Coffee: Alternative Brewing Methods
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“This coffee tastes like mud! Well, it was ground this morning.”
Old Vaudeville joke
Over the past couple decades, coffee has become increasingly popular and many new products have been introduced to help drinkers enjoy the ultimate cup of joe. These days, you’re not limited to instant, drip, or the local coffee shop.
Several new home coffee brewing methods enable you to make delicious, flavorful coffee at home. Coffee drinkers interested in a more natural brewing process are buying whole beans and grinding them themselves rather than using pre-processed coffee grounds. With increasing frequency those home ground, er, grounds are being brewed in coffee pots—percolators, French presses, and softbrew pots—with few or no mechanical parts.
Percolators? Aren’t those the pots we used to use before Mr. Coffee and his drip brew minions came on the scene in the early 1970s? Yes, indeed.
A percolator brews coffee by continually cycling a boiling brew through the coffee grounds by relying on the power of gravity. Percolators have a small chamber at the bottom that is close to the heat source, often your stovetop. An internal vertical tube leads from that bottom chamber to the top of the percolator, and there is a perforated chamber just below the top of the tube.
To use one, pour water into the primary chamber of the pot, then add your desired amount of coarsely ground coffee beans into the top chamber. Once placed on a stove or range (some percolators have electronic heating elements) the heat forces the water up through the tube, distributing the boiling water through the perforated chamber and into the coffee grounds before returning to the main chamber. The water percolating takes on the flavor of the grounds as it passes through them.
Here are two percolators to explore. One goes directly on your stovetop the other is electric:
- Old-fashioned Percolator: With this coffeepot, you can make hot, delicious coffee directly on your stove top—no electric cords! Features a stay-cool handle and see-through top knob. Dishwasher safe.
- Cuisinart Coffee Percolator: This 12-cup percolator is electric and pipes hot water through coffee grounds and pulses up into the transparent knob on top to brew rich, full-flavored coffee.
A French press, also known as a press pot or a coffee plunger, is even simpler than a percolator. The press is a large coffee chamber with a removable top that has a cheesecloth-like screen underneath. There is also a plunger you use to push the grounds through the water. This simple device produces one of the most natural forms of coffee you can drink.
- Bonjour Triomphe Insulated French Press: This French press’ double-wall insulation ensures coffee brews at the optimal temperature and stays hot on the table. The filtering lid helps reduce sediment in every cup to provide the highest-quality coffee taste without acidity.
When using a French press, follow these steps to brew coffee
1. Boil the water before you grind the beans to allow the water to cool to the correct temperature and prevent scalding.
2. While the water heats, remove the press’ lid and plunger/filter assembly.
3. Fill the press with hot tap water (this is different water than what you’re boiling) to warm the glass and help keep your coffee hot. Once the water boils, pour the tap water out of your French Press and discard (or set aside to cool and use to water plants).
4. Grind coffee medium to coarse.
5. Measure coarsely ground coffee into the French Press. (Experiment here until you find your preferred taste.) Begin with 1 heaping tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee per 5 ounces of water.
6. Slowly pour very hot (almost boiling) water over the ground coffee, filling to the desired level.
7. Replace the lid and plunger/filter assembly with the plunger just 2 inches down into the brew. Don’t press down yet. Allow the coffee to steep for approximately 4 minutes for a large pot and 2 to 3 minutes for a small pot, depending on desired strength.
8. While the coffee is steeping, pour some hot water into your mug or cup to warm it, then pour out.
9. After the coffee has steeped, hold the lid with one hand, and using slow, steady pressure, depress the plunger keeping the rod upright. Note: Using excessive force can cause scalding liquid to shoot out of the pot.
10. Allow sediment to settle in the pot for 30 seconds before pouring.
11. Turn the lid to open the pour spout, and pour yourself a cup of coffee.
Caution: Don’t let the coffee sit long in the press. Even in the plunged position, it continues to extract.
The softbrew is the simplest and most recent entry into the coffee brewing category. Invented in Italy in 2010 by designer George Sowden, it acts much like a French press. However, instead of requiring the press mechanism, a filter stays put in the top of a porcelain chamber. You simply add your water to your coffee grounds, wait a few minutes and pour (see video).
However you decide to brew your coffee, be sure to find the product that best suits your taste so you can bring the feel of a chic coffee café into your kitchen.
Coffee your way! See more blogs on coffee tips, techniques and tools, right here at CHEFS Mix.
- Coffee: Make It At Home
- Coffee: Techniques and Tools to Go Pro at Home
- Coffee: Alternative Brewing Methods
- Personalized Coffee?
- Product Reviews: Remington’s iCoffee and the Bonavita Coffee Maker