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How to master manual coffee brewing techniques

Whether you prefer the boldness of a French Press, the compact wonder of an AeroPress, the accuracy of a pourover, or the dramatic flair of a Syphon, each method unlocks the true potential of coffee

The pour-over method of brewing coffee.
The pour-over method of brewing coffee. (Caleb Dow, Unsplash)

For many, coffee is more than just a morning ritual; it's an art form, a conversation starter and a source of inspiration. The allure of coffee transcends its caffeinated wake-up call; it lies in the complexity of flavours, the rich history, and the cultural significance that each cup holds.

Also read | What’s behind the enduring popularity of pourover coffee?

It's time to elevate your coffee game and explore the fascinating world of manual brewing techniques. Forget about the ordinary drip machine; we're diving into the artistry of coffee preparation with four exceptional methods: the French Press, aeropress, pourover and syphon. With these techniques at your fingertips, you'll discover the true essence of coffee.

French Press: Unlocking the boldness

In this series, we begin our coffee journey with the French press, a time-tested favourite of many coffee connoisseurs. Envision a robust vessel made of either glass or metal whose form beckons you to indulge in the robust flavours characteristic of coffee. The method is simple: Fine coffee grounds steep in hot water and form a strong brew.

The process: To make coffee using a French Press, begin by grinding your beans coarsely. Add the ground into the press followed by boiled water. Stir gently and let the coffee brew for 4-5 minutes. Lastly, slowly press down the plunger to separate the grounds from the liquid and your strong brew is ready.

AeroPress: The Compact Coffee Wizard

Next in line is the AeroPress—an ultra-compact coffee maker that is an excellent addition to the modern coffee connoisseur who is always mobile. It’s like having a coffee wizard in your pocket. The secret is high air pressure — extracting the flavour through finely ground beans for a quick and crisp cup of coffee.

The process: With the AeroPress, you'll begin by placing a filter in the cap and securing it to the brew chamber. Add finely ground coffee and hot water, stir for a few seconds, and then attach the plunger. After a brief steep, press down on the plunger to extract your coffee, resulting in a flavourful and concentrated brew.

Pourover: Precision in a Drip

For those who revel in precision and enjoy a clean, nuanced cup of coffee, the pourover method is a true delight. It’s a manual method where you can control all the variables of brewing. For the diehard caffeine aficionado, pourover brewing — whether with the iconic Hario V60 or the elegant Chemex — is an art form best enjoyed with patience and attention to detail.

The process: To brew pourover coffee, start placing the paper filter into the pourover cone. Preheat the filter by rinsing it with hot water and to flush out any papery taste from it. Add fresh finely ground coffee into the paper filter & make a little ‘well’ in the middle. Now start pouring hot water over the coffee grounds in a gentle circular motion to allow the coffee to bloom. Continue pouring in stages, maintaining precise control over the water flow, until you have a cup of coffee that showcases the nuanced flavors extracted through this method.

Syphon (vacuum pot): Brewing Drama

Last but certainly not least is the syphon or the vacuum pot. If you appreciate theatrics in your coffee preparation, this method will steal the show. Imagine a two-chamber system, with one vessel heated by an open flame or halogen lamp, creating a vacuum that draws brewed coffee back into the lower chamber, leaving the grounds behind.

The process: Making coffee with a syphon is an all-encompassing process. To begin, add water to the lower chamber before filling the top chamber with coffee grounds. Heat the bottom pan causing water to rise upwards in the upper compartment where the coffee grounds are steeping. Once done, you remove the heat source, which creates a vacuum in the lower chamber of the dripper which pulls the coffee down and leaves the fine grounds at the top. What comes out of the process is a beautifully brewed, scented concoction — a real theatrical performance of coffee-making.

To know more about the syphon brewing method, watch this video:

Vamsi Reddy is the co-founder of the Bengaluru cafe, Paper & Pie.

Also read | Around India in eight coffee shops


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