A genuine handmade cup of coffee
One of the most widely known and popular methods of manual brewing is the drip brewer, also known as a pour over. This method is comparable in concept to what a standard coffee maker does with some very important exceptions.
An important difference between an automatic drip coffee maker and a manual drip brewer is the water temperature. Most automatic coffee makers simply do not get the water hot enough to extract all the flavors you want out of your coffee. You want water that is just off the boil, around 200-205 degrees. This is pretty widely accepted as the ideal water temperature range.
You don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive equipment to start down the road of manual coffee brewing. The most basic drip brewer that I recommend is the Melitta drip brewer. You can purchase it online for around 5 dollars. I have seen them at most grocery stores as well. While this is not the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing drip brewer, it will get you good results. It is also light weight and not easily broken.
Don’t let the simplicity of the drip brewer fool you. It is not something that is easily mastered. There are lengthy YouTube videos, heated forum debates, and even a manual brewing championship. Don’t get too caught up in all the technical details either. You are just brewing a cup of coffee.
Supplies you will need
1. Drip Brewer- You can really use any type of drip brewer you like. I recommend staying with something that uses a standard #2 or #4 cone filter to start out with.
2. Kettle or something you can boil water in and pour water out of- If you want to keep it super simple, I have used a glass pyrex measuring cup and a microwave.
3. Ground Coffee- Brewing coffee manually is something that most people associate with specialty coffees. I recommend buying quality whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself. This is not a requirement. I believe you will still see improved results no matter what type of coffee you use. I know someone who makes a “One-Cupper” with Maxwell House every morning. Use what you are comfortable with and experiment with higher quality coffees later.
4. Paper coffee filter- I recommend using a plain white filter not the brown natural type.
5. Mug that the drip brewer fits on- There is nothing quite like sitting down to drink a cup of coffee out of a cool ceramic mug
I realize that there is a lot more that goes into drip brewing techniques than is shared in this post. My goal is to provide someone with a basic knowledge to try manual coffee brewing with minimal expenses. Things like a gram scale, a gooseneck kettle, fresh whole bean coffee, and a burr grinder do make a more predictable, repeatable result, however, for the beginner it is enough to get ones feet wet and start simple.
Dosage- How much coffee?
A typical ratio on most prepackaged, store bought coffee is one level tablespoon ground coffee per 6 fluid ounces of water. I recommend starting with this ratio for your first manual brew. I would try to shoot for a cup and a half of water (12 fluid ounces) and 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. If coffee is too strong or too weak for your tastes you can always adjust your ratios next time.
The Filter Rinse- A simple step
The filter rinse is a step that may be omitted if you are not feeling it. I like to do it but I must admit I skip it on occasion and I do not notice much paper filter taste when I omit it. The basic premise behind a filter rinse is simple. If you do not rinse your paper filter, there will be tiny little paper fibers in your coffee and it could change the taste. The secondary purpose of a filter rinse is to preheat your drip brewer and mug. Starting with a preheated mug and brewer will keep your coffee hot for longer.
To rinse your filter, pour water that is just off the boil over the filter and completely saturate it. Let the water drain into the mug and then discard the water. (Don’t forget to discard the water or you will not only end up with those little paper particles in your coffee, your cup will most likely overflow and make a big mess)
The Bloom- Wait for it
It is time to brew your cup of coffee. Once you have discarded the water, you can put the coffee grounds in the filter. Bring your water to a rolling boil and take if off of the heat. Wait 10-15 seconds. (This is to bring the water temperature down to 205 or so.)
Pour a small amount of water over the grounds to just moisten them. Make sure they are all covered and wet. Wait 30-40 seconds. This is call the bloom. This step helps to off gas some of the carbon dioxide that may still be clinging to the grounds. It is quite common to see some bubbles during this step.
The Finish- A manual masterpiece
After you have let the grounds bloom for the appropriate amount of time, slowly pour the rest of the water onto the grounds. Try to keep the water level low and add water at around the same speed it is filtering through the bottom. Everyone has a technique for this stage so you can experiment with some different techniques later. Some people stop and stir halfway through, some people pour only in the center, and some people have perfected a swirling technique that they swear by. You can perfect your own manual drip brewing style later. For now keep it simple and repeatable by slowly adding water to the grounds as coffee filters out the bottom.
Enjoy- Take a moment
Once all the coffee has filtered though, set the drip brewer on a different cup to catch any stray drips. Sit down and taste your coffee. Don’t just guzzle it down, sip it. Think about what it taste like. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? It is too strong? Too weak? Make a mental note (or a real note if you wish) about something you would like to change next time. If it is perfect… then try to repeat the process exactly next time you brew.