September 26, 2015

As the standards for "good" coffee have continually risen over recent years, at-home brewing with manual equipment has spiked in popularity and accessibility. And sure, you can find a Hario V60 Pour-Over Kit at Urban Outfitters, but hands-on brewing isn't some hipster fluff. It is, however, the most direct route to brewing a cup of morning, afternoon, evening, or late night (no judgement) coffee that is perfect for your mouth.

Not sure what equipment is quite right for you? No worries. Here's a compact breakdown of the 3 major methods and my preferred piece of manual machinery for executing each:

Pour-OverIt’s exactly what it sounds like—pouring hot water over ground coffee to extract flavor into your cup. Manual pour-over methods essentially do the very thing electric drip coffee makers do, but put greater control over the results into the hands of the sipper. A slow-pouring kettle is recommended for any pour-over brewing equipment, such as a Bee House, a Hario V60, a Walkure, or the popular Chemex.

The Perk: Pour-over methods may seem meticulous but are ideal for the coffee maker who wants the max amount of hands-on control. Pour-over produces a distinctly bright and clean cup of coffee. The final product has next to no bitterness and is incredibly smooth drinking.

I Love: The Chemex

Best Bean: fruity, floral, brightly acidic coffees shine in a Chemex. Go with a blend from Ethiopia or Kenya.

Grind: medium to medium-coarse

Producing a great cup of coffee with a Chemex is dependent more on proper measuring and timing than it is the expertise of the brewer, making it a great selection for recent converts to manual brewing. Because it uses very thick paper filters, the water flows more slowly through the coffee grounds than with other pour-over methods.

 

Full-ImmersionRather than gradually pouring water over grounds, full-immersion brewing methods entail completely covering the coffee grounds in hot water and allowing them to steep, extracting flavor along with more of the beans’ natural oils than other brewing methods. Immersion brewers include Siphons, Vacuum Pots, and the French Press.

The Perk: Full-immersion techniques allow the coffee and water to have a more extensive interaction and result in a deep-flavored, robust-bodied cup of coffee.

I Love: The French Press

Best Bean: Dark roast, chocolaty coffees. Go with a blend from Brazil or Indonesia.

Grind: Coarse

The French Press yields coffee with the full-bodied, palpable depth many coffee drinkers crave. As the press uses a metal filter, rather than paper like pour-over methods, more of the beans’ oils are allowed through and into the final cup, resulting in the distinctly rich mouthfeel.

 

HybridThese devices combine the steeping aspect of full-immersion brewing with afinal cleansing journey through a paper filter, as with pour-over brewing. Hybrid brewing equipment includes the Clever Dripper and the Aeropress.

The Perk: Combining the best of both pour-over and immersion techniques makes for a happy-medium, well-balanced cup of coffee. The coffee is allowed to build the deep, bold flavor associated with steeping the grounds; but after going through a more intense, pour-over style filtering, you have a cleaner, brighter final product

I Love: The Aeropress

Best Bean: Bright and juicy, as well as slightly darker and more dynamic coffees fare well in the Aeropress. Try blends from Central America, Ethiopia, or Kenya.

Grind: Medium

The Aeropress is one of the more dynamic coffee-brewing devices on the market, as it can be used in several ways—the method designated on the manual is a good place to start. This is a great piece to pack for away-from-home brewing.

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