Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 6:45am Subject: Re: Help me decide on a home brewing method
Like others have said, a burr grinder is going to be essential. Without a decent grinder, no coffee you make is going to be great. Those whirly blade contraptions don't really grind, they chop up your coffee and in the process generate a lot of heat (think, re-roasting your precious beans) and they don't produce consistent sized coffee morsels (which means small chunks of coffee will clog and stretch out your french press filter and it wont extract evenly, leaving you with a flat gross cup of coffee.) I know someone who refuses to not use the blade grinder on his french press and the filter is a mess and he's constantly having to replace it. I've never replaced the filters on mine and they look new. So the burr grinder pays for itself if you factor in the cost of saved filters (I think like 5 of them are a couple dollars so it'll take a while, but still)
If you think that some day you'll want to venture into espresso, save up and get a grinder with infinite settings and all that jazz. Look to spend at minimum 200 or so. Might seem like a lot, but it'll last you for years and you'll never run into a coffee brewing situation that you can't handle.
That being said, if you're aim is to make the drip oriented methods of coffee you don't exactly need to drop an arm and a leg on a grinder. I have a crappy capresso grinder that I'm ashamed to admit to (I got it for 6 bucks at a thrift store, I think it goes for 50ish new) and it does a pretty decent job with my french presses, drip, vac pot, moka pot. Anything that doesn't really require too fine of a grind.
However, if you can swing whatever the cheapest baratza is (I've seen them refurbed around 100) that's gonna be awesome for you.
Good advice. I think that there are good options for someone getting into brewing coffee right around the $100 mark. OE makes a great modification for the Hario Skerton ($70). I use a Bodum Bistro Burr grinder for heavy volumes (price is up - around $115 now, used to be about $75) more than 50g of coffee. You don't have to drop serious coin on a grinder if you're just making brew coffee.
One of the better options is CraigsList. Look for Bunn grinders, or other used.
EDIT: It looks like people got side tracked arguing over aeropress nonsense, so I'll try and answer your question about getting good coffee with not too much fuss.
The aeropress is probably not what you're looking for. Coffee nerds seem to love it (as they should, it's cool) but people around here seem to like to over sell it. It doesn't seem like what you're looking for is an americano, you want a cup like a good quality auto-drip from the coffee store (if I'm reading you correctly.)
While probably correct, the only drawback I see from the AeroPress is it can't make 12oz of coffee in one pressing, at gold cup standards. It's also a pain to make several cups of coffee (a pot) for multiple guests without updosing and dilution - and that brings with it a bunch of calculations or pre-determined recipes.
... Basically what makes a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks or coffee shop good is twofold: They grind the coffee in a quality grinder moments before it's brewed and their brewers get the water hot enough. Cheap drip makers just don't get it hot enough to make a good pot of coffee, and neither does the k-cup thing.
Agreed on the K-cup. It just plainly underextracts. And if/when it does properly extract, the amount of water and time required to do so ends up being on the settings that result in under-dosed/under strength coffee. It's just math - 9-12g of ground coffee does not make - cannot make - properly extracted cups of coffee at normal strength at more than about 9oz (and only if it miraculously over extracts).
A bit of correction on Starbucks - they do NOT grind "moments" before they brew. I've had many Press Pots and Starbuck's pathetic version of a POORover - and they pull pre-ground coffee out of a container and SCOOP it. They don't weigh the coffee at all. Maybe they think it's the same thing, but there's a significant difference just between the Veranda Blend (11ish grams per AeroPress Scoop), Willow Blend (15.3g per AeroPress Scoop) and their burnt Sumatra (varies, but sometimes as low as 9.3g per AeroPress Scoop).
Another good possibility is the Bunn series. They are good temp, stable brewers. The flow delivery is set by orifice, the water temp is thermister controlled and works like the hot water heater in your home. Keep it clean and scale free, and they will last a long while. Find them on Ebay for $70. I doubt you'll go wrong there.
... So any method of coffee you use is going to give you a cup of good quality coffee as long as you use hot enough water, and grind immediately (using as freshly roasted beans as possible, of course)
You'll get what you need out of the press. I find it to be somewhat of a hassle though. It's a temperamental method of brewing and if your water is the wrong temperature, you tiredly threw a bit too much coffee in, you forgot to give it a stir, or you missed the plunging time you're gonna end up with a less than stellar cup.
A cheap pour over could be a great solution for you, or for best results you could save up for a high quality auto-drip. The pour over you could find on amazon for almost nothing. Any kind will do, you just need something that'll go over your cup and hold the filter. The beauty of that method is its simplicity...
Our experiences can't be more different. I find that the only temperamental thing with the Press Pot is getting the grind right to achieve low fines. Well, that and the cleanup. I find many people over-steep their press pots, mostly because of a mistake in how to calculate extraction. Use 15.6 units of weight water per unit weight of coffee, and change the steep time until the coffee tastes good. It IS as simple as that.
People try and use coarse ground coffee - but unless you're grinding it in a store or with a very expensive grinder set up to deliver a "french press" grind, most grinders just won't be able to achieve a tightly distributed grind necessary. The big particles need about 4-6 minutes to steep - the little particles will finish steeping in about 40 seconds. A finer but tighter grind is actually better in a Press Pot than a coarse boulders and dust grind.
Because of this, there tends to be too much fuss over the grind in a press pot - basically look at 4 minutes as a starting steep time, and BACK UP from there if it tastes bitter or strong. 6 minute steep is for when you have a Ditting and have a good average 1mm grind with a tight distribution. Most of us don't have that - just don't grind so fine that the filter clogs or you have mud in the cup, (you can't get there with a whirlyblade grinder) and don't worry about stirring - just so long as you have the water in full contact with the grounds. See my recipe (in my sig) - one method is to put the plunger in and push the grounds a few mm below the surface of the brew water. Watch for the grounds to sink. Wait 45 seconds and then press.
I can't help with the cleanup. You're on your own there. LOL
For me, the most forgiving methods seem to be the immersion/steep methods. Pourovers can be good - but they can end up POORovers very easily. Immersion methods are insensitive to "how" you pour. They are generally insensitive to percolation rate (or it is irrelevant, like a Press Pot or Eva Solo). For a pourover - you are controlling the delivery rate of the water - the percolation rate is set by the configuration of your filter (flat, cone like a Chemex, flat cone like the Melitta series filters, filter material), grounds fineness and bed depth. Matching the delivery rate and percolation rate properly so you are washing the coffee steadily can be a pain.
But, flexibility is another aspect that is worth mentioning - and the Clever Coffee Dripper has that. You can use it like a pourover. You can also use it like an immersion brewer (and it works GREAT for loose tea steeping and filtering).
It makes a good, 12oz cup in one brew - but you didn't mention how many cups you want to make in an easy, quick way.
I'm assuming you have a tea kettle, and for optimal results you should have a thermometer (make sure your water is roundabout 200 degrees. 205 is aight, boiling is bad, and anything lower than 190 is a no-go)
Don't use 205°F. Every time I use it, I get complaints from my independent taster (that's my wife) - regardless of the coffee - about bitterness or "harsh aftertaste" or how it won't "finish right". Stay at 200°F or lower - in fact, that's one of the downfalls of my little Melitta BCM-4C brewer - if you try and brew the full cycle, the last minute can see temps as high as 209°F in the brew basket .
If your brewer allows it (some won't) or if you decide on one of the steep methods - don't hesitate to make a few cups at 185°F. This will turn out surprisingly better than you expect, especially for the immersion/steep methods.
One thing, though: single cup brewing - consistent, good single cup brewing - requires precision. This means toss your scoops and measuring spoons out. Get a $20 digital scale and weigh your coffee doses and know the fill lines for the mass of water (if you don't want to keep weighing your water every time you brew). Seemingly small errors with single cup brewing results in taste variation in the cup. A gram is about the weight of a paperclip, a post 1982 US Penny weighs just 2.5g - but you're only using 25g or so of brew coffee, and you're off by just the mass of a penny - you've changed your coffee dose by 10%! You won't be able to pick 10% changes in volume with coffee grounds.
These things are all guidelines - no rules, no right answers. There's just the physical description of the brewing process, the recipes we all use, the devices we use to make the coffee, and the cup you end up with. It isn't magic.
In summary: my recommendations are
*if you want single cup brewing with some flexibility, get a Clever Coffee Dripper. <$20 on Amazon. *if you want to make several cups of coffee, get a Bunn brewer. Can be had for <$120. *conversely - learn how to brew with the press pot. $0.00 *get a decent grinder, but shy away from the Cuisinart burr grinder. It's HORRIBLE. ~$100 for a good solution. *get a scale. <$20 on Amazon. *there are many good coffees around, plan on about $15/lb. *set your brew ratios up correctly and brew away.
With a setup like that, you'll blow away anything Starbucks brews in store - even with their own coffee.
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