I get a lot of questions about the April Brewer. And hey, I get it! There was a bit of a learning curve (which, for the record, I don’t believe is a bad thing). But this brewer is one that I’ve found gets better when you embrace its philosophy, design and intended use.
I love the April Brewer. It’s a brewer I use regularly and one that I believe is capable of producing some of the cleanest and nicest cups of coffee I’ve ever tasted. It’s my go-to when I want to taste wide open flavours, clear descriptors and have light and juicy cups. I love that I can depend on it, too. I can depend on it for a certain style of coffee, I can depend on it for a certain level of extraction, and most importantly I can depend on it for a certain level of clarity of flavour I simply haven’t yet achieved with other brewers. Is this a big call? Maybe! But I’m sticking with it.
This post is designed to help you understand, troubleshoot and get the most out of your April Brewer. But, after some annoying messages and comments last year, I feel inclined to say that this is based on my personal experience, findings and testing with three generations of April Brewers. I am not a scientist, do not have a lab and therefore do not have the ability to take precise, repeatable measurements in a perfectly controlled environment. I also do not have access to recording technologies that allow me to share a fair and balanced, true blue 100% infallible answer.
I am, however, a human being who likes brewing coffee and likes taking note of things that happen when you do, and I hope my experience can help you understand this great lil brewer. If you like the sound of that, please read on. If you don’t, please don’t leave a message.
One thing I’ve learned when playing around with drippers is history and intent plays a huge role in how the coffee will turn out. The April Brewer was designed with the following in mind:
- A 2 x 100g pouring pattern, with at least 50% of the pouring concentrated in the centre
- A total brew time of 2’30 - 3’30 using just two pours (the papers they sell help with this)
- A wide base, to spread out the surface area of the coffee and allow the water to pass through more ‘evenly’
- Reaching a TDS of around 1.3-1.4 (or roughly 19-20% extraction)
- A geometry meant to increase clarity of flavour at those levels of extraction
- A consistent brewing method for coffee roasted by April
The point of outlining this is to say that this is not a brewer designed with super high extractions in mind and it’s not a brewer designed to drain incredibly fast. It’s also not designed with swirling, tapping or shaking in mind, so approaching the brewer that way may yield some less than ideal results. This also doesn't mean achieving higher extractions is impossible, since using standard extraction theory like hotter water and finer grinds will still yield higher levels of extraction, especially once you've got your brewer dialled in.
Dialling in your (troublesome) April Brewer
If you’re having issues with the April Brewer, I’d recommend finding what I like to call your ‘breaking point’ (that is, the point where the coffee is either draining too quickly or too slowly). To do this, test different coffees, test doses small and large (sometimes large doses flow dramatically better in some brewers, for example), test stupidly fine grind sizes and stupidly coarse grind sizes and see how the brewer responds. Really experiment with it, you might learn something about your approach, the brewer or the coffees you use.
So, what do I do?
This next section will go through a few variables that I believe make a difference. The goal here is to share my approach and give you some different things to think about and consider.
A quick word on kettles
I use a Fellow Stagg, and haven’t had any issues with it. That said, I have heard that the Timemore Fish Pro kettle and the Brewista Artisan series have faster flow rates and can produce cups that drain faster than the Fellow Stag. Just something that might be useful for you!
As mentioned above, this brewer was very much designed with the 2 x 100g pour recipe in mind. I have had some good results with 4 or 5 pours, but the best results for me are always a 2 or a 3 pour approach.
Deciding your splits
This is a brewer that does well with pouring in the split ‘circle/centre’ style - pouring an amount continuously starting in a circle pour (to saturate) followed by a centre pour, which helps increase flow rate. I actually change my splits depending on how slow the coffee is. My standard move is to go 40/60 (that is, circle pour for around 40% of the time and centre pour for around 60% of the time). For denser or slower draining coffees, I usually go 30/70 to help create more downward pressure. For fast draining coffees I usually go 50/50 to keep up saturation. This might not be a game changer for you but it’s something that I find can help aid the flow of coffees a little. Basically - the slower the coffee drains the more you want to centre pour.
Next up - coffee choice
I tend to use this dripper for two types of coffees: ones roasted by April, and ones that I know will have a reasonable flow rate (typically those that are less dense). Perhaps unsurprisingly, April coffees always flow incredibly well through the April Brewer!
Not to confuse things, but this is not to say that coffees that are more dense won’t work with the April Brewer! Yes, sometimes they will stall (I believe this is because the centre pouring really moves the grinds around, which can form a layer of fines at the bottom and stall the brewer). But other times you will get great results, even if the brew time is longer than 4 minutes (I've had delicious cups that stalled and finished as long as 8 minutes!). For example, I’m currently drinking a Colombian washed SL28 from SEY. It has a longer brew time than other coffees, but still tastes so great. It’s sweet, clean and balanced, with about a 3’40-55 total brewing time. On that, it’s also a coffee I get quite a long brewing time with other ‘faster’ brewers.
Unfortunately I don’t have a hard and fast rule here aside from saying this: it’s worthwhile to trial denser coffees just in case it might work. Grinding coarser, using boiling water, doing heavier and longer centre pours, and expecting a longer brew time will help you here. Also, if you’re into it you can try pre grinding a slow draining coffee 10-20 minutes before brewing. In my experience, this sometimes helps. If you find you constantly get dud results from a roaster or type of coffee, then I’d avoid it and focus on coffees that drain a little faster.
As a quick aside, in my previous blog post I mentioned that these days I tend to prefer matching slower draining coffees with faster draining brewers and vice versa. This is a slower draining brewer, so I find it excels with faster draining coffees. If you’re wondering what I mean by this, you can have a read of my previous blog post, or head to Pillar Coffee to learn about density.
I tend to err on the side of coarser for most of my brews anyway these days, and if you’re just starting out with the April Brewer I would recommend going coarser. My usual starting point is 7/9 on my Ditting, which is around 25 clicks or a pretty solid 'medium'. But for some experimentals, nattys and things like that I’ve gone as fine as 6/9, even 5.5/9 at times. If you’re getting really fast draining times, I can recommend actually keeping your grind size where it is, and adding an extra pour.
The current papers from April are really really good and work incredibly well. I can highly recommend them. They increase the steadiness of the flow of the brewer and, in my experience, clog pretty rarely.
More on coffees
For my favourite results, I usually reach for experimental lots, naturals and bigger beans like Geisha. I also like Central and South American coffees like Panama, El Salvador and Brazil. Here I’ll mention again that I like to use a slower draining dripper with a faster draining coffee. So that super dense Colombian roasted ridiculously light by SEY will work, but it’ll most likely take a little while longer to drain, OR I’ll need to grind quite coarse to get reasonable drain times. This doesn’t mean I can’t use it, it just means that if I do want to use it I will want to follow some of the steps listed above, and probably expect a longer drain time.
But that nice natty Esmeralda geisha I had roasted by La Cabra? Perfect. A natty Ethiopian? Bingo. Washed Ethiopian? Probably, but I’d anticipate a longer drain time depending on the roast style.
Finally, I'd be a bad businessperson if I didn't leave at least one link to my online store where you can in fact purchase this brewer in Australia.