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A Case For Manual Coffee Brewing

A Case For Manual Coffee Brewing

I put my automatic coffeemaker into storage several months ago. It was a pause that I had been contemplating for some time. I didn’t do it because I am giving up coffee, it is actually quite the opposite. I did it to learn more about coffee and drink better coffee. I have gone to a manual only brewing plan. Manual coffee brewing refers to brewing methods that take automation out of the brewing process. I like to refer to coffee brewed this way as “handmade.” To some of you, I am sure, going to a manual only plan may seem rather extreme. The standard automatic drip coffeemaker doesn’t make bad coffee if you use it correctly. I have, in fact, had many enjoyable mugs of coffee from my auto brewer. There is something about brewing a cup of coffee manually that, in addition to producing an outstanding cup of coffee, is nearly essential to understanding coffee. Once you start to explore all the variables and nuances that go into your coffee, your appreciation for coffee’s complexity will increase along with your enjoyment of the beverage. I think everyone who enjoys coffee should give manual brewing a try. At this point, there are probably several excuses that are popping into your head for why it is not practical, possible or reasonable for you try brewing coffee manually. I understand. Let me help you out by challenging a few of the most common reasons to forego this quintessential coffee ritual and hopefully give you a few reasons to try it.

I can’t afford all the fancy equipment

This misconception can be largely attributed to the overwhelming and seemingly inexhaustible supply of coffee brewing gear that is out there. I too have quite a long list of gadgets and equipment that I would like to add to my manual brewing arsenal. The truth is, the equipment needed for manual brewing is so minimal at the entry level that you probably have almost everything you need at home already. Here is the basic list:
  • A tea kettle or something you can boil water in and that has a spout for pouring
  • Ground Coffee
  • A mug
  • A manual coffee brewer
The Manual Coffee Brewer is the intimidating thing right? Who doesn’t know how to source the first three things. Kettle…check. Coffee…check. Mug…check. A manual coffee brewer… chirp chirp. You can purchase a Melitta Filter cone for under 5 dollars in the coffee aisle of most grocery stores (that is a manual brewer.) Do you have a French Press? (That is a manual brewer too.) Manual brewer…Check!

I don’t know how

At a beginner’s level, manual coffee brewing is not very complicated. A manual filter cone functions the same way that an automatic drip coffee maker does. You are the automatic coffee maker now. Brewing coffee manually can get pretty complex once you start to dig into it. Getting started doesn’t have to be that daunting though. Here is the quick (very quick) run down of brewing a fine cup of coffee with a manual filter cone (like the Melitta Filter cone).
  1. Boil water in your kettle and let it cool for 30 seconds or so. You want the water to be just under boiling temperatures when you start brewing.
  2. Place the filter cone on top of the mug with a paper filter in it. Don’t put the coffee in the filter just yet.
  3. Pour a little water through the filter to rinse it and preheat the mug.
  4. Dump the water out of the mug and place the coffee grounds into the filter. For your first attempt, I recommend using 2 Tablespoons of ground coffee for 6 fluid ounces of coffee.
  5. Slowly pour water over the grounds until they are wet. Pause for about thirty seconds before continuing. This is called the bloom.
  6. Pour the rest of your water slowly (about the same speed coffee is exiting the bottom of the filter cone) over the grounds until you reach the desired coffee volume. Enjoy your handmade coffee.
If you have selected the French Press as your manual brewer, there are many great tutorials online to reference. (Including a tutorial on the Angel's Cup blog.)

The coffee I am drinking is fine. I am not interested in nitpicking and being a coffee snob

Why do you buy great roasted coffee? Think of it like owning a two-story house and only using the first floor. If you are not going to use the great coffee you are brewing to it’s full potential, why not save some money and buy a “smaller house”? This might be a little bit of a melodramatic illustration but I think the point is clear. If you are going to buy great specialty coffee, why not experience all the excellence and intricacies that particular coffee has to offer? There is an incredible journey that coffee goes through before it reaches your cup. It is quite the process. At each step of that process, someone has taken purposeful steps to make sure that particular coffee is the best it can be. Brewing coffee manually is the final thoughtful stroke on the painting, it doesn’t mean you are a coffee snob. There is a huge difference between being a coffee snob, and enjoying good coffee at it’s full potential.

Give it a try

There are many other reasons people choose to brew or not brew coffee manually, but I would encourage you to give it a try yourself before you write it off. What do you have to lose? It doesn’t take much time or effort and you will also gain an appreciation and curiosity for everything that goes into making a great cup of coffee. It is worth trying. Do you have any questions or comments about manual coffee brewing? Feel free to join in the discussion below. If you are looking to get started with manual brewing grab some coffee from Angel’s Cup and then head over to my getting started page and we will get you up and running.