I love to unplug and go camping. It’s nice to get away from the hectic pace of life and take in nature by camping, fishing, and hiking. I also love great specialty coffee. It’s a new thing for me. So this year I decided to bring the essentials so that I could have my delicious coffee in the amazing outdoors. I thought it out for some time before packing. I needed to figure out what hardware was the most necessary and after some thinking and improvising, I came up with the essentials for making a great cup of coffee in the great outdoors. I love a v60 pourover whenever I can make it, but I didn’t think that bringing the ceramic and glass setup was a wise choice, especially if it arrived at camp in pieces. A pourover, if it’s done right, requires lots of precision as well. That means I would need to pack a scale. When camping, the less I can pack, the better. So this was all the more reason to look elsewhere.
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 equipmentThis 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
I don’t know howAt 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour a little water through the filter to rinse it and preheat the mug.
- 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.
- Slowly pour water over the grounds until they are wet. Pause for about thirty seconds before continuing. This is called the bloom.
- 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.
The coffee I am drinking is fine. I am not interested in nitpicking and being a coffee snobWhy 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 tryThere 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.
Across the country, the craft coffee movement is growing. Great roasters are popping up all over the place and the level that quality coffee has reached is phenomenal. It is a great time to be a coffee lover. If you are just showing up to the coffee party, don’t worry. There is plenty of time to get up to speed. While the world of coffee knowledge is vast, here are a few tips for coffee beginners that can instantly elevate the quality of the coffee you brew at home and give you a head start on your coffee journey.
Start with Fresh Roasted, Good Quality CoffeeNot all coffee is on an equal footing. Most people know that there is a difference between various coffee qualities, but they might not know how vast the differences in quality actually are. The coffee that you choose makes a huge difference on your brewed cup of coffee. Here is what to look for:
- Look for a roast date- Despite popular opinion, coffee is a perishable food and is actually pretty volatile. Don’t be fooled by coffee that has a best by date, look for coffee that has a roasted on date. Roasted coffee is best within the first month or so of the roast date.
- Avoid pre-ground when possible- If grinding your coffee at home right before you brew is an option, that is the recommended method. Coffee stales much quicker in it’s ground form and purchasing pre-ground coffee with an expiration date instead of a roast date will probably mean you are not getting the most out of your coffee brewing experience.
- Search for quality roasters and coffee you like- You may have a hard time finding fresh roasted coffee at your standard super market. Search out local coffee shops, coffee subscription services and area roasters for the freshest and best coffee. It helps to find someone; a roaster, a barista, or a twitter account, that you can actually interact with and ask questions about their coffee.
Pay Attention to The DetailsAs with most things worth doing in life, paying attention to the details matters for brewing coffee. There are many small details that go into making a great cup of coffee, but two larger details that make a big difference are using fresh, clean water and measuring your dosage. Coffee is mainly water, hence the water you use will make a significant difference in how your coffee turns out. Use water that tastes good to you, if the water tastes good it will probably be fine for coffee. Make sure it is fresh, clean and clear. Using bottled spring or drinking water is fine but do not use distilled. Regulating and measuring how much coffee you use when you brew is something that takes small effort but has huge pay-offs. Don’t just guess how much coffee to use. Start with the recommended dosage for your brewing method and then adjust for personal preferences after tasting your finished product. Your goal is consistency. Without measuring the ratio of coffee to water you are using, it will be hard to get repeatable results.
Focus on QualityIn a culture where nearly everything is mega-sized, making coffee is no exception. Mass quantities are the first priority and quality is typically only added in when it is convenient. Take the road less traveled and focus on quality, you won’t be disappointed. Here are a few things that can pack a punch from a quality of brewed coffee perspective:
- Make small batches and drink it fresh- Brewed coffee is best fresh. It is better to make several small batches throughout the day than to make one large batch in the morning and have it sit on a hot plate all day long. Leaving your coffee on a hot plate will burn it and change the taste (it’s not a good change either). If you find it to be too inconvenient to make several batches of coffee each day, invest in a quality carafe. Keeping coffee warm and sealed in a carafe or travel mug is much preferred over constantly reheating or burning your coffee.
- Consider manual coffee brewing- I am a huge proponent of manual brewing. (I have a blog named Brewing Coffee Manually in fact). Manual brewing is exactly what it sounds like; You are the coffee maker and you add water to coffee grounds in order to achieve the cup of coffee that you want. This may sound like a lot of work and like it is only for fanatical coffee addicts but with a minimal investment of time and a money you can make markedly better coffee than most automatic coffee makers.
- Ease off the additives- If you are adding copious amounts of sugar and flavored creamers to your coffee, it may be time to reevaluate. There is nothing wrong with adding things to your coffee and this isn’t a snobbery thing. You may find quality coffee brewed purposefully to be enjoyable black. Before adding anything to your coffee each time, take a sip of it. You never know which one will strike a harmonious chord with your palate.
Enjoy, Learn and ShareAs I mentioned earlier, it is a great time to be a coffee lover. Don’t stress out about the details, celebrate and enjoy them. With all the options available, you can explore and find a coffee made just the way you like it. If you are unhappy with the cups of coffee you are brewing at home, go back and evaluate your inputs and see where the problem is. When you are stumped don’t be intimidated, ask questions. There are tons of people out there who are willing and eager to answer your questions, myself included. When you get find a fantastic coffee you enjoy and get your brewing system down, share it. Nothing brings community quite like sharing a cup of coffee. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures. The fact that you made the coffee yourself will be the icing on the cake.
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