BRR's Hierarchy of Brew Methods
In the end, everything in the coffee industry comes down to a matter of preference. But even the slightest difference in water quality, grind size, ratios between the two, and so much more can dramatically change the taste of coffee. After spending years in the trenches of the third wave specialty coffee industry we have procured a hierarchy of brew methods from our favorite on down based upon the final cup it produces. Comment below and let us know what you think of our list!
V-60 Pour Over
What we appreciate most about the V-60 Hario Pour over is the big hole at the bottom of the cone. Many pour overs have tiny holes that drip the extracted coffee into the pot slowly. Sitting water is no good. The V-60’s bigger hole helps expedite the flow of water: granting more control over the brewing process. If you need to extract the coffee more you simply decrease the grind size and adjust your pouring speed. Where the Hario V-60 shines lies in its design. The sides of the cone where the dry coffee grinds are placed have perforated edges which allow for a more even water distribution, flow rate, and consistent extraction of the coffee. The Hario V60 gives the expert barista complete control over the brewing process.
Chemex Pour Over
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between a normal pour over and a Chemex pour over. The Chemex was invented by Peter Schlumbohm, a German inventor, in 1941. Its design has been called one of the best-designed products of our generation. Although it is a beautiful looking piece of coffee brewing equipment, the Chemex’s most unique characteristic is its patented double-walled paper. The paper is thicker than the normal paper coffee filter. This filters out many of the oils and finer sediment in the coffee which avoids some of the heavier more bitter aspects of the coffee, thus creating a “cleaner” cup. We love the Chemex and it has no doubt become a piece of trendy coffee equipment with its visual aesthetic, but there is a reason why it doesn’t win the number one spot in our favorites list.
Due to the thicker filter, the Chemex will often subdue a lot of the complexity in the coffee. If you had a bright, fruit-forward cup of coffee and you put it through a Chemex… it will enhance the sweetness. But, if you put a medium roast into a Chemex it will remove much of the complexity (floral, acidity, etc.). The Chemex’s filter will often leave you with a smoky, roast-flavored coffee without the body. As self-proclaimed specialty coffee nerds, we love lighter roasts but know that not every bean would do well-roasted lighter: and shouldn’t be just because the light roast is the current darling of the industry. The V60 Pour Over can extract great cups from both medium and light roasts while enabling you to highlight whatever characteristics you desire to emphasize. This keeps it firmly in the number 1 spot on our list.
In recent years, the AeroPress has taken the coffee industry by storm. Similar to a French Press, the AeroPress is a full immersion brew method. One of the key differences between FP & AP is how the coffee is filtered and extracted. French Press has a porous filter, allowing oils and coffee sediment to get through into the coffee, often causing a sludge-like consistency to the coffee. These oils carry bitterness. The FP is also poured from the TOP, pouring the oil into the coffee. AeroPress uses a filter, removing sediment, oils, and extracting the acids and sugars evenly, producing a clean cup up to 12 oz. You can make everything from espresso-style coffee to drip style, and even cold-brewed coffee! Why we love the AeroPress brew method is the multitude of recipes and methods with which you can use with the tiny, compact AeroPress.
As an industry staple, we needed Espresso to be on this list. Making espresso can be incredibly frustrating but also very rewarding! Coffee fanatics swear by a shot of espresso as an indicator of a roaster’s quality, and with a perfectly pulled shot of light roast Panama Geisha in our hands, we would be as happy as a clam. Even with milk involved in a cappuccino or a flat white, the espresso comes to life instead of dulling it, as many people may intuit. Milk contains natural sugars and proteins that sweeten and compliment espresso, giving it structure and texture. The members of the specialty coffee industry may disagree where Espresso falls on our list, but with the right shot: high quality and complex coffee on espresso can easily compete with a well-extracted pour over.
Drip Pot Coffee
The term “pour-over” can refer to many different types of brew methods, including what is traditionally called “drip coffee.” Drip coffee is simply electric, automated method of brewing pour-over coffee. The reason why it makes it so far down the list is simply the lack of control one has over the brewing process itself. Many of these drip coffee machines come fitted with hot plates, which cooks the coffee further after brewing giving it the unpleasant burned flavor we all know and hate. Most domestic filter coffee machines also don’t consistently use the proper water temperature (197 - 200 degrees Fahrenheit). Our most trusted references for coffee, “The World Atlas of Coffee” by James Hoffmann, recommends brewing at least 500ml of coffee at a time for the best results.
*The position of drip coffee on our list is subject to change because of new technologies that get a proper coffee bloom and flow rate, much like a pour over the can and does, out of an automatic drip machine. In the meantime, check the Specialty Coffee Association’s recommendations for drip coffee brewers if you want to make the best you possibly can from a drip coffee maker! Try our new SCA endorsed Bonavita Connoisseur Coffee Maker for the best at-home drip coffee!
Cold brew comes in last on our list, simply because the cold brewing process strips away much of the acidity from the coffee, and acidity is a large part of the equation for specialty coffee nerds. Due to the fact that cold water is being used in the brewing process, the water doesn’t extract the same level of complexity that hot brewed coffee does. Good acidity is what is discussed in depth when specialty coffees are being tasted. Balance, depth, finish, and the flavor is all terms that acidity contributes to. Although up to 67% of the acidity is removed from the coffee, it still retains the sweet, smooth qualities without being bitter. There is an upside to cold brew. In addition to all these great things, you can get achieve dramatically different results through the ratio/brew time, and infuse the cold brew with nitrogen to make the growly popular Nitro cold brew.
(In the commercial market, cold brew is often a misnomer because they often brew the coffee hot and then put it in the fridge. THIS IS NOT COLD BREW. Cold brew is brewed in cold-room temperature water for no less than 14 hours [in our opinion]).
If you have any comments or disagree comment below! Let us know what you think!