A simple cup of coffee can be brewed in an infinite amount of ways. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between an Espresso and a Pour-over then look no further. Here are five of the most common techniques used for brewing coffee.
The French Press (also known as the cafetière or coffee plunger) has become a cheap and easy method of brewing coffee and almost everyone has one in their kitchen cupboard. The French Press is an infusion brewer, as the water passes through the coffee grounds, allowing the coffee and water to steep together resulting in a more cohesive extraction. The French Press also incorporates a metal mesh filter, which prevents any non-solvable material from getting into the final cup.
Pour Over or Filter Brewers
The ‘pour over’ technique is involved within a range of different brewing methods such as V60, Kalita and Chemex. The common thread is that these brewing methods use percolation, which is the water that passes through the coffee, extracting the flavour as it passes through. A filter (made from materials including paper, cloth or metal mesh) is used to prevent any grounds reaching the final drink. A common (and more specialised) pour-over practice, is The Bloom. This method involves adding a little water to the coffee at the start of the brew and letting it sit for 30 seconds or so before continuing brewing. This technique releases the trapped carbon dioxide from the coffee.
Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, the Aeropress has become the essential for every travelling coffee connoisseur. Consisting of no more than a few parts, the Aeropress has the ability to brew a quality cup of coffee within just 60 seconds. The Aeropress merges two different brewing methods. Firstly, the water and coffee steep together, much like a French press. Yet the brew is completed by pushing water through the coffee grounds and filter, much like an espresso machine. The Aeropress relies on human strength to push down on the plunger. The result is a strong cup of coffee, yet it cannot produce a coffee similar to an espresso, as it would require a much higher level of pressure. Despite the small size and simplicity of the Aeropress, this contraption has been a catalyst for a swathe of different recipes and techniques. There is even a yearly competition known as the World Aeropress Championship.
Stove-Top Moka Pot
A staple within the Italian household, the Stove-Top produces a very strong (and sometimes bitter) coffee that is somewhat palatable to espresso drinkers. The Stove-top brewing method involves the boiling of water in the lower chamber of the pot, which is pushed through the coffee by the steam. The faster you boil the water, the quicker the process. But be careful of over-boiling the water, as the excessive temperature of the water will accentuate the bitter compounds from the coffee.
Espresso was invented as a means of solving the problem of extracting strong flavours from a smaller grind size. With Achille Gaggia’s invention, (a highly pressurised lever pushing hot water through the coffee), a solution was found. Today, Espresso has become the driving force of retail coffee and attracts a premium price compared to coffee brewed using other techniques. The process involves compressing the coffee grinds in the handle of the coffee machine. The pump is then activated, which pushes near-boiling water through the coffee into the cup. A unique feature of Espresso coffee is the Crema. Crema (the Italian word for ‘cream’) is that delicious layer of foam that floats on top of the espresso. Crema is formed due to the carbon dioxide that is dissolved from the highly pressurised water (similar to the head that appears on a poured glass of beer). Crema is also indicative of the freshness of the coffee, as the less foam produced means that there is less carbon dioxide; a sign that the coffee was roasted a long time ago. Additionally, the darkness of the crema showcases the strength (or lack thereof) of the espresso itself. So the darker the colour of the foam, the stronger the coffee.