’ve seen them before. They fill counters of high-end coffee shops across the country — various pour-over options and a range of different presses.
So if you’re still using your old-fashioned drip-style Mr. Coffee, it’s time for an upgrade. Or, if you’re not one for manual labor, then perhaps it’s a downgrade. Each of the devices below requires a bit more than the push of a button, but the end result is worth it. Only one will require more than five minutes of your time. No single method is better or more correct than another, though depending on your palate and your patience, you may prefer one device over the rest.
Here’s a primer on the two different categories of brewing equipment — filtration and immersion — to get you started. Be sure to also invest in a proper grinder, scale, and kettle. They are just as essential to making the perfect cup of joe. Follow the ratio of 1 part coffee to 16.6 parts water for each method and you’re golden.
As its name suggests, the process of making coffee with these devices involves coffee passing through a filter. They help bring out the specialties of the bean a little more, which results in a cup of coffee that is more delicate and nuanced. A bit of practice to perfect your pouring skills is necessary, but worth it. Concentrate on pouring in even, concentric circles and don’t hit the edges by the filter. You know it’s a good pour if the wet grinds are flat when you’re finished.
Perhaps the most well-known pour-over brewing device, the elegant hourglass shaped Chemex delivers a smooth, bitterness-free coffee. It makes eight cups of coffee at a time, so it’s a great option when brewing coffee for a group. Coffee should be brewed in no more than five minutes with a Chemex.
The V60 is designed to brew straight into a single cup, which makes it the perfect coffee brewing method for one person. With this method, you want to grind your coffee finely, which helps produce a coffee with balanced acidity and robust nutty aromas. For one cup, use 25 grams of coffee and 400 grams of water and brew for 2 minutes.
If you prefer your coffee to be rich and full-bodied, you’ll likely prefer one of these immersion methods. They require no pouring skills at all, and extract more oils and flavors from the beans than the above filtration methods do.
The French press is a classic. Chances are, you already own one. It produces a richer, darker, and fuller coffee with rich cocoa flavors. Try brewing darker roasts with your French press to bring out their natural richness.
The Eva Solo device may visually resemble a Chemex, but it brews like an upside down French press. This method is all about over-extraction. It produces a coffee that has all the rich flavors of French-pressed, but with a brighter taste and cleaner mouthfeel. Be sure to always decant into another vessel after four minutes or it will continue to brew.
Forget about dumping brewed coffee over ice, or waiting for a pour-over coffee to chill. This is the easiest and most flavorful way to make a cup of iced coffee, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. The vessel can be whatever you want – a mason jar, a pitcher, even a Tupperware container. Grind your beans coarsely, add the appropriate amount of water, and let it sit in cold water overnight for 18 hours.