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Which coffee for which brew method?

April 16, 2012

It’s been my experience that coffees are finicky with respect to brew method. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve said something like “coffee X was fine in the Clever but really shone as a pourover,” etc., in a review. However, I haven’t ever been able to (or even tried hard to) extract any meaningful generalizations about why this should be so. In addition, my inner skeptic tells me that maybe, just maybe, if I’d worked harder and really tweaked my brew parameters—adjusting the grind and/or dose and/or steep time and/or age of the coffee—I could have gotten a fantastic Clever cup out of coffee X. I don’t mean that I aspire to make identical coffee from the now-impressive variety of brew methods I have available at home, but rather that I wonder about how doable it is to get equally delicious coffee from them. And by “equally delicious” I mean as delicious as is possible given each brew method, i.e. close enough to the methods’ respective deliciousness asymptotes that no further improvements in cup quality would be coarse enough to be perceived.

Woah, that sounds overly perfectionist.

Note to self: you are not paid to do coffee research like, say, the SCAA’s Coffee Science Manager.

Reply from self: one can always dream!

What got me thinking about this sort of thing recently was a direct result of all of the Aeropress-ing I’ve been doing in testing out Able Brewing’s new DISK Fine. One of my first cups brewed using that DISK was good but not quite as full-bodied and all-around tasty as the same beans (Kuma’s Burundi Gacokwe) had turned out when brewed using the Beehouse dripper. That led me to post that “I don't love [that Burundi] in the Aeropress.” Well, think again. Fast-forward 10 days, tighten up the grind a bit, and the Aeropress love is back with this coffee, which made me think of madeleines and orange marmalade yesterday morning. Please, sir, I want some more! The same recipe* also gave me a nice cup with PT’s B-Ville House Drip yesterday afternoon, so that’s encouraging. Still, to what extent can you really dial in a method independent of the coffee brewed using it? The designers of coffee-related apps apparently believe it’s no sweat, but I’m not 100% convinced. Case in point: the Ceremony Ethiopia Kochere I just made following this recipe isn’t blowing me away. Hmm, could it be the origin? The lighter roast? The fact that these beans are 6 days fresher? Some other factor?

More generally, how in the world are we ever supposed to figure all this out given the inevitable limits on our time, discipline, and budget? I like a challenge, and that’s why I keep coming back, I guess, but I don’t always have the patience for the Quest.

Anyway, enough about me. What’s your take on the issue of pairing coffees with brew methods? How do you “dial in” your coffees for [non-espresso] brewing? To be continued below…

* 17 g. coffee ground medium-coarse (1.5 turns CCW from zero on the LIDO), add 100 g. water to an inverted Aeropress, stir, add another 110 g. water (for a total of 210 g.) by 40 sec., cap, revert and start plunging at 1:30, finish by 2:00.






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