Brewing Coffee Manually

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How to Brew with the Kalita Kantan-Brew Guide and Informational

Last week, I championed the Kalita Kantan as a great coffee-on-the-go solution for those looking to keep it simple and disposable. This week I wanted to post my Kantan brew guide along with some tips for brewing with minimal equipment (away from your home coffee bar).

What is the Kalita Kantan

The Kalita Kantan is a 3.5 inch by 4 inch disposable pour-over brewer made of cardboard and an attached filter. They are sold in packs of thirty and are completely flat prior to folding for use. At about a quarter a piece (6.80 for thirty on Amazon right now), there is really no other brewer that is as portable, simple or disposable.

Last week Sharon from the Magic Coffee Truck pointed out that Coffee Blenders has a device that is similar to the Kantan but comes preloaded with coffee. While not necessarily a bad thing, it is best to have complete control of what coffee you use and when it is ground.

If you are looking for a great way to make about 200mL of pour-over coffee, the Kantan fits the bill pretty swimmingly.

The Kalita Kantan Brew Guide

One of the reasons the Kantan is a great little brewer is because it forces you to keep the water level low and brew your coffee in several small pulses. I’ve found that keeping the water level low helps the coffee extract evenly and makes for a great cup of coffee.

If you have a gooseneck kettle with a flow restrictor at your disposal (or maybe even the lovely Takahiro) you could attempt a continuous pour but that would take patience, endurance and determination. The filter basket only holds about 30mL of water when it is loaded with coffee.

Because of the small filter basket and batch size, my recipe for the Kalita Kantan is pretty simple:

  1. Fold the wings of the Kalita Kantan downward on the creases and place it on top of your brewing vessel. Gently push out the pouch so it forms a small filter basket. I do not pre-rinse the filter on the Kantan.
  2. Place 13 grams of medium-fine ground coffee into the filter. For reference, I typically use the same grind setting as my V60 or Bee House.
  3. Using water about 45 seconds off of boil (205 degrees if you are the measuring type), pour water over the ground coffee until the basket is filled (about 40mL of water). Let the coffee bloom for 30-45 seconds.
  4. Refill the brewing basket with water 6-8 times until you reach 215 grams of water by mass. If you don’t have a scale, you should be shooting for around 200mL of brewed coffee volume.
  5. Enjoy the coffee, tweak the recipe to your liking and repeat.

How to Brew with the Kalita Kantan (The Ad Lib Version)

While the Kalita Kantan is great for making a small cup of coffee at home, it really shines as a portable brewer. What is the point of having a super portable brewer like the Kantan if you are also carrying a scale, travel kettle and a coffee grinder?

Here are some tips for making coffee with a Kantan, ground coffee and some less standard objects you may have around.

Methods for approximating the volume

It is best to start out with a predetermined dose of coffee but if not, it is pretty easy to eyeball it into the Kantan once you get a little practice. The Kantan brewing basket doesn’t hold that much water so it is also pretty easy to stop when you have the approximate volume you need.

Brewing by approximate volume might not get you a Brewers Cup quality coffee every time but it works when options are few. It will almost certainly be better than most of your other choices (unless you are near a good coffee shop, in which case end of story, go get yourself a proper pour-over).

Here are a few ways to guesstimate the volume.

  • Brew a test batch at home and count how many pulses (or basket fills) equal your water volume: I actually tested this a few times and I was surprised how close I got (each time I was 10 grams or less from my target mass when I weighed on a scale post brews). This takes a little time and focus (you will probably lose count a time or two) but it is a viable option if you want to obsess over it. The key to consistency with this method is letting the water drain completely between pours. That way you have a fairly consistent volume you are adding each time.
  • Figure out your volume relative to a common vessel: If you always have your travel mug, figure out where the brewed coffee level should be in there. If you have disposable foam cups at your office figure out an approximate volume line there. If you are using a 7-11 cup, memorize where the level is relative to the lettering on the outside.
  • Brewing by time: This was the least successful method for me but if you have a standardized grind you can try to approximate the volume by time. This of course can be a little tricky without a way to standardize water flow (like a gooseneck kettle) or if you are constantly changing the coffee you are using.

Where to get hot water for brewing

Getting hot water for brewing is the other (more important) side of the minimalist brewing coin. Without hot water, you are going to be waiting a long time (12-24 hours) for your coffee to brew.

Here are a few ideas of where to source hot water:

  • The hot water dispenser on commercial coffee machines: While not always the best temperature, the hot water dispensers on commercial coffee makers are a great place to get your hot water. You can find these machines in a lot of offices, cafeterias and convenience stores. It is probably a lot like the code for using a gas station bathroom (for paying customers) but most people would not begrudge you a little hot water if you asked nicely.
  • The stainless steel milk pitcher (marked for volume measurement) and immersion heater trick: I know it is extra equipment but the milk pitcher and immersion heater combination is too handy to not mention at all. It is the perfect size for making a small cup of coffee and takes up less space that the average coffee mug (here is a video I made where I used the immersion heater).
  • The good ol’ microwave: The microwave can be a good place to heat up some water if there is one available and you have something to heat the water in.
  • The Coffee Maker: This may be a less than ideal option but it is an option just the same. With using water from a coffee maker, the brewing water could get tainted if the machine is dirty and water output temperatures are often lower than the desired 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit for pour-overs. In a pinch, hottish, slightly tainted water poured over good coffee will probably win over a lot of your other options.

How to pour water into the Kantan (What is your pouring spout?)

When brewing with the Kalita Kantan, your target brewing area is a 2 inch by 2 inch square. This is not a tiny hole but it certainly isn’t as big as a V60 or Chemex opening. It takes a little precision and care to not make a mess.

In the absence of a gooseneck kettle, here are a few options for distributing water over your coffee bed.

  • The hot water dispenser on commercial coffee machines: As I mentioned above, this is really a convenient set up. If you have access to one, you should have no problem directing the water approximately where it needs to be.
  • Using a disposable cup: Most disposable paper or Styrofoam cups can be carefully compressed on opposing sides to form an oval. This actually works pretty well for a semi-controlled pour. Be careful not to burn yourself with hot water by either pouring too fast or crushing the cup in a bout of pre-coffee excitement.
  • Using your travel mug or a to-go cup: A (cleanish) disposable to-go cup with lid is a pretty ideal makeshift pouring device. You can fill the cup with your desired volume, put on the lid and slowly pour hot water out of the small spout (once again being careful not to scald yourself). Make sure you hold the lid on securely with your finger so you don’t lose the lid and make a huge mess. Similar to the disposable travel coffee cup, you can use your travel mug as a pouring kettle.
  • Other vessels: Most other vessels can be used to pour if you are careful. The key is to keep the water level fairly low (don’t fill it to the brim) and have a towel or something handy for when it dribbles down the side. Where there is a will, there is a way; it just takes a little practice and experimentation.

Let it Go

When it comes down to it, you can just choose to hold it all loosely. You are going to brew a great cup of coffee or at least a good one. If it isn’t as perfect as a cup of coffee you could brew with all your instruments and tools at your disposal, who cares? Enjoy your cup and get on with your day.

The Kalita Kantan brews a great cup of coffee under “just winging it” circumstances. That is one of the reasons I enjoy using it so much.

Do you have any experience brewing with the Kalita Kantan? If you have any recipes, tips for brewing it with minimal gear or thoughts on the Kantan, join the discussion below. Cheers!

4 Comments

  1. Before I got my first gooseneck kettle, I was toying with how I could pour water accurately and slowly. I thought about inserting a straw or plastic pen casing into the side of a plastic or disposable cup or even in the metal lid of a jelly jar (or something of the like) for a more permanent one. Probably not the healthiest thing to do because of the plastic and hot water though…but maybe with one of those metal straws? It’d be kind of leaky I’m sure but probably viable.

    • Mike,
      I love the ingenuity here. I have heard of people using stainless steel funnels and tiny water cans but not straws.

      It is amazing how well the disposable coffee cup (with a lid or just pushed into a spout) works actually. It isn’t a gooseneck but you get a lot more control than you would think.

      Thanks for the comment and keep on brewing,
      John

  2. This is awesome and will have to give it a go. I’ve been taking a wee Melitta pour over around with me as I have good access to hot water but it’s still one solid piece and bulky. When you are on the go, you have to realize that a gooseneck kettle is a luxury. Hot, clean water (and if you are lucky, it’s filtered too) is going to get the job done.

    • Sharon,
      Let me know when you pick up some Kantans and give it a try. They even fit inside the small Moleskines :). It is amazing the places you can find hot water when you need a few ounces to make a cup of coffee.

      Thanks,
      John

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