Updated: Oct 21
One Roaster’s Opinion on Coffee Brewing Equipment // Keli Gilbertson
How do you brew?
We here at Vitality are all about the morning ritual. There is something wildly personal and comforting about the routines we practice each day, and no task offers more room for personalization than how a person consumes their morning coffee. Brewed coffee can be made in many ways, using manual or electronic devices. It’s been my experience that when it comes to brewers, people often just get stuck in a pattern and do what they have always done. When talking to others about coffee, I am often asked, “What is the best way to make coffee at home?”, and the answer really depends on you.
If you frequently visit specialty coffee shops, then you have probably ordered a pour over. Usually between 8 to 40 ounces, a “pour over” is the overarching name for made to order coffee, generally prepared using an electric kettle to manually pour hot water thru coffee. A pour over is the alternative to brewing several liters of coffee in a big batch, hence the name that shops often use for bulk brewed coffee, “batch brew”. Some shops will even refer to this style of coffee as “drip” coffee, as the brewer regulates the water, allowing it to drip into the coffee grounds. Your standard home coffee pot is also a drip brewer.
Are you sitting down? Because I’m about to shock you. I use this style of inexpensive drip brewer at home. This blows people’s minds who know me well and understand my love of coffee culture. My brewer cost about $30, only a little more expensive than the most basic coffee pot on the market. I get the one with the removable water reservoir, the one feature required in our house.
While I relish the opportunity to hand craft pour overs for cupping profiles, tasting my fellow roaster’s work, and honing my sensory skills, I absolutely do not have the patience or the will to live before I’ve had caffeine. Some days my partner and I both work from home, and can consume a couple of pots of coffee before lunch time. Making a fresh cup every 8 ounces would be a luxury our lifestyle does not allow.
So we invested in a quality burr grinder, and always keep fresh roaster beans in an air-tight container on the counter at room temperature. These factors, along with the cleanliness of my equipment, and the water to coffee ratio, make way more of a difference to the flavor of my coffee than the device that spreads the water over the grounds. More on this topic coming soon.
If you’re the kind of human who drinks 8 ounces of coffee and has the willpower to stop, a Clever Dripper may be the best option for you. These little pieces of plastic were sent straight from heaven and make anyone feel like a pretentious barista for under $40. Grind your coffee, place the paper filter inside this brewer and fill with hot water. Brew for 3 minutes and then place the brewer on any cup to drain; the trigger on the bottom of the brewer opens when it connects to your cup. Easy to clean, low mess and more durable than glass alternatives, this is a great option for camping, travel, or the random decaf with dessert!
The French Press is a classic style brew that has been used since the late 19th century, and was patented in France in the 1920’s. A beaker is filled with coffee grounds and hot water, and after brewing, a plunger with a fine stainless steel filter is depressed to separate the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee. With the ability to pre infuse the grounds, and plunge slowly for maximum extraction of oils and flavonoids, the french press will brew a rich cup of coffee. However, the grounds can easily be over extracted, resulting in a bitter brew, and clean up can be arduous. The glass beaker also results in some heat loss, but stainless steel options are also available.
The Chemex Coffee brewer came out in 1941, and has been called one of the best-designed products of modern times. An hourglass shaped glass beaker with a heat resistant wooden collar at the neck, Chemex Coffeemakers require proprietary Chemex brand filters that remove oils and cafestol (a molecule that may increase cholesterol), creating a cleaner cup of coffee with a lighter body. This is how my Grandmother made her Foldger’s coffee in the morning as she did her crossword puzzle. While the manual nature of this brew method can be tedious, nostalgia and beauty of this classic device make it a timeless choice.
Whether you brew coffee yourself or leave the crafting to the baristas, the nuances of our morning rituals are deeply unique and no one method is perfect. I encourage you to explore different ways to enjoy your coffee, be it a new brewing technique, a roast you've never tried, or even just a new mug. So while there is no right answer to the question “Which brewer is best?”, with a little exploration (and lots of coffee beans) you can find the perfect morning ritual for you.