[Extraction Parameters 1/7] Brewers : the kind of tools you use


Hi everyone!

In this first post of the coffee extraction parameter series, we will look in to brewers. Please check this series summary page as well.

The first thing you need to decide when brewing coffee is the brewer. Brewers refer to the tools used for extracting coffee, such as drippers. There a countless types of brewers and new ones are continuously being invented.

When you have coffee as a hobby, the urge to buy and test out new brewers are pretty big. Well I guess that’s part of the fun, but we have you be careful not to get carried away, myself included.


Extraction method

There are 2 main types of coffee extraction, percolation and immersion.

With the percolation method, the coffee is extracted while the hot water passes though a bed of ground coffee. Examples of this type of brewer includes, the pour-over dripper, espresso machines, and mocha pots.

This method requires the coffee to be extracted during the relatively short period of time while water flows past the grounds. In order to do this properly other parameters such as grind size have to be adjusted correctly. In this sense, I personally feel that this method is the slightly more difficult type of the two.

HARIO V60 Dripper, Source:HARIO
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine, Source:Rancilio
Bialetti Mocha pot, source :Bialetti

On the other hand, the immersion method extracts coffee by having the water and coffee grounds mixed together and sit around for a while. French presses, and syphons use this method.

This method has the all the coffee grounds hang around with all the water for some time. Extraction times can be easily controlled and the grounds and water, sometimes called the slurry, can be mixed to get a more even extraction. This makes it relatively harder to make a mistake, in my opinion.

Bodum French press, source:Bodum
Hario Syphon, source :HARIO

Of course which type of extraction you use is up to you, there is no correct answer here. And each brewer has different characteristics, even among the same extraction method.

Filter type

The other way to categorize brewers is their filter type. Paper, metal, cloth, ceramic filters are the main types. Some brewers don’t actually use filters, but instead just rely on the particles falling to the bottom with gravity, Turkish coffee.

HARIO Paper filter, source :HARIO
HARIO Metal filter, source :HARIO
HARIO Cloth filter, source :HARIO
LOCA ceramic filter, source :LOCA

Paper filters tend to produce clear tasting coffee, where as metal filters give you more body. This depends on the size of the holes in the filter. Metal filters having the largest holes tend to let fines pass through to your cup, which may results in silty coffee. Cloth and ceramic filters lay in the middle.

How to choose your brewer

I would like to make separate posts for details of each specific brewer, since it will be way too much to write here. In this post, I would like to give pointers about how I choose brewers.

  1. Workflow
  2. Characteristic of the coffee
  3. Cost
  4. Joy of using the brewer

Workflow refers to the steps you need to take to use the brewer. It would obviously be preferable if it’s easy to use. Paper drippers are one of the easiest in terms of workflow.

The coffee each brewer makes has different characteristics. Pour-over drip coffee produces a typical strength of coffee that you would drink out of a mug. Espresso machines on the other hand will get you very rich concentrated coffee. In terms of the filter, the coarser the filter the more more body and silt you will get.

Cost is another aspect to keep in mind. Paper filter dipper are very affordable, you can get very capable ones from a few dollars. However there is a small running cost to them in the form of the paper filters. Espresso machines are much more expensive but they have no per-cup cost. You would also have to consider maintenance costs though.

I would say the key aspect you should consider is the joy factor. Do you enjoy using the brewer? In the end this may be all that matters. It may be difficult to know this before purchasing the brewer. I recommend watching YouTube videos to get a feel of them.

If you dislike using a brewer, I bet that you will stop using it, event if it produces great cups of coffee.

In my case this was the mocha pot. The clean up process was a bit too much for me, so I only very rarely use it now. I would like to point out that, there is nothing wrong with the mocha pot, it just wasn’t for me.

I personally enjoy paper drip coffee the most right now and drink it everyday. The ease of use and the taste of coffee is just excellent.

Just a final note about brewer selection. The type of brewer you select will define what sorts of parameters you will be able to work with. For example, with dippers you will clearly not be able to apply any pressure to your brew. Likewise, controlling the extraction time will be a indirect method through other parameters like grind size.

Links to other post in the series

The other parameters are discussed in these other posts.