Coffee Nerds 101: The 5 brewing methods that every coffee nerd should master
When somebody asks for ‘a cup of coffee’ does your head fill to the brim with a flurry of follow-up questions? Light or dark roast? Moka pot brew or French Press?
Yep, we’re with you, and this second instalment of our Coffee Nerds 101 post series is for you.
You’re so deep into the coffee-verse that just a cup of coffee can mean so many things, and what kind of coffee it will be is largely defined by what brewing method you use.
Here are 5 of the most popular brewing methods, summarised:
1. Moka pot
The moka pot brewing method is like the gentler version to the espresso method. Gentler on the coffee, that is.
Like with an espresso machine, steam pressure pushes the water through your perfectly ground coffee, but at a much lower pressure. However, this doesn’t mean the flavours are gentle. On the contrary, moka pot coffee is bold in flavour. It may lack the crema that the espresso comes with, but it’s a great alternative when you're craving a robust coffee when you can’t get your hands on a big, expensive espresso machine.
Our tips when brewing moka pot style:
- fill your moka pot with hot water instead of cold water
- remove the pot from the heat once brewing is almost done (when you hear that beautiful sound of the coffee bubbling up to the top)
- serve in a cup as soon as brewing is done to avoid burning
2. French Press
The french press is a glorious invention when you consider its simplicity – a beaker with a plunger/ filter in it that separates coffee grinds from water as it slowly pushes down. It’s also a beautiful thing to watch, right?
As you may have guessed, it’s a French invention from the 1800s.
The prep is as simple as it looks (that is, if you grind your coffee correctly) – pour hot water over coffee grinds and let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes and then let the plunging begin (but go slowly, exerting steady pressure all the way down).
This is one versatile brewing method. Making slight tweaks can deliver very different flavours, and the secret is in the grind. Make sure you have a medium coarseness in your grind as very coarse grinds will clog up your filter and fine grinds will end up in your brew as they sneak past the filter. Those sneaky little grinds!
Our tip when brewing French Press style:
- use a coarse grind
- steep for between 3 to 5 minutes
- serve immediately after steeping is complete
3. V60 pour over
The V60 brewing method may look like a science project, however, nobody should let the seemingly fiddly V60 method intimidate them.
This is a manual brewing classic that delivers – if done well – a delicately flavoured coffee with every flavour element flaunting their stuff on your palate.
The method involves the V60 pour over filter and a cup/ decanter.
First you grind and measure your coffee. While it’s good to use scales for all of the brewing methods in this list, they will be particularly your best friend when undertaking the V60. You’ll thank yourself for practising precision once you have the end result hit your taste buds.
You place a paper filter in the top of the V60 and add the coffee that you’ve ground to perfection in there (we recommend wetting the paper, the filter and the cup/ decanter before adding the coffee). Then you pour measured amounts of water over the coffee with a rotating movement before swirling the cup/decanter and taking your first sip.
The V60 pour over method is a process that requires patience and precision to pull it off right. You’ve got to measure the amount of water and coffee you add on several occasions throughout the process, and allow the coffee to sit in between.
However, what you’re rewarded with is a coffee with crazy complex flavours.
Our tip when brewing V60 pour over style:
- opt for a light roast
- your grind size should be comparable to brown sugar
- when it comes to blooming – add a bit of water and wait 30–40 seconds; add the rest of the water and wait another 50 seconds. Let it bloom no longer than 1 minute and 30 seconds
- once you’ve done the blooming part, rock your V60 in a east-west/right-left, and then north-south/up-down direction. Do this three times. This will create an even and flat structure on top keep in mind: every gram of coffee will absorb 2 grams of water. Be super precise with your doses.
This is the most common way your coffee is brewed in a cafe, however, few embark on this method at home as it requires a huge, expensive machine to do it right.
High-pressurised hot water is passed through a layer of compact finely ground coffee in a porta-filter. From this, you get a shot of intense concentrated coffee, with a lot of body and flavour.
Our tip when brewing Espresso style:
- make your grind size fine
- evenly distribute the coffee grinds in your portafilter and tamp until it’s all nicely condensed
- extraction should last between 20 and 30 seconds
- recommended ratio is 1:2 (one part coffee grind equals two times of espresso)
This method only came about in 2005 when Stanford professor, Alan Adler, came up with the gadget that it’s made with - the Aeropress.
Our fellow coffee-lover Adler came up with this as he wanted to find a way to produce coffee with a great flavour, minus the acidity and bitterness. Since then, Aeropress championships have become a thing, and the brewing method has become a cult favourite. This may have something to do with it being one of the most versatile brewing methods out there!
Coffee nerds all over experiment with different temperatures, coffee grind sizes and methods to create the perfect Aeropress brew
Not only does it have a cool origin story, but the AeroPress produces a stellar smooth cup of coffee that’s low in acidity.
The way it works is that through the use of air pressure, you put your coffee grinds into a Aeropress with hot water, and then push the trapped air down into the brew chamber using the plunger. This forces the water through your coffee and the paper filter, and into your cup.
The beauty of this little gadget is that it needs very little cleaning and is relatively simple to use. Oh, and plus it creates awesome coffee!
Our tip when brewing Aeropress style:
- use the inverted method – flip your Aeropress upside down and immerse the coffee grounds in water for a longer period
- ideal brewing time should be between 2 to 3 minutes
- try out the bypass brewing method – make a concentrated Aeropress coffee and add hot water to it
Know your grind level
As mentioned above, the grind level of your coffee impacts the flavour and you should adjust it according to your preferred brewing method. We’ve pulled together this infographic on how to get the perfect balance for your coffee preference.
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