So Many Brews, So Little Time
Hey Coffee Fans!
We thought we'd stop for a moment this week and get back to basics. Learning to craft the perfect pourover or espresso is great, but is it right for you? Our goal at Seattle Coffee Gear is to help you make coffee you love! With that in mind, we wanted to provide an overview of what several different brew methods are actually like.
Drip brewed coffee is a true classic. The combination of convenience and ability to brew large quantities at once makes this the most popular brew method in the world for a reason. The thing most people don't realize though is that more goes into drip brewing than meets the eye. Proper extraction requires proper water temp and distribution through the grounds. Cheap drip brewers tend to overheat above the recommended 195f to 205f that is recommended for coffee. On top of that, these brewers will often drip water right into the middle of the filter. This means that water isn't saturating all of the coffee, which leads to a scorched, thinner cup.
When buying a brewer, consider one that offers temperature control or brews in the 195-205f range. You'll also want to consider a brewer that has an auto shut off warming plate that won't scorch your coffee in the carafe (or, if you don't mind stainless steel, go with that material for your carafe). Finally, a spray arm that evenly distributes water in the grounds is important.
Drip brewed coffee tends to be the most basic taste. You lose some of the complexity of more delicate roasts, while maintaining the bitterness and acidity pourover gets around. This can be mitigated with pre-infusion, which blooms the coffee (saturating with water to release acid), something many nicer drip brewers offer. Despite some negatives in the taste department, drip brewed coffee is the standard that most coffee drinkers learn about first.
Pourover is the same principle as drip brewed coffee, but with a bit of a lighter touch. This brew method involves brewing coffee by manually pouring water over the grounds through a filter. The nice thing about this is that you can directly control everything about the brew process. Pourover begins with a bloom, where you pour a small amount of water into the grounds to saturate them and release acid. This is followed by your first draw. In this stage, you'll pour the water in a motion spiraling out from the center, so that you can evenly saturate the grounds with water. After a first draw, you'll wait and perform another draw, this time rotating inward, to catch grounds on the sides of the filter.
The result is delicate, delicious coffee that gets rid of the bitterness and scorched taste of cheaper drip brewers. The downside though, is that pourover is a time consuming process that takes practice. You'll want to measure your grind, the ratio of coffee to water, and things like kettle temp and flow rate as you go. It's a complex brew method that may not be worth the better taste at 6:00 in the morning.
Press brewed coffee is strong and thick. To brew in a press, you'll add coarse grounds and hot water, then stir vigorously and leave to brew for 10 minutes or so. After waiting, you'll plunge the press, forcing the water through the grounds and simultaneously separating them. The result is a strong, well saturated coffee that misses all of the delicate notes in flavor of offering rich chocolatey coffee taste. Best used on darker roasts, press brewed coffee definitely is a different experience than filtered brewing.
The most complex, expensive way to prepare coffee. Espresso brewing involves pressurized water being pressed through a puck of finely ground coffee. This brew method creates incredibly rich, creamy, and sweet flavors, which is why it goes so well with steamed milk. Some may find espresso to be too strong, it's also far more caffeinated than other brew methods due to the concentrated extraction.
Those things come down to taste, where the biggest hurdle for brewing espresso is cost and learning curve. Even on the low end, a proper espresso setup costs hundreds of dollars. You'll need a good burr grinder to be able to grind fine enough for espresso, as well as a specialized machine. On top of that, learning how to properly dial in a shot takes time and patience (though we do provide plenty of guides and resources for it).
With these concepts in mind, it's important to know that there are even more ways to brew out there, these are just the most common. We'll talk more about some more adventurous methods, like Turkish, in the future!