A guide to different methods of coffee brewing

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Whether you drink coffee because you enjoy the rich nuances of flavor underlying the noticeable bitterness and acidity of coffee, or you just gurgle the stuff down in an effort to escape sleep, coffee can become an integral part of your day-to-day life. It’s there in the mornings to give you a spring in your step, it’s there to facilitate causal dates, and its there in the wee hours of the night, sustaining your tired mind through that anthropology paper. If it’s such a continuous subject of consumption, why not try to figure out how to make the perfect cup of it on your own? This is where the Clog’s guide comes in. Here’s a list of some common coffee-brewing methods, along with advantages, disadvantages and tips for your perusal.

Automatic drip machine

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The automatic drip machine is probably the brewing method with which you’re most familiar. It’s your family’s machine that brews large pots of strong, black coffee for you before you whisk off to work and school. It prioritizes ease and quickness, but this, of course, comes at the cost of taste. It leaves a bitter taste — but then again, it’s a machine, so you can put the grounds and filter in at night and set it to make coffee at a certain time in the morning. This means minimal work on your part in the morning, which is critical, considering the amount of energy it takes to schlep your body out of bed.

Pour-over

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe proclaimed that the goal of beauty was to attain “simplicity and tranquility.” No other method matches this ideal better than the pour-over method. The imagined magic and technological mumbo-jumbo going on inside a standard automatic drip machine is suddenly made clear with this process. Pour hot water over ground coffee beans, and filter. There you have it: coffee. With such few and simple steps, however, you must do all of them precisely. Make sure you have a good number of beans. Don’t hesitate to use too many. Nobody wants a weak cup of coffee. We suggest grinding them to a medium coarseness. Pour enough water to saturate the grounds. Watch it bubble up and die down (about 30 seconds). Then pour the water slowly, carefully and in a spiral fashion, until the water reaches the top. Now wait for your coffee to drip into your mug until it’s full. The straightforwardness and ease of this brewing method is what makes it alluring. But this method is not the best if you’re making coffee for multiple people, as you are limited to making one cup at a time.

French press

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At some point, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to make lots of coffee — perhaps for many people (hello, brunch). Or perhaps all for yourself (hello, finals). Should you be in that situation, the French press is the method of choice, as most French presses are built to brew about three cups of coffee. Similar to pour-over, the method is simple. Unlike pour-over, however, the water will not just pass through the grounds. Rather, the grounds will be immersed in the water for a longer period of time (about five minutes). First, place your coarse grounds into the French press. Fill it with enough water to saturate the grounds, and let it “bloom” for a minute. Then fill up the rest of the French press. Wait five minutes, then slowly press the plunger down. If you’ve never tried this method before, you might be surprised by the thick texture. We’re not talking tapioca pudding thick, but it does have a fuller body because of the holes in the plunger being larger than the microscopic holes in a filter. Some people love the full-bodied-ness of it, and others detest it.

Vacuum pot

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Working with the laws of physics is how this process gets coffee brewed. There are two chambers: The upper chamber holds the grounds, while the lower chamber is filled with water. Heating the water causes it to transform into water vapor. It expands, and pressure increases. The pressure is now higher in the lower chamber than in the upper chamber. This causes the water to enter the upper chamber through a narrow tube connecting the vessels. Once it is done brewing and the heat is removed, gravity will force the coffee back through the narrow tube, which comes equipped with a strainer to catch grounds. It lands back in the lower chamber, and your coffee is done. Now wasn’t that simple? You don’t have to think about the thermodynamics of how this works when you’re using it. This is a complicated method, but some coffee connoisseurs exalt the clean taste that this process produces.

AeroPress

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AeroPresses are strange looking with their plastic plungers. They lack the same grace and elegance a French press may have with its shiny silver top. They’re simple but don’t have the refined simplicity of, say, a Chemex. What it lacks in aesthetics, though, it more than makes up for in its ease of use, quickness, full body and clean taste. To use an AeroPress, you’ll want to invert it and fill it with medium ground beans (about 17 grams for a cup). Then pour water in to saturate the grounds for a minute. Give the bloom a little stir. Fill to the the No. 2 label. Place the filter and black top on the inverted AeroPress. This should all happen over the course of a minute. After the minute, spin it around and place it right side up on top of a mug. Press the plunger down. Dilute the coffee as you see fit.

Image Sources: Nan PalmeroedkohlerSteven DepoloNathan BorrorOlin ViydoMichael Allen Smith

Contact Nora Harhen at [email protected].