Throughout the history of coffee brewing methods and results have changed. Mad chemists, simple ranch hands, or connoisseurs, all have tried their hands at it. Some really interesting methods that have been explored; all used over time to extract that perfect flavor from the bean of heaven.
Brewing coffee through the ages
For hundreds of years, making a cup of coffee was a simple process. Roasted and ground coffee beans were placed in a pot or pan, to which hot water was added, followed by attachment of a lid to commence the infusion process. Throughout the 19th and even the early 20th centuries, it was considered adequate to add ground coffee to hot water in a pot or pan, boil it until it smelled right, and pour the brew into a cup.
We’ve come a long way baby!
Drip brewing is far and away America’s favorite method, probably because of convenience. You are all of course familiar with the standard drip coffeemaker like say, Mr. Coffee (who hasn’t had one at one point?), and perhaps the single cup drip “stand” if you will. But did you know, there are a few others you should be aware of?
The Napoletana is an interesting device. It is a flipping pot. Think of two coffee pots with
Image via Wikipedia
filter and coffee in between them. Water heats up then when at the right temperature (just before boiling, 190 to 200 degrees) you flip it. There is a small hole on the sides of most of these, if the water is coming out of the hole, its too hot, let it cool a minute. Then, flip it; and the water drips down through the filtered section to the pot below (which used to be on top!).
The Chemex® brewer looks like something from a science fair, because well, it could have been. A chemist (Dr. Peter J. Schlumbohm), “who combined a heavily modified glass funnel and an Erlenmeyer flask. Special paper filters are placed in the upper section; these filters, different than standard paper filters, are quite thick and manage to trap sediment while passing a large portion of the aromatic compounds. The filter is filled with medium- to coarse-grind coffee, a small amount of the brewing water is poured over the
Image by Jem Yoshioka via Flickr
grounds, just enough to wet them, then the rest of the hot water is poured. If the filter cannot hold all of the brewing water, stop pouring until the level drops (as the brewed coffee drips out), then continue to add the water.”1
The Biggin came out around 1800 and was a two-level pot holding coffee in an upper compartment into which water was poured, to drain through holes in the bottom of the compartment into the coffee pot below. Original Drip….
The Percolator (I am the perconator *in my best Arnie voice). This is the coffee pot you see when camping. This coffee pot was first invented by an American in the late 18th century named Sir Benjamin Thompson (who later became a Count of the Roman
Image by bgautrea via Flickr
Empire). The water “percolates” through a filter device holding the coffee. Later by other Americans it was perfected to the percolators we know today (that is the water boils up through a tube and down into a basket repetitively). Percolators held sway until the 1970s when drip coffeemakers became popular.
I won’t go over drip coffee makers, you all know Mr. Coffee.
Vacuum brewing. This is a simple method once broken down. A two chamber device (usually glass) is used. The lower chamber holding the water with an upper chamber attached. As the water and air is heated in the bottom chamber the heat of the air creates pressure and pushes the now heated water up a glass tube to the top where it mixes with the ground coffee to steep. Then as the air cools it is sucked back down to fill the vacuum. This can make a gurgling noise apparently. I will have to try this sometime, my eight year old might think its cool. Vacuum made coffee is supposed to produce coffee of high quality.
Turkish and Greek coffee are just about the same, at least as far as I have read. Since I know it more as Turkish I will refer to it as such. Turkish Coffee is more finely ground than even an espresso grind, almost the consistency of talcum powder. There are Turkish coffee grinders out there that seem to resemble pepper grinders. Once ground it is traditional to mix cardamom with the ground coffee. Then you mix this with nearly simmering sugar water. The ratio is 1 tbls of coffee mix to 3oz of water. There seems to be leeway in that.
The Moka Pot is another three part device. At first glance the description sounds very similar to the Napoletana, however the brew method is different. With the Moka pot there is
a lower pot into which goes the water and a funnel filled with coffee. Then the top goes on. Water heats up mixing with coffee making beautiful music. Once enough pressure builds up from the heat the coffee travels up a tube to the top serving carafe. BAM, good strong coffee.
The French Press! I almost forgot! Finely ground coffee is set into the bottom of a glass cylinder. There is a rod going up the middle that a plunger is attached to. Pour in your water and let it steep, probably four or five minutes. Then press down the plunger and
Image by Joseph Hatfield via Flickr
pour coffee out. Now you need to be careful to some degree with the plunging. Don’t get too vigorous. I have heard that can cause problems. This method is a favorite as you can “see” all the action.
So that is where I call it at this time. There are other methods like a cold processed coffee some microwave coffee (that just sounds inherently wrong on so many levels) and instant. By and large these are the methods used in the US. The vast majority is done by drip with the others making the occasional showing. So how do you brew? I’d like to know, comment if you have ever used one of these alternative methods.