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By: Ollie Sears 04 February 2016
We are often asked how best to brew each of our coffees to maximise their potential, something which we do following the roasting & cupping of each of our beans.
It is widely accepted that the process to understanding brew methods can be a long and frustrating one. Brewing from home may mean your choices of brew method are limited, or you have a small amount of beans available to play around with. Perhaps you are experimenting with a new coffee which is dramatically different to your usual choice. Whatever you might have to hand, we truly believe you are able to manipulate the flavour of your coffee to match your preferred flavour profile.
A key decision when brewing from home is to work out which brew method to use to achieve the desired result in the cup.
Choose your method
|Type of Filtration||Popular Brew Methods|
|Aeropress (metal disc available)|
|Siphon (often some element of metal filtration)|
|Paper||Pour Over (V60, Kalita, Bee Hive)|
Selecting the right brew method for your personal tastes can go a long way to leaving you satisfied with your results in the cup. Different brew methods yield coffees of different textures via their filtration and style of brewing. Below you’ll find a guide to take the guesswork out of what you are likely to find in the cup when you brew in a certain way.
We’ll start with an explanation of the type of filtration methods that coffee lovers tend to use at home, before detailing some more specific methods you are likely to come across within this category. Following this little introduction to filtration and the brief summary of popular methods’ results in the cup, we will respond to your feedback by releasing more detailed guides to popular brew methods, and the fun you can have with them.
These methods tend to allow coffee oils & finer particles into the cup during the brewing & filtration process. This tends to yield brews with more body (referred to as lighter or heavier when cupping) and more texture (often referred to as mouthfeel when cupping). If you have a preference for espresso as a consumer and particularly enjoy single origin coffees from different regions, you may find that you prefer your ’slow brews’ brewed with metal filtration too.
It serves as an interesting experiment to brew the same coffee using a metal filtration method and by a paper filtration method, as the difference is easily discernible when brewing to the same recipe. This can be a good starting point when buying coffee for use at home, to see which style you will continue to use for brewing your batch to your own preferences. Keep in mind that all of the indicators listed are susceptible to grinder variations and variations due to roasting, and of course a coffee’s inherent characteristics, too.
Popular metal filtration methods & the body they leave in the cup:
Paper filters tend to absorb coffee oils and prevent them from passing through into your cup. They are also normally designed to allow a finer particle size to pass through them, which tends to extend brewing time under normal circumstances but yield a cup of more clarity. Try brewing if possible with paper filters when using a single origin coffee of different roast degree but the same brew recipe (light roasts versus dark roasts).
Using a few simple tests, you can estimate quite conclusively the extent to which a given paper filtration method will allow body in the cup. The most conclusive test is to place your filter into your brewing device on top of a clear, empty container, and pour water through the filter & device (with no coffee added).
The rate at which the water passes through the filter and device into the container will give you a conclusive indicator of how much resistance the filter provides to anything passing through it. The slower the flow rate, the more resistance your paper is providing to particles passing through it, so more than likely it will prevent coffee oils & any finer particles passing through into your cup.
This test will also give you an idea of how finely you need to grind the coffee you add, to provide it enough contact time with brewing water before it is filtered into your cup or vessel. In short, the slower the flow rate of water passing through the filter, the coarser you will need to grind your coffee particles to ensure that overall balance is achieved through your brewing.
Alternatively, by feeling the thickness of the paper itself, and/or holding a paper (when dry and/or wet) up to a light source, you can normally gauge the likely level of body a paper will leave in the brew. The relationships are as follows:
The thicker the paper filter feels, the lighter (lower) the level of body will likely be in your brew.
The more light the paper filter allows through it (colour dependent of course), the more body you will tend to find in the cup.
Popular paper filtration methods & the body they leave in the cup:
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Cloth filtration is not so popular in the Western coffee-drinking world, but deserves a place in this post given its place in the discussions regarding coffee body. This method of filtration will leave some oils in your brews, however less so than with metal filter methods. This is largely due to cloth’s absorptive nature, the same way that paper filters will absorb certain things during brewing & filtration. The difference cloth offers is therefore the bridge between metal & paper filtration in terms of the level of body that it allows into brews. Again, this will depend on the design of the particular cloth (its thickness and the size of particles it allows through it). What tends to become important with cloth filtration is that your brew’s body & overall balance does not become clouded by the results of poor maintenance. Coffee oils will easily ‘stain’ onto cloth following a brew, but will quite easily transfer into future brews when not rinsed out correctly. Additionally, finer particles will likely stick around in the cloth and also require thorough rinsing to avoid them tainting the body & flavour of any future brews made with the same filter.
Popular cloth filtration methods & the body they leave in the cup:
Of course, manipulating the amount of body in the cup is not the only way that you can tune your home brewing to suit different tastes or different coffees’ inherent flavour profiles, but it is one way that can drastically alter your perception of a particular coffee. We hope you enjoy experimenting with brew methods to create varying levels of body in your brew and would appreciate any feedback you might have on this post. We would also love to hear the results of your home brewing experiments, feel free to get in touch with any questions!
Following this little introduction to filtration and the brief summary of popular methods, going forward we will start to release more detailed posts depending on the feedback we receive.