The Best Coffee Brewing Method November 19 2014
"What is the best way to brew coffee?"
We get asked this question all the time and to be honest (as with most things in life) there is no simple answer.
Coffee is fickle and no two cups of coffee are exactly alike, let alone two beans, two crops or especially two origins. The latter being the easiest to determine by taste. Historically coffee has been about homogenization. The question coffee roasters, blenders and tasters asked for the better part of the last century was; "how do we create consistency? How can we make coffee taste the same, every day, every batch all year long?". This wasn't easy necessarily easy to do with a produce product (coffee is best thought of as produce because every single bean is slightly different). Crops change, harvests are not always identical, different coffee growing regions are harvesting at different times of the year, and when a company is roasting millions of pounds a year this task is even more difficult. Enter the dark roast. Probably one of the best tools at a coffee company's disposal for maintaining consistency. The darker the roast the more you taste the roast profile rather than the individual origin characteristics. Fast forward to today and we are at the exact polar opposite of the spectrum. Third wave roasters like Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and us, are light roasting coffee to bring out the characteristics that make each individual coffee special. This variety and uniqueness is exactly what makes Third Wave coffee so difficult to brew. Different coffees show best in different brewing methods.
Here is a list of our favorites and what we tend to find each is best for.
It's important to remember that there is a major distinction between immersion (e.g. french press) and filtered (e.g. pour-over) methods.
Known for its beautiful curves and its incredibly thick filters that capture lots of oil in the brewing process and produces a very clean cup. Great for coffees that are light on body and heavy on flavor.
This is probably the most ubiquitous manual brewing method and is usually the brewing method that most of us are familiar with. It's also a great starting point. French Press is best with full bodied coffees. Since it is a full immersion method that leaves many of the oils in the coffee intact and doesn't filter out as much sediment, it tends to produce a dirty cup while preserving a lot of the 'coffee' taste that most are looking for. French Press and cream are a great combo.
This method is great for producing a super concentrated drip coffee with the consistency of espresso. It is sort of siphon like in the sense that you can control the extraction time, but the press actually forces the coffee through a filter under pressure. The end result is usually very sweet and naturally we recommend this method with the sweetest coffees.
Pour-over is an excellent choice for light coffees with delicate flavor notes that become more clear and distinguishable after passing through the filter.
The brightest drip coffees always make the most interesting cold brews. The full immersion process combined with the room temperature water actually cuts back substantially on the acidity of the brew.