Manual brewing methods are becoming an increasingly popular option for home enthusiasts and coffee shops alike.
The abilities to control every variable in the brewing process, create a cup that’s exactly suited to one’s preferences, and highlight the unique character of the coffee has convinced many to make the switch. This new popularity has prompted the birth of several new methods and devices, as well as the resurrection of older methods. In this months blog we’ll feature our favourite manual brewing methods and explain the differences between them.
Manual brewing tips
These suggestions are meant to provide a starting place. Our recommendations are dependent on batch size, pour rate, roast level, processing method, and more, all of which vary. Experiment and adjust to suit your own tastes.
Use a quality burr grinder or ask us to suggest a grind that is suitable. This will ensure an increasingly consistent grind and even extraction — or, in other words, a tasty cup of coffee!
Begin with 60 grams of coffee for every litre of water. However you can adjust this as well to create your preferred extraction.
Thoroughly filtered water, heated to 92-98 degrees Centigrade, usually yields the best results.
Since brewing at the proper temperature is vital for producing a great cup, we recommend purchasing the Bonavita Variable Kettle, although an off boiled kettle is a good place to start. A good set of scales is a must.
Choose your manual brewing method
The Clever Dripper is a hybrid brewer of sorts. At first glance, it seems like just another pour over dripper with a paper filter. But the Clever actually uses a unique stopper and release mechanism to keep coffee and water together until they’re ready to be poured into a server or mug. Because of this dwell time we consider the Clever a full-immersion brewer. The Clever is a very affordable option for manual brewing and is made entirely of BPA-free plastic. Both lightweight and durable, it’s excellent for travel.
One thing we appreciate about the Clever is that it is perhaps the most forgiving of all the brewers in our current lineup. Even without a quality burr grinder, you can still enjoy a nice cup of coffee from the Clever. For the best cups, however, we recommend using a coarse grind as its a type of emersion.
We like to use a unbleached filter with the Clever. Place the filter in the cone, give it a thorough rinse with hot water, and then decant to warm and rinse your server or mug. Set the Clever on a flat surface, using the included coaster if you prefer. After grinding the coffee, add it to the Clever. Pour hot water over the bed of coffee evenly until the desired volume is reached. We like finishing our pour by hitting all the walls so that the coffee bed is level when you’re ready for the draw-down. Some people like to stir, and we encourage you to experiment with this. Just remember that the agitation caused by stirring increases the rate of extraction — the more you stir, the shorter your brew time and/or the coarser the grind needed. Place the lid atop the cone to retain heat, and after 3-4 mins place the Clever on top of the receiving vessel. Draw-down should take about 30 seconds, for a total of 4 – 4.5 minutes. Toss the grounds and filter and rinse the Clever with hot water.
The Clever method is super easy. It combines pour-over and immersion brewing to consistently produce a clean and well-extracted cup — and all of this in an accessible and affordable way. If you’re just starting out with manual brewing we recommend the Clever as a fun and easy introduction. This method requires little-to-no experience and you can produce a great cup from the get-go.
Any coffee is well-suited for the Clever but something forgiving like our Formula 442 or 318 is a great place to start.
French Press / Cafetiere
The french press or cafetiere is a classic and is probably the most widely recognisable brewing device available. It’s comprised of a glass or metal beaker and a mesh plunger that separates coffee grounds from water.
Preheat the press with hot water. Toss the preheat water and add coarsely ground coffee to the press. Heat water and pour about 10% of the total target volume over the ground coffee. Allow the coffee to bloom for a few seconds, give it a stir, and then add the rest of the water. Put the plunger on and press just far enough to fully submerge all the grounds in the water. After 6 + minutes, press slowly and decant into a mug or server.
The press provides a full-bodied cup and, using a metal filter, permits more oils to pass than do other filter mediums. To keep your pressed coffee tasting great, we recommend taking the press and filter apart completely and thoroughly scrubbing all of the components with detergent immediately after brewing. Neglecting to do so can result in the buildup of stale oils that impart an unpleasant flavour to coffee.
The Aeropress is a very unconventional device. Designed by a manufacturer of Aerobie flying discs, there was little expectation that the Aeropress would emerge as a legitimate brewing option. But surprisingly the Aeropress makes a great cup of coffee. It’s constructed entirely with BPA-free plastics and is virtually indestructible, making it ideal for travel. When I travel I don’t go anywhere without my Aeropress.
It’s hard to provide a universal grind setting recommendation for the Aeropress, as it’s an incredibly versatile brewing device (one of the reasons that I love it!). We’ve had great results with all different grind settings. If you opt for a medium grind, go for a 2-minute dwell and a 30-second press. If you’re interested in playing around with a finer grind setting, brew for 45-90 seconds. Of course, all of this is dependent upon your precise technique.
We’ll provide you with a couple of different methods, the first being my preferred method; the inverted method. For this recipe, turn the Aeropress upside down and insert the plunger just enough to seal the bottom. Be very careful. This is a tricky manoeuvre to master, and the possibility of spilling near-boiling water is high. Add medium-ground coffee into the chamber and add hot water until the desired volume is reached. Steep for 1:45-2:00, stirring once or twice. Screw the filter on and press just until a blond crema-like head appears on top. Carefully invert the entire apparatus and place onto your mug or server, pressing down slowly for about 30 seconds.
Here’s another method that’s geared toward espresso-lovers. Although espresso is not an accurate description of what happens when brewing with this device. But we’ve found that you can produce a cup with the Aeropress that carries some attributes of espresso and — whatever you want to call it — we think that it makes a delicious cup of coffee. Use the traditional upright position and a fine-medium grind setting. Place the Aeropress atop a server or mug with the filter in place. Add coffee and pour hot water to target volume. Stir thoroughly and, after 30-45 seconds, begin to press in a steady and controlled motion. You should have a cup with a syrupy body and intense flavours.
The Aeropress is compact, easy, versatile, and virtually unbreakable.
You can also use the Aeropress to create great cold brew concentrate by missing one part coffee to two parts water and leave it in the fridge overnight to brew. In the morning brew the coffee slowly as above. You can then dilute the concentrate with water to taste or mix with tonic water for a great spritz.