Here in my city’s CBD, I’ve been seeing many people walking past my workplace with 100’s of shopping bags from the store that is the latest fad in home brewing…I wanted to know where they were coming from and decided to take a recon mission to find out….
About 100m from where I work is the store that was causing all the commotion. It reminded me of when Apple opened up its retail stores years ago, the sound of the money being thrown at the salespeople was deafening, and people where just hanging out because, well, other people were just hanging out.
This company has spent a fortune on the shop fit, and it has to be said that they really have upped the marketing and branding, even the appearance of the staff looked very sharp in ties and sleek dark shirts. This is big money marketing at its finest.
The product here is Pod machines, and of course coffee in pods. For the sake of possibly being sued for defamation, let’s call this shop and its brand…
You know who I’m talking about, right?
Here there are pod machines of all shapes and sizes, colours and prices. Basic ones, fully blown milk frothing ones, and if you wanted to spend up big there are plenty of staff waiting to help you achieve this.
I have to say, the smell of stale coffee and terrible extractions was overwhelming.
A quick calculation of the coffee price per kilo being sold in convenient little foil and plastic containers…. Between $70 and $80 per kilo. More than the rare single origin micro lot coffee picked and cared for by hand sitting in my grinder at work.
Do consumers know this? Do they care? Has my job of being a hands on brewer just been taken over by a little machine, all because Mr Gorge Kluny* (*named change to protect this author) prefers a style of coffee named Ristretto (which in the TV Ad actually does not resemble a ristretto yield of coffee at all)?
Judging by the amount of shopping bags and people literally frothing at the mouth to get their hands on anything this shop has to offer…. It’s not looking good.
I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs “YOU’RE ALL BEING DUPED!” but then I had visions of being dragged out screaming by some heavy security guard juiced up on the sizzurp that this shop was serving as tasters.
Thankfully I know in my heart, the answer to whether I was being replaced, is no.
And I know you the reader wouldn’t dare give in to this marketing madness and buy this kind of gear, and cheap coffee dressed up to look amazing, right?
So here is my alternate option, so one can stick it up to those companies making us out to be fools and stealing all our hard earned cash.
This technique has been around for ages, and its also a way that you can brew great coffee at home, without the massive financial expenditure, and even teach yourself about these little seeds you crave each and every day.
People always ask me what machine I have at home, and the answer is…
(drum roll please)
Unless you have unlimited funds, save making espresso at home for when you go out. Coffee houses have spent upwards of $20000 in their gear, so trying to compare coffee like this to a $300+ home machine will leave you very disappointed.
At home, I make filter coffee.
Filter coffee is the way people have been making coffee for decades without all the fancy bells and whistles, and by far is the best way to showcase the seeds you’ve just spent good money on. It will teach you how to improve your coffee palette, teach you about coffee, and is such a beautiful ceremonial process.
It will also inadvertently teach one how to respect (on a new level) all the hard work that goes into producing said seed. But the main thing here is you will be tasting the coffee how it’s meant to be enjoyed.
Gently brewed, with no additives, and over a short amount of time, gets better and better in the cup much like a good glass of wine.
There are a couple of options, an Aeropress, a pourover dripper, a Chemex, and the list goes on.
For the sake of you learning the most in the least amount of time, we’ll choose the pourover setup.
Here are the things you need for a simple home setup.
- digital timer
- hand or electric grinder
- electric kettle
- pourover kettle
- pourover dripper and decanter
- a willingness to learn
- some good coffee sourced from your local coffee house, ‘filter’ roast.
Recommendations for this gear below
Espresso roast will work, but due to the darker profile of the beans, will require more finesse to stop the astringency and over brewing. Filter roasts are lighter, will accentuate the coffee’s ‘cup’ profile, and the filter brewing method is closer to ‘cupping’, the way a coffee is graded to determine its quality, clarity and profile. ‘Cupping’ is the purest way to drink and sample coffee.
The thing about this technique, is that you can perform it with little previous experience or coffee knowledge and achieve amazing results in a very short time. There are endless videos and resources online, next to no clean up, and it really only takes a few minutes longer than actually boiling a kettle.
Or you can take this technique to the extreme, and control many parameters of the brew, extraction, temperature and treat it like a science experiment, to also achieve amazing results. The reality is, after a little practice, your brews will just get better and better, as the margin for error is nothing compared to the margin of error trying to master ‘espresso’ style brewing at home (plus the clean up time involved with a machine).
Here are my two main suggestions for gear to purchase and no, they don’t sell this gear at the ‘Notspresso’ store, or Charbucks.
It’s very easy to purchase online, and many of the good coffee houses around now stock this gear as part of their retail range. The only thing you need to do is work out what size gear you need.
How many will be drinking this coffee?
One person? Two or more? One person that drinks more than one cup in a sitting?
Obviously there are many companies that produce pourover drippers and gear, but I will stick to the two main (and easily accessible) brands.
Hario of Japan have been making amazing products for decades, and many years ago they came up with the design that changed the game.
Available in glass, plastic and ceramic, this dripper is probably the primary way the industry brews pourover coffee if you order a filter coffee at a coffee house.
Easy to use, cheap, and produces a stunning cup of coffee. Available in all sorts of colours for the fashion conscious, and there are 2 sizes.
The ’01’ size for one cup/person, and the ’02’ size for larger brews.
There are many websites and shop that sell these, just make sure you buy the filter sizes to match whatever size dripper you decide on. And if you can afford their beautiful decanters to match the size you are buying, do it! The dripper will sit right on the top of the decanter and you’ll brew straight into it. Easy!
Hario also makes beautiful pourover kettles as well, the most known is the Buono kettle. Fairly cheap, and also an industry standard in its wide use around the world.
Although having been around for a while, it has recently gained much momentum and popularity. When I first saw these it was almost impossible to buy here in Australia, and after asking the advice of an industry senior was told that they produce coffee almost exactly the same brew as the V60.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
They produce in my opinion an even more gentle and accentuated brew due to the different shaped dripper, filters and brew method. Although harder to purchase, and due to the shape of the filters (one has to look after these so they retain their shape) I am seriously IN LOVE with the brew they produce (I’m not biased at all).
Also comes in two sizes, the ‘155’ for one cup/person, and the larger ‘185’ for larger brews.
Kalita also make pourover kettles, and the amazing matching Wave kettle. Beautiful, expensive, but also widely used by professionals and home brewers and worth ever cent.
They also make two different filters, one in a brown unbleached paper, and one in a pure white bleached paper. The white version is the one to buy, as it produces less paper taste in the brew.
Again, make sure you buy the correct sized filters to match the dripper size, and also a decanter to match if you can.
Ok. Some Q’s and A’s.
What’s the importance of a pourover kettle?
Compared to regular the regular kitchen variety, these kettles have a fine spout to control the flow of water, which is very important in brewing.
Some brands (Hario, and also Bonavita) have produced pourover kettles with inbuilt heating elements and programmable temperature control.
Fine if you have the budget, but a regular kitchen kettle plus a pourover kettle is completely fine.
I use a regular kettle, a pourover kettle and also a digital thermometer probe so I can be exact (and feed my need to be OCD) with my brewing parameters.
Why a timer?
A timer is needed so that you can monitor your brew time, and also to help replicate the brew parameters of a certain recipe. Most people I know just use their smartphone, but a digital kitchen timer is cheap and will usually be in the area of your coffee equipment, not in the pocket of your pants from yesterday when you’re half asleep in the morning and
halfway in the process of making coffee when you realise you need it.
Hand grinder or electric?
A decent hand grinder will more than do the trick. Without confusing you or getting into the technical side of coffee fines messing up your brew, I think getting a hand grinder is a better way to help your knowledge.
It will teach you about coffee seed/bean density, how to fine tune the grind size and also how to ‘dial’ in a grinder for brew grind size.
Hario, Porlex, Commandante, Orphan, there are many brands to buy all differing prices and all good. If you already have an electric burr grinder ( not a herb style blade grinder!!) then thats cool too. Most brands are able to do the coarse setting needed for pourover brewing.
These are needed to measure the coffee yield whilst brewing. Digital kitchen scales are cheap, and are as integral as the pourover kettle. These will also help for consistency and accuracy.
If the budget doesn’t allow for some, steal them from a family member, I’m sure they won’t mind when you present them with a stunning cup of coffee in lieu.
In the next post I will be explaining how to brew, get the best out of your coffee, and showing you the recipes…
TO BE CONTINUED…….