Alternative Methods for Coffee Brewing
There are dozens of ways to brew a good cup of coffee and every part of the world has its own preferred techniques. There are high tech machines that do all the work for you, and then quick hands on methods that also do an excellent job. Which method you choose depends purely on personal preference, budget and accessibility. The home espresso machine is one of the most popular methods of brewing coffee because it can produce a café quality coffee from home, which Melbournians love! However, there are many alternative methods for coffee brewing at home, so let's dive in and explore them.
The Moka Pot (stovetop)
Just about every household in Italy has a Moka Pot. Alfonso Bialetti patented the Moka Pot in the 30s and the Bialetti company still produces them today! The Moka Pot creates a strong, quite bitter coffee which is still tasty to the espresso drinker. Most households have one tucked away in a cupboard somewhere, but for others, it’s the first choice every day to brew their coffee!
So how does it work? It’s an aluminum pot with hot water in a reservoir at the bottom, an empty reservoir at the top with an in-built spout, and a metal basket with ground coffee in the middle. When water starts to boil in the bottom chamber, the pressure created by the steam pushes the water through the tube that feeds it to the coffee. Water will rush through the coffee and into the reservoir at the top. The hotter the water, the faster the extraction process will be, so don’t be too hasty!
Coffee starts to appear out of the spout and when you hear a gurgling sound it's time to turn off the heat. Pick up the pot by the handle and run it under hot water (the bottom chamber only) to stop the brewing process straight away.
Bermuda Tip: The risk with a Moka brew is that it can be overly bitter. Choose an espresso roast on the lighter side or coffee grown at lower altitudes.
Pouring water over coffee grinds is a general term, and can cover several brew methods, but the common factor is percolation – water passing through coffee. You have the German company Wigomat Variations to thank for the electric percolator which is unbelievably popular and makes incredibly average cups of coffee.
Pour over brew, using paper or metal filters, relies on 3 key principles for a good cup: density of the coffee grind, contact time and ratio of water to coffee.
The finer the coffee, the more is extracted as water passes through. Greater surface area means the water flows more slowly and there is more contact time. Contact timeisn't about how long the water is going through, it is about the rate of water added. We can extend the brew time by adding water more slowly, which increases extraction. Less coffee in the filter will mean the coffee flows faster and more coffee means the coffee will flow slower.
To make a pour over with a paper filter, wet the filter and then place about 60g/l of ‘medium’ ground coffee (coarse, but not as coarse as French press). Then to bloom the coffee, pour a little water in the filter, just enough to wet it and wait about 30 seconds. Then slowly pour the remainder of the coffee straight onto the granules (not around the edges). When the water is in, up to about 2-3cm below the top of the filter, allow it to drip into the container until the bed of coffee looks dry. Then, it is ready to drink.
Bermuda Tip: If you’re not happy with the result, the first thing to change is the grind. If it’s bitter, try using a coarser grind. If it’s weak or sour, the grinds may be too coarse and you are under extracting. Pour over has many variables and tinkering with them is all part of the fun!
AeroPress, the ‘new kid on the block’, has been around since about 2005. It’s a very popular device because it’s cheap, durable, portable and makes a coffee that would bring a professional barista to their knees – which is why it is in every barista’s luggage when they travel.
AeroPress combines a few different brew methods. There is initial steeping like the French Press, but the brew finishes with a flourish of pressure as a piston is used to push water through the grounds, and then through a filter. So, it’s a bit like an espresso and a bit like a filter coffee maker, all in one!
Coffee is poured into a tall plastic cylinder with a paper filter at the bottom. The cylinder sits atop the cup you wish to drink the coffee from. Water is poured into the container (at approximately 100ml per 7-8 grams of coffee). The coffee is stirred and then brewed for about 1 minute (this is a good starting point, but experimentation is a must).
Then the fun part begins! Place the plunger on the cylinder and push down slowly, expelling all the liquid into the cup. Then it’s ready to drink and enjoy!
With its robust extraction of flavor, ease of use and affordability, the aero press is an excellent way to make a good cup of coffee at home.
Rain, hail or shine, sometimes you just don’t feel like a hot coffee. Good news – there’s a brew method for that too, the Cold Brew.
Unlike regular hot coffee, cold brew coffee uses time, rather than heat, to extract oils and caffeine from the coffee beans. It’s an immersion brew where the coffee grounds and cold water are left to steep over an extended period of time (usually 18 to 24 hours), and then filtered for drinking. The resulting brew is treated as a concentrate, and is generally served over ice.
To make cold brew, use coarse coffee grinds (we recommend a light roast), place in a large mason jar and add cold water. Use a ratio of about 1:8 of coffee to water. Stir well and leave to chill for a day. The colder the temp, the longer it needs to sit for, so place in the fridge and leave for a full 24 hours to brew.
When the brew is complete, strain into a large bowl using a sieve and repeat until there is no sludge or residue left in the jar. Serve with ice and enjoy it whilst sitting in the sunshine!
French Press (Plunger)
No prizes for guessing how this one got its name because it was actually invented by an Italian man in 1929 – Attilio Calimani. However, it was quite similar to a brew patented by some Frenchmen back in the 1800s.
French Press is an ‘infusion brew’. Coarsely ground coffee is placed in a cylindrical container, hot water is added at a ratio of about 75g/l and left to brew for between 6 and 10 minutes. Instead of water passing through the coffee grounds, the water and coffee steep together, helping produce a more uniform extraction.
French press is also unique because it filters the grounds from the brewing liquid using a metal mesh. This means you get a little bit of coffee oil and some suspended particles in the cup which adds to the complexities of the coffee – however fine particles can also make their way through which leaves you with a sludge that puts off some drinkers.
Bermuda Tip: Try pouring all your brew out of the pot once you have ‘taken the plunge’. This prevents the grounds continuing to steep, and over-extract.
So, which is your favourite brew method? Are you traditionally an espresso drinker and can make a great café quality cup of coffee at home? Or have you experimented with these other brew methods and found one you love more? However, you drink your coffee, we hope you find great joy and satisfaction in your chosen method!