The coffee journey never ends. Anyone who pretends to know all there is about this ancient bean is a liar…and an unsuccessful one, at that.
At-home coffee. Homebrew coffee. Making coffee at home. Whatever you happen to call it, this method has taken a front seat for many in the wake of the coronavirus. Myself included! After many a year deprioritizing this beloved fascination in favor of more immediate concerns, I’ve since purchased a manual coffee grinder, a French press and some decaf beans to start my homebrewing coffee journey. Not content with just a few options on the table, I’ve decided to try out the pourover, as well. You can find the first part of the series here.
How are all these different brew methods faring? Let me count the ways.
I recently got my Hario pourover and Malita filters from Seattle Coffee Gear (as you can likely see, they’re my go-to for online coffee supplies). I bought my French Press off of Amazon, however…and let me say, I do not generally recommend this. It’s best to buy your coffee supplies from either a specialty supplier or the original business, as the site is loaded with fake sellers that either sell knock-offs or used versions that slipped quality control. Fortunately for me, my French Press arrived in mint condition.
My very first personal French Press coffee, though…wasn’t great.
It’s so cute and small. I almost couldn’t stand it.
It was the very definition of a, “Welp!” moment.
The coffee had turned out rather watery and with barely any flavor, more like La Croix than a specialty brew made fresh. I had followed the instructions in the French Press manual to start with (it never hurts to try new techniques) and wasn’t surprised to see my cup come up short. Two spoonfuls really didn’t seem like enough to get that full range of flavor. Four minute also didn’t seem like enough time. It’s a fancy little French Press, after all, and is known for having both a full body and a rich taste. The temperature of the water was right, at least: hot, not warm or boiling.
Coffee rewards a personalized approach. There are a bevy of tiny changes you can make to improve coffee’s flavor, with little to no effort. Blooming, for example, is steeping your coffee in just a little water to start with, letting loose the flavor chemicals for a solid twenty seconds. Once it’s done, fill it in the rest of the way. Descumming can come after, depending on your tastes: this is the act of scooping off the foam on top to reduce bitterness. I first heard of the latter term from Biggby Coffee’s video on the best French Press brew: it’s a touch lengthy, but I learned a lot. Check it out.
It was time to heal my bruised ego. I heated up another kettle, ground up more beans and changed my brewing method. I used more grounds this time around (three spoonfuls instead of the recommended two), poured in a little less water and left it in longer (seven minutes instead of four). I also stirred the coffee in-between the bloom and steep, in the hopes of kicking up some more tasting notes. I also didn’t descum it, willing to take even a bitter flavor over no flavor.
The second cup…turned out fantastic. That’s one point to experimentation!
The flavor was much more robust the second time around, boasting some of the delicious notes printed on the front of the bag. I go into greater details on Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion decaf beans here. Now, if you miss out on certain flavor notes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the bag is wrong. Coffee can taste very different depending on a myriad of factors: the brewing method, the filtered (or unfiltered) water, the temperature of said water…it’s a deluge of complexity.
The pourover, I’m happy to say, was a much more successful story.
These aren’t nearly as thin as the filters I’m used to. They also boast a neat texture.
The instructions stressed a slow, circular pour method, with thirty seconds in-between to bring out the coffee’s flavor. I let the first pour sit for twenty seconds to let it bloom, so that was an easy enough transition. I don’t think I used quite enough coffee the first time around (again, trying out the instructions to start with) and used more the second time. Smaller amounts are probably better for money’s sake, but I prefer the extra spoonful. I’d rather have fewer, better cups than more plentiful, average cups.
The pourover results in coffee that’s a touch thinner than the French Press, both in mouthfeel and flavor. I wouldn’t quite call it watery, no, but I can see why this lines up next to the classic drip machine. It’s still delicious, overall, and incredibly simple to use. Just grind to medium-fine, dump in a few scoopfuls and steep. It’s also got less clean-up than the French Press, as all you have to do is scrunch up the bag and rinse out the glass parts. I have a feeling it’ll become a very popular choice for new homebrewers this year.
It’s an endless pleasure watching the coffee foam bubble up in the paper filter. I’ll be using my Hario pourover several times per week until I get my hands on an electric stove-friendly Moka pot. The only reason I haven’t bought one sooner is because aluminum is toxic and most brands use at least a little in their product’s metal make-up. Yes, even the ones that claim they don’t. Always read verified customer reviews.
I love a good unboxing.
All right. Story time.
It’s been rough not being able to see my family during the coronavirus. While I don’t visit as often as some (homebody to the extreme), I still miss bonding over lunch or a good coffee. My mother and I have been sending a thousand videos to stay in-touch as a result, sharing cooking recipes or funny memes. I was pretty excited to share my homebrewing coffee set-up with her, especially with how long I’ve been wanting it. I sent her a slew of photos…only for her to tell me she has an electric coffee grinder and two Moka pots.
I lived with her all throughout 2018 and had no idea.
She has since sent me several photos of her (very well done) home latte experiments to further hammer in how little I pay attention to my own family. Welp!
Making coffee at home is a blast. Stay tuned for the next part, where I’ll continue beefing up my homebrewing set-up and experimenting with different brewing methods. I plan on buying a wooden spoon and a cappuccino cup, though I’ll hold off on a milk frother for now. I would like to get a Moka pot before an espresso machine, as it’s much more affordable and takes up less space. There are lots of great machines out there that come with good foam wands, too, and I can kill two birds with one stone.
Are you brewing coffee at home? What’s your set-up look like? I’d love to hear about your journey.