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Brewing Methods

There must be a thousand ways to brew coffee, we cannot even attempt to list them all, so we will concentrate in the most common methods used in the Western world. As with everything to do with coffee, please don't get too hung up on some coffee snobs idea of what process is best, or even the detail of how to perform that method. We all have our own twist on making a good cup of coffee so use anything you read here in as much detail as you like, likewise feel free to ignore it in entirety.

Brewing

Brewing coffee relies on 3 things.

  • Ground coffee

  • Hot water

  • Pressure

The grind of the coffee is all important, but then so is the water temperature and the pressure in which the water is forced  over the ground coffee. We have covered the grind on another page click (here) for more information

The temperature of water for brewing coffee is pretty constant, no matter what method we use, it should never be boiling as this will scald the coffee and make it taste bitter and unpleasant.  The water should be around 90 - 95c and if making a milk based coffee such as a cappuccino, the milk should be 60 - 70c.

The pressure comes from many places. If making drip coffee, gravity gives you the pressure, if making French press style coffee, you apply the pressure with your hand as you push the plunger down - the same with a traditional manual espresso machine, the pressure comes from your pushing down on the lever. An more modern espresso machine will either have a vibration pump or a rotary pump to apply the pressure.

 

 

  • French Press / Cafetiere

 

 

Until the advent of home espresso machines, this was probably one of the most common methods of brewing fresh coffee at home. It is a very simple device we have all seen. You place the coffee grinds into the bottom, pour in some hot water and place the plunger on top. Some people will plunge straight away, others allow the coffee to brew a short while before plunging.

There is nothing to keep the coffee warm and so pouring and drinking straight away is a must.

Tips:

  • Warm the Cafetiere before use. Simply pour some hot water into the body, place the plunger in and let the hot water warm it up. Tip the water away and then make your coffee.

  • Measure the coffee in depending on the amount of coffee you are making. Use a measuring spoon for accuracy.

  • Always rinse after use

  • Drip or "Filter" machine

 

Again, a very common method of brewing fresh coffee at home or in the office. It is also very simple device and most likely one we have all drunk coffee from.

 

The coffee is placed in a filer, water poured into the tank and the machine switched in. As the water heats up, it is forced up a pipe and drips over the grinds. Gravity forces the water over the coffee as it drips through, passing the filter into the coffee jug underneath.

 

The jug often sits on a heated plate so the coffee is kept warm. However, the brewed coffee will soon go "grey", losing all its flavour until it is pretty unpalatable.

Tips:

 

  • The machines with disposable paper filters are much easier to use as its far easier to clean then after use.

  • Measure the coffee in depending on the amount of coffee you are making. Use a measuring spoon for accuracy.

  • Always rinse after use

 

 

  • Moka Pot

Invented in Italy, the Moka Pot is a small stove top device for making coffee that uses steam pressure to push water through coffee grinds similar to espresso method, but with much lower pressure. The pressure in a Moka pot is about 1 bar compared to a real espresso machine with 9 bar. The coffee made in a Moka pot, as you would expect, is very bold, it resembles espresso. Stove top espresso lacks the crema, and it has much less aromatic oils. It is a decent espresso alternative.

 

 

Tips:

 

  • Don't buy aluminium Moka pots as they impart a very metallic taste to the coffee. Instead look for the stainless steel versions.

  • Moka Pots only work properly when the grounds fill the ground holder. Follow the instructions on your pot

  • Always rinse after use

  • Espresso

The current darling of coffee drinkers. Espresso has become huge in the UK both for espresso shots and milk based coffee drinks such as the Latte and Cappuccino (along with a million others like "flat white" or Cortado)

 

Espresso is made by pushing hot water through a layer of compacted ground coffee, either by hand or more commonly now by electric pump.   The coffee grounds as measured and placed in a portafilter, compacted with a tamper before high pressure hot water is passed through them. This makes a fast, tasty and concentrated coffee, with a huge burst of flavour, aroma, and the distinctive layer of foam called a crema. Pulling a really good shot of espresso requires knowledge as well as good coffee. Sadly these are all too often missing the in high street shop. 

 

Tips:

 

  • Buy a decent espresso machine. They are not cheap but a good one will last a lifetime.

  • Practice, practice, practice.

  • Always keep your machine clean, back flush regularly and if possible, use filtered water.