Partial Thoughts on Brewers

Douby partial, in the same way that history is: necessarily incomplete and subjective.

This post does double work too as both confession and (tentative) guide.

I'm a mostly recovered coffee upgrader/obsessive/pocket-protected-dork. That is, whenever I saw a cool new brewing gizmo at a progressive shop or heard about same through dubiously (ahem)...I bought it uncritically. This was costly in more than just a couple of ways.

This post, again, is partial but here's hoping that it might be more helpful than other sources. Shops aren't always ideally forthcoming about the stuff that they are trying to sell you, and online discussion boards tend to have this just-buy-it vibe that isn't too helpful for the (this) recovering obsessive.

* Automatic drip. Not for me, but I understand the impulse here. You can make a lot of coffee with a minimum of fuss. The trendy item in this category would be the Technivorm. Supporters will often refer to 195-205 F being the ideal brewing temperature + claim that the T almost uniquely (in the automatic category) falls in this range. The counter: awesome coffee can be made with cooler water + the T doesn't do well making partial pots of coffee + different types of coffee call for different temps. 

* Manual drip. My preferred method. Chic items in this category include Coava's Kone and the Hario V60. It might be useful for you to know that the Kone produces a pretty muddy cup; cleaner than French Press but that's a low standard. As for the v60, the fact that you can more easily control drip-rate is often bruited...I've never heard anyone try to say why this is a particularly good thing. If you want manual drip, I happen to think that the Chemex is unbeatable. The v60 produces a similar result but it's quite finicky and it seems like less a way to showcase a coffee than one to showcase barista skill. Or, good Chemex technique is infinitely easier to master than good v60 technique; and good Chemex essentially = good v60 taste-wise. Slight differences of course, in body mainly.

* French Press. Elegant-looking but the actual mechanism is quite weird and inherently inconsistent. If you like the full-bodied style and don't mind the loss of clarity, I'd recommend just buying some sort of Pyrex beaker. In my experience the best way to get a good sweet extraction is basically to do a French Press without pressing...and for that you don't need a French Press. Sea-salt grind, figure out your favored steep-time, and pour carefully so as to leave as much of the sediment as possible in the beaker. Clean-up is a lot easier this way too.

* Hybrid drip/FP: in other word, driver mechanisms like the Brewt or Clever. These are cheap and easy and highly recommended. I find that they're sweetest if you're looking for a 8-9 oz. cup. Temp declines rapidly, so the coffee is more mellow than drip is...not better or worse just different. Doubles as a nifty teapot too.

I can't emphasize enough that this is incomplete and subjective. My underlying point is that top-notch coffee can be easy and non-fussy and that a lot of the things being sold by progressive shops aren't necessarily a step-up from old-time brewing methods. Or, in reductionist T-shirt terms, Buy (new) Beans not (additional) Brewers.

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