Since the discovery of coffee, people have fallen in love with coffee one after another. Whether this is solely because of its wonderful taste or because of its caffeine content is for someone else to say, but the fact is that it is universally loved.
Funnily enough, the discovery of coffee as we consume it today was a complete mistake. Coffee beans, which are actually seeds, are found inside the fruit of the Coffea plant. This fruit, small and round -much like a cherry- was usually consumed raw and that’s how in ancient times people would benefit from coffee. It wasn’t until a monk, having accidentally consumed this fruit and overtaken by the effects of caffeine, brought the seeds to his temple and told his superior about the effects of the plant that coffee was discovered: The latter monk, thinking coffee was of the devil, threw the seeds into the fire.
The joke was on him: The coffee beans started roasting, filling the air with the intoxicating aroma that we all know now.
So let’s take a look at some of the most popular brewing methods used today to make coffee, and how they work.
The French press, also known as cafetièrein French (literally coffeemaker), is one of the simplest ways there are to brew coffee.
It consists of two separate elements: A glass chamber with a handle and a lid equipped with a plunger which at the same time has a filtering element attached at the bottom. Once coffee and water have been added to the glass chamber, you introduce the plunger, filter out the coffee grounds, and pour yourself a cup of coffee.
Discovered completely by accident in old Japan, cold brew is the result of steeping coffee grounds in water -cold water- for long periods of time. This can be from 12 hours to 24 hours or even longer, depending on individual tastes.
Cold brew is one of the most fun coffee to make at home. It takes a long time to make, which is precisely what makes it fun. It’s sort of like a time capsule: you’re making some coffee for your future self, leaving it buried in the fridge.
Cold brew requires more coffee grounds that most other brewing methods. The coffee-to-water ratio is usually around 1:4. You can also use a lower ratio— it can go as low as 1:2.
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Though the siphon looks quite impressive and futuristic, it was actually invented in the 19th century. This brewing method makes use of physics to transport water between two chambers, and utilizes a cloth filter for flawless filtering of the grounds.
It is made up of 4 elements: The upper chamber, the portafilter, the lower chamber, and the heat element. The heating element is placed at the very bottom, and serves to heat water up in the chamber above it; the lower chamber. When the water is heated up, it starts migrating to the upper chamber, where it mixes with the coffee grounds and turns into coffee. Then, when the temperature goes back down, it goes back into the lower chamber, leaving behind any trace of coffee grounds.
The most popular brewing method by far, which is why today we find any number of different ways to produce espresso-like coffee. Technically, espresso is any coffee that is extracted by using force to push water through the coffee grounds. (Espresso, meaning something like by pressure).
An espresso is achieved by passing hot water through finely ground coffee with considerable strength. This allows us to greatly shorten brewing time, which usually takes several minutes, to no longer than 20 seconds. The result is a very concentrated coffee with an improved flavor and aroma thanks to shorter exposure to high temperatures.
In old times, a manual lever was used to press down the water: It is mimicked today by newer, innovative methods of brewing espresso like the Aeropress and the Flair espresso maker. But espresso machines are still largely favored by the public for their convenience and efficiency.
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The Aeropress, a recent invention that revolutionized the home espresso game, is one of the most popular ways to brew coffee at home nowadays. It works by using you, the coffee drinker, to create pressure. The air that becomes trapped inside forces the water down with force as you press down on it, creating a coffee like an espresso. This not only creates a higher quality coffee, but cuts down brewing time significantly.
The Aeropress is made of plastic -unusual among coffee makers- which makes it one of the most durable and portable coffee makers out there. Besides, the simplicity of its design does not get in the way of the quality of the coffee you can make. In fact, the Aeropress is a favorite of many baristas around the world.
Drip coffee and similar forms of filtered coffee is a brewing method that relies on a filter, whether it is paper or cloth, to hold the coffee grounds over a cup or decanter. Hot water is then poured on top of the coffee grounds, filtered, and comes out below as delicious, hot coffee. Filtered coffee comes in many shapes and forms; The Hario V60, the Chemex and even regular drip coffee machines are all examples of filtered coffee.
The vital factor aiding extraction in this method is gravity. It is gravity which helps the water pass through the coffee grounds, thus making coffee, pass then through the filter, and into our cups.
Also known as cà phê đá or cafe da. For this brewing method, you’ll need a Vietnamese coffee press, also known as Phin. The phin consists of a round perforated plate that fits over a coffee cup; a brewing chamber that sits on top of the plate; a perforated insert that fits inside the chamber, to tamp the grounds down; and a cap to keep the heat in.The Vietnamese coffee press is a very convenient coffee maker, which looks a little like pour overs like the Hario V60; it sits on top of your coffee cup and drips coffee down into it. However, it uses a metal filter, and needs some pressure to achieve a good coffee. A French roast or espresso roast are preferred for this brewing method.
The Vietnamese coffee method produces a deliciously sweet coffee. The coffee is brewed directly into your mug or glass, which has some condensed milk in it already, making for a bittersweet beverage. Ice is added later to complete this drink as it is enjoyed iced cold.
Ironically, these two types of coffee from places so far away share a very similar brewing method: Coffee grounds are mixed with water in the same pot, and are boiled for a short time to extract the coffee. The difference is, however, that while Turkish coffee is prepared with an extremely fine grind size and is a much more delicate thing, Cowboy coffee is quite the opposite: It is prepared with coarsely ground coffee -the coarser the better- and you can leave it in the pot unattended for a while.
Turkish coffee is brought to a boil for a few seconds, then taken off the stove. You then let it sit for a few moments, and serve: It is not filtered, so the consistency is akin to that of very thick hot chocolate.
Cowboy coffee is boiled for a few minutes, then taken off the stove. The main difference is that more water is used so, once it has sat for a few minutes, you can serve a few cups before any grounds leak into your cup.
In terms of flavor, however, they are not alike at all.
While it’s not a bucket list, it certainly is fun trying out all possible brewing methods and comparing aroma and taste. After all, each brewing method brings something different to the table, and it’d be a shame to be missing out on new and exciting ways to drink your coffee.