Hi there. It’s been a while, how’s things?
Over the past six months since updating this blog, I’ve been reflecting on what I actually want to write. I found myself in a place that left me wanting to look outwards less and inwards more. Rather than focusing on what other people might want to know more about, I wanted to focus on what I wanted to know more about, or, have more control over. This has led to some great brainstorming sessions but it’s time to put the proverbial pen to the proverbial paper - particularly on the topics of my brew bar, sharing recipes and categorising brew guides. Today's blog post is going to focus on the first of these - organising my brew bar.
This began with a simple question, “do I actually like this brewer?”. After asking this to each one of my brewers, I was left with only a selection of brewers that I believe most positively impact the cups of coffee I like to drink. Once I made my shortlist, I categorised them into ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. The end goal is to match the ‘fast’ drippers with slower draining coffees, and the ‘slow’ drippers with faster draining coffees. Why? Well I’m glad you asked.
There were two coffees that really pushed my perspective on how I should be choosing drippers - a Ninety Plus coffee sent to me for free to try from the wonderful people at The Espresso Lab in Dubai, and an experimental Sidra from my new pals at La Cabra. Both of these coffees drained exceptionally quick - and I found myself instantly reaching for my slower brewers, or gravitating toward recipes that used 4 or more pours. This really hit a nerve I haven’t quite shaken, and I’ve been playing around with this quite a bit since tasting both of those coffees.
Essentially, I have always struggled or been underwhelmed by washed coffees with recipes that use 4 or more pours. This is *usually* because they don’t drain so well after the third pour, unless you’re grinding quite coarse, and resulting cup profiles tend to be a bit muddled and unclear. I would assume this partly has to do with the way fines are generated with more dense coffees, but I’m not a scientist so it’s hard for me to quantify that. Alongside this is the fact that washed coffees do pretty bad with slower drippers (on average AND with some exceptions of course). As a result, brewing washed (or particularly ‘dense’) coffees has become quite predictable for me:
- I use a faster draining dripper to ease extraction and match greater fines production, slower draining rates, and/or the typically finer grind settings needed for two or three pour recipes
- Always start and usually settle on a two pour recipe to yield a light, juicy and clean body. If the coffees taste particularly thin, even at high temperatures and fine grinds, I add an extra pour to help bring a little more body.
- I adjust the grind to the point where the coffee tastes the most sweet with a clean finish.
- Lastly, I’ll look at temperature. I usually adjust it depending on roast, green quality, age of green, age after opening and quality of storage after opening.
When it comes to naturals/experimentals generally I tend to find myself gravitating towards slower drippers OR recipes that use 3 or more pours. This is because naturals/experimental (N/E) typically drain much faster, so I either want to bring out a bit more body through pours, or increase contact time with slower drippers for a more ‘round’ flavour profile. I usually use three pour recipes for the more ‘juicy’ coffees, 4 pours for when I want a bit more sweetness and body, and 5 pours when I want a lot of body and sweetness with a less intense acidity. But basically, with those faster draining coffees there’s a lot more room to manoeuvre as far as recipes go, even if you match it to a slower draining dripper.
I find using slower draining drippers with faster draining coffees is a good way to get a bit more out of a two or three pour recipe - I find it helps bring out a good amount of acidity because of the extra ‘extracting power’ of higher water levels and greater temperature, while still retaining that light and juicy body.
What I’m left with is: Kōno, April, Orea and Zen - the four drippers I find to leave the biggest impact on cup profile. Generally, my impressions are as follows:
- Kōno, I find is slow when you fill it all the way up, but fast when you use it for pulse pours. Always good for a nice balance of body, sweetness and acidity.
- April is definitively slow - but produces wonderfully clean cups, works great with Aprils roasts (specifically), and is perfect for N/E coffees. I really like it with a three pour recipe, and with their new filter papers cups are always super crisp.
- Orea is my go-to fast brewer. I prefer it to V60 type drippers, and usually pair it with Melodrip for my favourite cups, especially with dense or washed coffees. It gives me a very similar impression to the Tornqvist Kalita, which I still sometimes sub in for the nice Kalita vibes, but Orea is just a fraction faster.
- Zen is just a brewer I like using, especially for two-pour recipes. It usually gives a bit more body than the Orea but still drains very predictably, and can handle large sizes quite happily.
So this is where I am at the start of the year. I’m using a smaller range of drippers with a bit more of a deliberate approach, and I’m really loving the results. It’s an approach that seems (to me) to be answering some questions, and gives me some easy starting points for the two general types of coffees I find myself brewing.
Hope you’ve all been brewing some delicious coffee!