In this post I wanted to discuss the different coffee brewing equipment and methods. One of the things I love about coffee is the variety, not just in terms of all the different coffees available, but also that the taste of coffee differs depending on the method chosen to brew it. I can decide to use my stainless steel cafetière or my glass one, my stove top, or I might use a bizarre looking but fast acting Aeropress, or get a v60 drip filter out of the cupboard – once it comes (I’ve just ordered it).
I know there are some people who have never tried other coffee brewing methods other than a cafetière or a pod machine, so if that describes you I hope this inspires you to try other brewing methods.
Cafetière / French Press.
Most people are familiar with the cafetière or French press, being one of the most popular brewing methods in the home. The funny thing about the “French press” is that an Italian person owns the patent to it… ;-).
Using a cafetière as you probably know is straight forward, basically you put ground coffee beans in, pour in the hot water, stir, plunge and then drink. I’ll write another post about brewing guides, but everyone seems to be slightly different when it comes to the exact method they use, when it comes to how long they leave it to stand, pre heating and so on.
I have a large stainless steel cafetière which will make around 8 cups allegedly although I think some people must have much smaller cups than me ;-). I also have a one or two cup smaller glass cafetière which I use if I’m just making one coffee for myself; my wife is a tea drinker, luckily she likes the smell of coffee, but she can’t stand the taste; each to their own.
Simplicity. It’s straight forward, not many steps involved. Very difficult to mess up a brew using a cafetière.
Taste. Rich taste and heavy mouth feel, as more of the oils and coffee solids end up in your cup than with some brewing methods.
Aroma. Cafetiere brewing is known to be one of the best methods when it comes to bringing out the best of the aroma of the coffee. For me, the amazing coffee aromas is just as important as the taste, and while there are no coffee making methods that produce no aroma at all; French presses create the best aromas in my opinion.
Quantity. Particularly good for making several cups at a time if you’re entertaining; if you have a large cafetiere that is.
Mess free. Relatively speaking, using a cafetiere doesn’t make much mess – all you need to do is scoop out the used grounds when you’re done. Very easy to clean too.
Unobtrusive. Even a large cafetière is relatively small and easy to store in comparison to most electrical coffee machines.
Time: Although there’s not a great deal of time involved when it comes to physical activity, there is time involved then it comes to allowing the coffee to brew. While brew / steep time can vary a lot, I think it’s fair to say that most people would allow at least three to four minutes in total, and some people much longer than that. I don’t have a set time when it comes to brewing, it just depends on what mood I’m in at the time, and whether I’m in a rush or not; it’s probably about 4 minutes usually. This is one of the things I love about coffee, it tastes different every time – I very rarely use the exact same brewing method.
Floaty bits: Coffee grounds getting through the filter and floating on your coffee, is a con that you might get with some cafetieres, and it’s certainly something that I hear people saying. I don’t get this with my Savisto stainless steel cafetiere, it’s a really nice quality bit of kit. I do get this; however, with my cheap smaller glass cafetiere, but you can greatly reduce the bits by scooping any bits from the top of the coffee after brewing, before you plunge.
Stove Top Coffee Maker / Moka Pot / Stove Top Espresso Maker
The stove top works by boiling water to create steam which then passes through the ground coffee beans in order to make espresso coffee. Well, I say espresso – technically speaking it’s not, but we’ll get to that.
Cost. They are very inexpensive, even a top-notch one will cost you no more than about £30! Some refer to moka pots as a poor mans espresso machine, and that may be a fair comment in terms of the actual cost, although the label is usually referring to the fact that it’s not true espresso in terms of the pressure reached by the steam.
Size. Very small, easy to store and easy to travel with.
Looks. For me there’s something about them, I find them particularly aesthetically pleasing, not sure why; maybe I’m weird!
It’s not truly espresso. If you’re wanting true espresso, then that’s not quite what you’ll get from a stove top pot. They don’t create the 9 bars (about 130.5 PSI) of pressure required to make a true espresso, in fact from what I can gather they produce about 1.5 bar of pressure. The whole point of espresso is that high pressure extracts the flavour and oils from the coffee, so if you don’t have the pressure you don’t have espresso. Also, espresso requires a temp of just under boiling at around 93.3 C, but as the stove top process requires the water to be boiling, that means the water temp is too hot (100 degrees C) for a true espresso; geeky studies have shown that the taste of espresso is altered a lot by messing with the temp.
Speed, or lack of. The entire process from start to finish is quite bit longer than using an espresso machine.
Scientific. There’s a knack to it, and I think it’s quite easy using this method to negatively influence the taste.
Manual Dripper / Pour Over Filter Dripper
Drip coffee makers, or filter drip makers, work by filtering hot water over ground coffee beans sitting on a paper filter.
Single Cup. Good for one cup brewing.
Price. Mega cheap! You can get a Hario V60 for about a fiver, and a pack of 100 filters for four or five quid. Kalita wave is about £12-£20, Chemex are quite a bit more at about £40-£45, Diguo do some cheaper options which look a lot like Chemex.
Fast. Relatively quick brew time of 2-3 minutes.
Impressive looking process. Personally, this is a process which I find impressive looking; it’s not quite as straight forward as just sticking coffee in a cafetiere and pushing the plunger, or pressing a button on a machine, so if you’re looking to show off and impress your guest(s) this isn’t a bad process for that.
Small. Really small, cup sized, so easy to store and to travel with.
Mega Easy to clean. I find this method the easiest when it comes to cleaning up, just chuck the filter and grounds in the bin, or if you’re a bit of an eco warrior, save the grounds for use in the garden like I do, and bin the filter.
Taste. The flavour and mouth feel is lighter and brighter than with other processes; in fact I’ve just asked my wife who is a tea drinker and “hates coffee”, to try my coffee made in the V60, and she liked it! It’s a lighter and more herbal taste, than coffee made with other processes. This is only a pro if you enjoy this lighter taste of course; I do, but only when I’m in the mood for it, sometimes I want a deeper taste and heavier mouth feel.
Scientific process. If you do this the way the pros do it, it’s a bit of a scientific process which involves weighing the water and coffee, rinsing the filter, blooming, and timing. If you’re a bit of a science nerd then you may see this as a pro rather than a con. No offence intended, by the way, nerds are cool, especially beardy nerds. I used to have a beard, but I’m not a nerd; this method nearly lost me at “take our your weighing scales…”, I gave it a go anyway and actually I found that it doesn’t have to be as scientific a process as the coffee geeks and pros use, I just used a heaped measure of coffee that I’d usually use for one cup in a cafetiere, wet the filter, put in the coffee, put a dent in the middle of it, pour in enough water to cover the coffee and then leave it for a few seconds, then slowly pour over the hot water until I’ve got the amount of coffee that I want.
Taste & mouthfeel. Yes I know I’ve listed this as a pro too, and no I don’t have a split personality; the taste and mouthfeel of coffee produced with the dripper method is a pro if you like a lighter, brighter more herbal taste and mouthfeel, but it’s a con if you like a deeper, heavier taste and mouthfeel. I usually prefer the latter, but having said that I do enjoy this too, and it’s nice to have the option, depending on what mood I’m in.
Espresso machines work by forcing pressurised water just below boiling point (usually around 93.3 degrees C) through finely ground and tightly packed ground coffee beans.
Espresso. They make proper espresso coffee.
Quick. Just watch a barista in a coffee shop and you’ll see how quick you can make an espresso or an espresso based drink such as an Americano or Latte. Not that a mere mortal can expect to be as quick as a barista of course ;-).
Steam. Most machines come with a steam arm for frothing milk.
Impressive. Personally don’t think you can have anything much more impressive in your kitchen than a proper espresso machine.
Price. Espresso machines aren’t the cheapest option, although having said that there are cheaper options available, I’ve been doing a lot of research recently as I’m about to buy one, but I haven’t decided yet. The Jack Stonehouse machine appears to be a real bargain for the price and has good reviews, Russell Hobbs do one at about the same price but the reviews don’t seem as good, and the Andrew James machine is just slightly more at £80. The Morphy Richards Accents 172000 machine has one of the best review scores on Amazon and is just £99.99 currently, and their Meno espresso machine looks good too, which is reduced to £84.95 at the moment. Delonghi seem to do a good range from about £100 upwards; Gaggia do more affordable machines too as well as their more pricey options such as the Gaggia Accademia which will set you back just under £1500.
Other than price, it’s difficult to describe other cons since using an espresso machine is really the only way to make espresso coffee. The pros and cons of espresso machines really come down to the type of espresso machine, manual, semi automatic or fully automatic. With the manual and semi automatic machines another cons would be cleaning, but the fully automatic ones (which can cost up to and even over a thousand pounds) do at least some automatic cleaning.
The Aeropress, which weirdly enough is made by Aerobie, the same people who make the flying disks and so on; looks like something you might find in a science lab, but it is in fact a coffee maker!
It works by manually creating air pressure in order to make a form of espresso coffee; although it isn’t technically true espresso as the pressure isn’t high enough. This is nothing like a cafetiere by the way, the plunger isn’t there to press the coffee, it’s there to create the air pressure.
Disclaimer: This is a process I’ve not yet used, so this is all in theory from what I have read, and the videos I’ve watched. I have one on the way though so I’ll review it, and I’ll update this once I know what I’m talking about from experience.
Fast! This does seem like a nice quick process. Put the coffee in, pour the water, plunge, done. Having said that I have seen that the taste can be improved by adding steps such as blooming, and taking slightly longer for the entire process, but I’m guessing that this only makes a fairly small difference to the taste meaning that a quickly made coffee from one of these isn’t going to taste like dishwater in comparison, but I’ll try it anyway and let you know.
Cheap. It’s currently on offer on Amazon at £22.00 (click here) when you compare this to espresso machines, they probably spend more on the packaging than the cost of an Aeropress ;-).
Simple. There are very few steps involved, it’s very easy; although, as I said earlier it does seem that you can add steps to refine the process and the taste, if you feel so inclined.
No mess. You literally fire the puck of compressed coffee grounds into the bin, or into the compost or whatever you like to do with your grounds. This makes it one of the best methods when it comes to messing about with mess, in my opinion.
Looks. Erm, it kind of looks like a penis enlarger. ;-). Sorry, to plant that image in your head; by the way, I only know what one of them is from “The Full Monty” and “Austin Powers” movies…
Bits and pieces. It comes in three parts, and then you have filters, a paddle (stirrer thing) and a funnel. Knowing me, I’ll have lost at least one or two of these bits within a week ;-).
Not Truly Espresso. As with stove tops, the pressure isn’t high enough for this to create true espresso coffee. From what I can figure out, the pressure from an Aeropress is likely to be around the same as a stove top at around 1.5 bar, although it’s hard to say as it depends on the physical force being used; I think even a very strong person, or a heavy person using their body weight, would probably struggle to get beyond about 2.5 bar. This doesn’t bother me though, all I’ll be looking for when I try this out for myself is a great tasting coffee.