You should be brewing pour-over coffee.

pour-over coffeeWhy should you bother with brewing pour-over coffee? Because it’s the best way to get the most of the good parts of the coffee. If you’ve never used the pour-over method, it may seem a little intimidating. But here you are with a 12oz bag of Hakimson Estate Kenya Peaberry Limited Release that set you back $19. Certainly you’re not going to toss that into a plastic coffee brewing machine. Pour-over coffee brewing is the method of choice for such a fine thing.

Maybe you’ve watched a YouTube video on the subject where a barista was demonstrating  his complicated pour-over coffee technique. Or maybe the idea of spending $30 on a Hario v60 cone dripper, another $45 on a gooseneck kettle, up to $130 on a burr coffee grinder, a $40 scale, yikes. It’s all a little much.

Pour-over coffee brewing is about simplicity

Brewing pour-over coffee may be trendy right now, but pour-over coffee brewing is really about simplicity, more than anything else. Just coffee and water to bring out the best in a well-sourced and craft-roasted bean.

I’ve been brewing pour-over coffee since the 80’s. I was not trying to being stuck-up about it; it was a necessity more than anything else. All I needed then was an affordable Melitta plastic drip brewer from the grocery store, paper filters, an inexpensive blade grinder and some good coffee beans and voila, cup of coffee! Back then Mr. Coffee, Brun or Krups were the main makers of coffee brewing machines: Mr. Coffee was considered a joke and Braun or Krups brewers were not cheap for the college student and later under-paid professional.

I had my share of machine brewers and French Presses*, but at some point they get stinky or the beaker would break, and i’d pull good ‘ol cone dripper out of the cupboard. Besides that, I liked brewing pour-over coffee. It was easy and convenient for a single cup. And I was never brewing for the crowd, so manually brewing pour-over coffee was not a hassle.

Pour-over coffee brewing became trendy

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s and suddenly Pour-over is the rage and touted as the method best to extract flavor from a well-sourced and craft-roasted bean. I’m not arguing with that at all, it happens to be my practice now. Being all artisan and precious about it is not the be-all end-all for brewing pour-over coffee.

Pour-over coffee brewing is simple because all you need is coffee, hot water, a paper filter in a cone dripper. That’s it. If you strive for better, splurge on some nice tools and refine your technique. You can brew great coffee with a $10 plastic Melitta cone coffee dripper you purchased from the local grocery store, DON’T LET ANY AFFICIONADO TELL YOU DIFFERENT (99% of whom will drink gas station swill in a fit of road trip desperation). So while the Melitta may not be the ultimate system, it is 90% of what you’ll get with a Hario v60, gooseneck kettle, water perfectly heated and a slow-poured over evenly sized coffee grounds, and light years better than a pot of coffee brewed in a Mr. Coffee machine.

Do it

Don’t worry about the hipster pour-over barista with the man-bun at your local to-cool-for-you cafe. Pour-over coffee brewing is the best way to get an amazing cup of joe. So go out and get a Melitta cone dripper, some filters, good beans, rush home and make a cup. It’s a great start, worry about the refinements later.

*I’ve tried to love French Press as my chosen method but I never could get past the residue at the bottom of the cup, too much like bong water for me, blech.

Ceramic vs Plastic Coffee Drippers

plastic-vs-ceramic-coffee-drippers_300px

The fight was on. Which would prevail in a ceramic vs plastic coffee dripper tête à tête? But before the battle could commence, the TKO went to plastic! If you’re clumsy at all, a ceramic coffee dripper will not last very long. This beautiful Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper lasted exactly two days. While the steadfast 20+ year-old Melitta dripper survived to fight another day…until the replacement arrives.

The comparison was meant to pit the Melitta plastic coffee dripper
against a similar style ceramic dripper. POCW labs has a resin Hario V60, but the test would not have been accurate as the two drippers are vastly different in extracting method.

So while the ceramic filters available run a range of quality and style, plastic/resin drippers are limited to a couple of choices.

A call-out to Bee House, Bonmac and others.

Make resin versions of your ceramic coffee drippers! Hario has a very nice resin version of its V60 coffee dripper. While Clever Coffee makes a nice resin coffee dripper, it differs in method, by holding and steeping the coffee until the valve is released, it can’t be used for this comparison.

Ceramic vs Plastic Coffee Dripper

So which coffee dripper really won? Had the contest taken place, certainly the ceramic would have prevailed, as ceramic is like class, the glaze used on ceramic is actually glass, and would be 100% inert with the coffee in the pour-over extraction. While the Melitta is the granddaddy of pour-over there are better materials available that could be used in manufacture.

The winner is…

In the ceramic vs coffee dripper contest and despite the glaring flaw of being extremely fragile, ceramic wins! We were able to brew a couple of cups of pour-over coffee. We felt that we were drinking coffee pure and simple. Sorry plastic. Back to the cupboard with you. Well, at least, until your replacement arrives. We at Pour Over Coffee World are waiting for resin versions of their ceramic coffee drippers to do conduct a true head-to-head.

Perfect pour-over coffee is a 3-part process

perfect pour over coffeePerfect pour-over coffee is a 3-part process:

Getting perfect pour-over coffee is a process that is a combination of several elements all working together. This outline is a quick overview of the key ingredients. If you are new to pour-over coffee brewing at home, it’s easy to start simply, and as you get more experience and your palate matures, you can easily add complexity by adding equipment, brewing light-roasted beans, etc. Starting with good beans, a dripper and hot water are all that is required.

This outline is a quick overview of the key ingredients.

  1. Freshly roasted coffee beans (Small batch, freshly roasted, direct trade, beans from an artisan roaster)
  2. Equipment (Coffee dripper, gooseneck kettle, paper filters, timer, scale, temperature gauge, coffee grinder)
  3. Technique (how to brew it)

Freshly roasted coffee beans

Taste starts with the roast. Artisan coffee roasters like Intelligentsia Coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Espresso Vivace, Handsome Coffee Roasters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, etc., are the best places for crafted coffee roasting. This is not saying they are the only ones, every city will have it’s own local coffee artisan roasters. Look for one in your area and purchase from them. If there are no local roasters, the aforementioned roasters will ship via their online shopping sites. Do not buy ground beans, only whole beans and only grind as much as needed for brewing at the time. Buy in small quantities, 12-16 oz. at a time. Store whole beans in an air-tight container.

Equipment

  • Start with a good quality coffee dripper, Melitta (available in most grocery stores), Hario, Bee House, Cilio, Chemex, etc, are all good, although they vary in method. Hario and Chemex, with a single large hole, tend to extract faster than Melitta and Bee House coffee drippers that have either one, or a couple of small holes.
  • A gooseneck kettle is useful and makes pouring hot water over the grounds easier to control.
  • A scale with built in timer that measures in grams helps you measure exacts amounts of coffee and water.
  • Thermocouple for measuring water temperature.
  • High quality conical burr coffee grinder. Small blade grinders work, but the uniformity of the grounds is difficult to control.

Technique

Grind of the bean, weight/amount of beans ground, amount of water, water temperature, pour technique all add up to success or failure when it comes to pour-over coffee method.

Article on technique

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Light Roasted Coffee

Light Roast CoffeeSome of the best things in life are aquired tastes. Like Blended Scotch versus Single Malt, Martini versus 7-11 Slurpee. Sometimes the acquisition of the taste is a long slow-arcing sailing-into-the-bleachers homerun, sometimes it’s a short grounder up the center, sometimes a strike-out. Light roasted coffee may be one such thing.

Maybe the older one is, the longer the arc? Light roasted coffee is possibly more palatable to the unseasoned or new coffee drinker. Just like LSD of the 1990’s was more accessible to the masses over the more potent version of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Who knows? Right now light roast is the coffee hipster rage.

Give it some time

Those who like the medium or even dark roasts might struggle with the light roast, which can be more fruity and, if not brewed correctly and consumed promptly, can sometimes be somewhat sour tasting. Some say it tastes grassy, maybe even raw. These tastes are certainly not what most coffee drinkers are used to. Normally coffee tends to be acidic and can be bitter if not roasted by an artisan roaster.

Temperatures and timing are essencial toward achieving optimal flavor in the bean. Light roasts are finished well before the second “crack”.

Coffee Roasting styles:

  • Light – Cinnamon or Half City
  • Medium Light – City Roast
  • Medium – Full City or American
  • Medium Dark – French or Viennese Roast
  • Dark – Italian or Espresso Roast
  • Very Dark – Spanish Roast

Good roasting brings out the best qualities as well as the flaws in a particular bean. Some beans like to be light, medium or dark roasted, it all depends on the quality of the raw bean, other factors like plant type, growing region, farming techniques, bean processing and storage can effect flavor. A good roaster, through test roasting and cupping, can find the roasting profile best suited for that particular batch of beans.

What to expect

Light roast coffee will not taste like what you expect coffee to taste like, there are new flavors that will be encountered. Descriptions like butterscotch, orange blossom, maple syrup, red grape are used to describe flavor notes. Unaccustomed, some drinkers might be put off. When brewing at home consider these factors; First, don’t use an automatic drip brewer. Secondly, pour-over is the preferred technique. Having the correct equipment can make a world of difference, a ceramic or glass cone dripper, a gooseneck style pouring kettle, a digital kitchen scale, some kind of temperature measurement device, and, of course, proper technique will ensure success. Anything short of that will result in poor taste and you may even reject light roast all together. Many coffee houses offer pour-over, if you are curious, that would be a place to start.

Do it right

Either get the proper tools and learn the technique and make it at home, or try some light roast coffee at your favorite coffee house that both offers the pour-over coffee method and light roasted coffee, and you might be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t like the taste you saved yourself lots of money. Of course investing in making pour-over coffee at home will make brewing medium and dark roasts so much better, so it’s not such a wasted investment.

Online merchants that offer Light Roast Coffee beans

Intelligentsia Coffee

Handsome Coffee Roasters

Blue Bottle Coffee

Coffeehouse ad circa 1650

Circa 1650 ad for coffee, London.This ad was adverting the virtues of coffee by The first coffeehouse in London, The name is not recorded, although it is said that an image of one of owners was on the sign, it was located in St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, London, a site currently occupied by the Jamaica Wine House. You can still sit and consume liquid beverages, maybe not boiled-powered coffee (much like Starbucks VIA is made today). If you’re heading to the Olympics in London, drop by, take a seat, sip and imagine 17th century poets and writers sitting nearby.

If you can’t read Early Modern English, here’s a Translation:

It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.

The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.

The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.

It forcloseth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat with- [missing text] its very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be [missing text] bout 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.

Coffee is good

According to the ad there are many health benefits to coffee consumption, being good for the “Orifice of the Stomack” and aids in digestion. Coffee houses spread fast and furious across England, by 1675 there were 3000 coffeehouses. A few survive today. Many new establishments sprang up in the 1990’s reestablished the coffeehouse culture long after the originals faded away.

Hario v60 Dripper

Hario v60 Dripper

Hario v60 Dripper ©2012 Mark LaPoint

I just received a Hario v60 Dripper in the mail, safely ordered from Amazon. For years I have been using Melitta droppers, after reading about the Hario v60 Dripper I’ve decided to make a change and try it out.

Hario v60 Dripper

It was very inexpensive, the plastic vs the ceramic or class are much more in cost. Very soon I am going to conduct a side-by-side test, Melitta vs Hario to see which I think is better. But so far I am liking the Hario v60 Dripper.

Fast Brewing

The major difference from the old cone dripper it that it has a tiny hole in the bottom which causes the coffee to back up and steep in the cone before passing into the cup. With the Hario v60 Dripper hot water passes right through, at first is was surprised that it brewed so fast, but the first cup it’s sort of nice since I get my cup quicker. I have not noticed a major taste difference, it’s advised not to use too much coffee as you’ll get a bitter taste, but the coffee from the Hario v60 is a little thin, still tweaking the amount of grounds.