Coffee Brewing: Basic is Best

I’m all for modern conveniences. After all, my DVR changed my life. But sometimes, the “good ol’ fashioned way” is best, and that’s definitely true in coffee brewing.

I’ve learned a lot about coffee over the years — its almost become a hobby. Various roasting tours, tastings and brew methods have broadened my understanding of what those tiny beans of caffinated glory are capable of.  And while coffee machines do the job just fine, the best brew brings it back to basics.

At home, I use a coffee mill to grind the beans by hand and a Chemex brewer to brew the coffee. A Chemex is an hourglass shaped glass brewer in which hot water is poured through a special Chemex filter at the top that holds the ground coffee. What’s awesome about the Chemex is that it makes the purest coffee — no impurities from the machine, pot, etc. that you’d get with a traditional coffee machine. In addition, the hand grinder coarsely grinds the beans rather than pulverizing them, which helps extract the most flavor during the brewing process. Both of these methods when used together give you a pure, flavorful, delicious cup of coffee.

The Chemex is very easy to use and takes about the same amount of time as a traditional grind-and-brew. Here’s how:

  1. Heat the appropriate amount of water in a teakettle (my Chemex makes 6 cups, but there are other models available).
  2. Place a square Chemex filter, 3-ply side towards the spout, in the brewer and fill with your favorite ground coffee (one heaping tablespoon of ground coffee per five ounces of water).
  3. Once your water is boiling, remove from heat and let it sit for a second until the boil has died down. Now your ready to pour.
  4. This is the important step. Instead of pouring all the water onto the grounds at once, only pour enough to just saturate them. This is called letting the coffee “bloom.”
  5. After you wet the grounds, wait 20-40 seconds. This allows some carbon dioxide to escape from the coffee, which results in a heavier ground that clings to the bottom of the filter. NOTE: This is what makes a Chemex superior to an auto-drip machine as it allows for maximum flavor extraction. In an auto-drip, the grounds float in the water during the brewing process which results in a loss of flavor.
  6. After the coffee has bloomed, gradually pour more water into the Chemex, always leaving an inch or so of room at the top. When the base of your Chemex is full, your coffee is ready to go.

Intelligentsia Coffee also has an awesome iPhone app (as seen in the second to last photo in the collage above) for various brewing methods (including the Chemex) that shows you the approximate brew time and instructs you on when to perform each step.

As coffee brewing becomes more artisan, it’ll also become easier to find Chemex-brewed coffee in coffee shops — several of my favorites in Chicago are currently doing it. And if you haven’t tried it before, you have to! Your morning buzz will never be the same.


5 thoughts on “Coffee Brewing: Basic is Best

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  2. Mmmm, I do love a good cup of coffee. Out of sheer laziness, I buy ground and just pop it into my regular coffee machine. But I’d love to have you make me a fresh cup!

  3. Pingback: Coffee Brewing: Basic is Best and Coffee Shop in Los Angeles Hopes to Compete in Seattle

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