How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home – 6 Easy Steps

Anyone who has visited Starbucks or their local coffee shop in the summer has heard of cold brew coffee. It’s smooth, delicious and the perfect thing to cool you down on a hot day. It’s also really simple to make at home, and so in this article we’re going to demonstrate how to make cold brew coffee.

While most people are familiar with iced coffee, cold brew couldn’t be more different both in terms of brewing methods and tastes. To start with, iced coffee relies on hot coffee poured over ice, whereas when learning how to make cold brew coffee you’ll see that it relies on steeping in tepid water as its primary extraction method.

Using hot water in iced coffee causes the final product to be bitter and acidic. The colder water used in cold brew, however, gives the drink a much smoother, less acidic flavor profile, with the natural flavor of the beans more pronounced in every sip.

You’ve probably tried cold brew coffee at Starbucks and thought about making your own at home. Well it couldn’t be more simple. Read on, follow our advice, and we’ll teach you how to make quality cold brew coffee at home in no time.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

But we’re jumping the gun here; let’s start by defining what it is before we demonstrate how to make cold brew coffee at home.

Put simply, cold brew coffee is a method of coffee extraction that relies on soaking coffee grounds in tepid to cold water for an extended period of time. Unlike traditional coffee brewing methods which use hot water or pressure to produce your espresso or cappuccino in a matter of minutes, cold brew coffee is an exercise in patience.

There’s no skirting around this – cold brew coffee relies on time in order to draw out all the delicate flavors and oils from the coffee grounds. The entire process will take between 16 hours and a full day to achieve completion.

It’s also important to note that the resultant brew is more of a concentrate more than a straight cup of coffee. It generally has higher caffeine content that other methods of brewing, and needs to be diluted in water before you can drink it. That is, if you don’t want to be bouncing off  the walls first thing in the morning.

Needless to say, cold brew coffee is a labour of love. But it’s definitely worth it.


How to Make Cold Brew Coffee – A Quick Overview


There are a number of items which are essential to making a delicious batch of cold brew coffee. First and foremost, you’re going to need a batch of quality beans. You’ll also need a grinder, a large container (a mason jar works great for this), fine mesh sieve, paper coffee filters, and room temperature water. 

When choosing your beans it’s important that you opt for a medium roast.  Medium roast beans have been roasted to a lower temperature than dark roast beans, and that means they retain a smoother, less bitter flavor. This is extremely important as one of the hallmarks of cold brew coffee is its mellowness, and lack of bitterness within the flavor profile.

Time needed: 16 hours.

Once you’ve gathered all of your equipment and ingredients, it’s fairly straightforward to make cold brew coffee:

  1. Measure your beans and water so that they’re sitting at a ratio of about 1:5. 

  2. Grind your beans until they’re coarse, NOT medium or fine.

    This will give them a greater surface area and allow the water to extract the oils and flavors more efficiently. 

  3. Next, add water to your grounds.

    Make sure you stir the mixture so that the coffee grounds are thoroughly saturated.

  4. Place the mixture in the fridge and leave it to steep for around 15 hours.

    Depending on how strong you like your coffee, as well as the ratio of grounds to water, you may want to let it steep for longer.

  5. Take the readied mixture out of the fridge and strain it through a paper filter placed within the wire mesh sieve into a bowl or container.

    Let it rest in the sieve to ensure you draw out as much liquid as possible.

  6. To serve, mix the concentrate with water at a ratio of 1:1, pour over ice, add some milk and enjoy.

All in all you’re looking at a full day’s worth of brewing time in order to get this right. Don’t be alarmed when you strain your mixture and end up with less concentrate when you thought. Once you dilute it with water you’ll see that this drink goes a long way.

If you’re not using all of your cold brew coffee at once, simply pour it into a sealable container and place it in the fridge. It should keep for up to 10 days, meaning you can produce batch brews in advance in you like. 


How to Make Cold Brew Coffee – The Full Guide


Now that we’ve outlined the process we’re going to take a look at it in more detail. When it comes to learning how to make cold brew coffee, even the smallest details can have a profound impact on the final flavor, so it’s important to get them right.

1- Beans and Grinder

Coffee, no matter what style, is nothing without good quality beans and a grinder that can produce consistent grounds.

As we mentioned above, it’s important that you choose a medium roast in order to avoid bitterness and ensure the cold brew is as smooth as possible. 

Because many of the sweeter flavor compounds of coffee grounds are soluble in cold water, whereas many of the acidic oils are not, using a medium roast always lends your cold brew a sweeter taste. Because of this, you want a bean that has an inherent sweetness as this will really show in the final product. 

Some of our favourite beans include:

Once you’ve decided on the type of bean you want to use, you’ll need a way to grind them coarsely. We’ve waxed lyrical on this topic in our articles concerning the best coffee grinders for French press coffee as well as the best manual coffee grinders, but it bears repeating. Beans aside, a grinder is probably the most important tool for producing consistently delicious, smooth and robust coffee.

For cold brew coffee a coarse grind works best. This exposes more surface area of the bean and means that it’ll be able to get extracted more fully. If you grind your beans too finely you’ll end up with a sludgy mess on your hands; too chunky and the oils and flavors won’t be able to be extracted efficiently.

With a consistent grind in mind, we’ve listed a few of our favorites below:

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder

Wheroamoz Manual Coffee Grinder

2- Water

The next step in the process is adding water to your grounds. You’ll want a ratio of five parts water for every one part coffee. The final concentrate is going to have less yield than the amount of water that you put in, because some of that water is going to be absorbed by the grinds.

That’s nothing to worry about though. As mentioned above, you’re going to dilute the final product with water before you drink it anyway.

While the words used to describe cold brew coffee give the impression that it’s going to be freezing, the actual water used should be room temperature. Hot water will cause the extraction to take place much too quickly, leaving you with bitter coffee, and defeating the entire point of cold brew coffee in the first place.

Once you’ve added the water it’s important that you stir the grinds thoroughly and ensure that they’re fully saturated. If you’ve got an Aeropress starter kit, the stirrer that comes with it is a great tool for mixing your cold brew mixture thoroughly.

There are some rumors that the type of water you use will also affect the flavor. Using mineral water, for example, supposedly results in a much smoother finish. If you’re not willing to run out and buy five liters of Perrier, however, don’t worry – tap water works just fine.

3- Steeping

Steeping is the step that sets cold brew coffee apart from other, similar iced coffee methods. Whereas traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, for example, produces a delicious and chilled drink, it does this by adding hot coffee to ice. Cold brew coffee relies entirely on steeping as the primary extraction method.

There are two factors which are going to ultimately affect the flavor of the coffee here – the volume of water used in relation to the amount of coffee grinds, and the amount of time that the mixture is left to steep for.

It goes without saying that the longer you leave your cold brew to steep, the more intense the final flavors will be. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Leaving your coffee to steep for too long is an easy way to end up with enough caffeine to send you to the moon.

The optimal time for steeping is around 15 – 18 hours (Starbucks steep theirs for 20). However, some people have found that steeping up to 24 hours is the way to go. At the end of the day, it all depends on your palate and how strong you like your coffee.

That being said, there’s such a thing as overkill. So it’s recommended that you try it a few times in order to find your sweet spot.

4- Straining

Once your coffee has finished steeping, you’ll need to strain it to get rid of all the leftover coffee particulates. Using only a fine mesh sieve or French press plunger won’t be enough here, and using either method will likely leave you with a sludgy, undrinkable mess – you need something finer.

We found that using paper coffee filters or cheesecloth is the way to go. Using either, line a fine mesh sieve and place it over a container. Then simply pour your cold brew mixture into the sieve and give it about 15 minutes to drain, stirring it with a wooden spoon in order to get out every last drop.

If you decide to use a paper filter then it would be good to wet it beforehand. This will ensure that the filter absorbs as little of the precious coffee concentrate as possible. It will also prevent the concentrate from acquiring a papery taste that sometimes gets passed on from dry filters.

5- Ready to Drink!

Once you’ve strained your coffee through the fine mesh filter and the paper coffee filters, you’re good to go. You’ve successfully produced cold brew coffee concentrate and learned how to make cold brew coffee at home – congratulations!

However, drinking it in this form might cause your heart to explode, so we recommend diluting it first. A 1:1 ratio of cold brew concentrate to water is usually sufficient for a smooth, sweet and velvety drink, but some people prefer it slightly to either side of the strength spectrum.

Pour the concentrate into a glass of ice, add your water and then top it off with some milk for enhanced smoothness.

If you find that the coffee is too strong, simply dilute it more until it’s more palatable. Likewise, if the coffee is too weak, just add more concentrate until you reach your desired strength.

Some people like to add sugar, but we find it isn’t necessary. As we mentioned earlier, the unique nature of the cold brew extraction process means many of the sweeter notes of the coffee bean are brought to the front. This should be ample sweetness for anyone who’s used to drinking espresso or pour over. 


The Paradox: HOT Cold Brew Coffee 

What many people don’t know is that you can actually use cold brew concentrate to make… hot coffee! It may seem a little counterintuitive at first (after all, cold brew suggests a drink you’re unlikely to consume in winter), but it’s actually a delicious and time-saving alternative to other styles of coffee.

It’s also really easy to make. Simply pour your concentrate into a glass or mug, then add hot or boiling water, the same amount as the cold water you would normally add when making regular cold brew. The result – a hot, less acidic and extremely smooth variation of an Americano.

This method is great for people who want to enjoy quality coffee in the morning, but don’t want to spend fifteen minutes grinding beans and waiting for their drinks to settle. Using previously made cold brew coffee takes as long as adding hot water and maybe some milk into a jar, and you’re ready to go.

Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.

AeroPress vs French Press: What You Need to Know

Espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, AeroPress and French press – these are just some of the more popular styles of coffee on offer when visiting your average coffee shop. They’re designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes, and this often leads to a lot of amicable disagreement about which style is the best.

The answer, as you might imagine, isn’t so straightforward and requires quite a bit of unpacking.

While it does depend in part on your taste and preferred style, many coffee experts across the board all agree on one thing: when it comes to brewing coffee at home, it’s hard to beat press style coffee. And at the forefront of the press movement are the two firm favorites: the French press and the Aeropress. 

But what sets these apart from other brewing methods, and what makes them so superior? At first glance it might not even seem obvious, especially since both contraptions look quite similar in style and produce a similarly high quality cup of coffee. The details are in the process, however, and it’s this that has placed them firmly in the good graces of coffee afficandios across the world.

The secret? Hot water and pressure and lots of it. Utilizing these two factors in both the Aeropress and the French press provides the means to expertly manipulate and extract delicate flavors where other methods fall short.


What do French Press and AeroPress have in common? 

As we mentioned briefly above, to the layman who doesn’t know too much about coffee production, the AeroPress and French press might look similarly strange. Both feature a plunger mechanism and a large chamber for storing liquid, and they also rely on the same mechanism for actually brewing the coffee – steadily applied pressure.

Unlike other methods which rely on complicated coffee machinery, these two tools are remarkably simple. Both use very few moving parts and rely on first steeping the coffee grinds before filtering them out and extracting the final product. It’s this steeping technique – all called immersion – that is unique from other coffee production methods.

The process of steeping coffee grounds allows for a lot of control over brewing variables which ultimately affect the final flavor. These variables include the steeping time, the temperature of the water, the amount of coffee grinds used and the volume of hot water added.

But for all their similarities, they’re still very distinct pieces of equipment.

AeroPress vs French Press – The Big Difference: 

Mechanically, the major differences between the French press and the AeroPress have to do with the way in which the coffee grinds are filtered. While both methods rely on steeping the coffee grinds in order to extract the flavor, the filters they employ to the job are quite different.

The AeroPress relies on a very fine, disposable paper filter in order to filter out the coffee grinds, while the French press utilizes a much more coarse steel filter which is attached to the plunger. The AeroPress also uses air pressure in order to force water through the filter and separate the grinds, while with the French Press the grinds are separated by being forced to the bottom of the chamber.

The use of a paper filter in the AeroPress means that a lot of the essential oils and aromatic essences of the coffee are going to be filtered out, while the coarser filter used in the French press allows them through. The trade-off for losing some of this intensity is that an AeroPress is going to deliver a much more balanced and consistent cup of coffee.

That being said, if you want don’t want to settle for your standard AeroPress kit, you can always invest in a set of reusable stainless steel filters of varying finenesses to take it to the next level. This will give you greater control of your coffee’s flavor, acidity and intensity. 


AeroPress Coffee

What is it?

But for all of its hype and praise, what exactly is an AeroPress? Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, the AeroPress is probably the youngest and one of the most recent coffee inventions to change the coffee industry entirely. 

Its build consists of two cylinders made from high quality plastic. The smaller cylinder has a flexible airtight seal and rests inside the larger cylinder, similar to that of a syringe. The larger cylinder has space for either a disposable paper filter, or reusable steel filters, which the coffee grinds and hot water are then placed on top of.

The AeroPress is famous for using pressure in order to extract flavor from coffee beans and produce an espresso-style drink. While it will never be able to match the 9 bars of pressure produced by an espresso machine, the pressure it can produce by hand is quite impressive. Keen baristas can also invest in filters such as those by Fellow Prismo in order to achieve even greater levels of pressure for a more fully-extracted final product.

Unlike the French press, which has been around for quite some time and exists in many different variations, the AeroPress is unique in that it is not only a device, but a brand name, too. This means that there is only one variation of this particular device which is used across the coffee industry.

 AeroPress’ hidden Superpowers 

From the outside looking in, it may seem as though you need a plethora of intricate equipment in order to produce coffee even marginally better than a mug of freeze-dried instant. The AeroPress, with its simple design and affordable price tag, dispels those myths instantly upon use.

These aren’t the AeroPress’ only positive attributes, however. In fact, the device is so popular among coffee fans because of everything else it delivers.

To start with, the AeroPress is extremely durable and light. This makes it the ideal travel companion, and perfect for someone who is always on the go but wants to enjoy a proper cup of coffee in their hotel room or AirBnb. 

It’s also extremely affordable compared to other brewing methods of comparable quality. An AeroPress starter kit with a year’s worth of filters will only set you back about $30 depending on where you buy it from.

Brewing coffee in an AeroPress results in a much smoother brew over other conventional brewing methods. This has to do with the fact that grinds are being steeped in hot water before being filtered, and that nothing is left out during the extraction process. This also results in a much shorter brewing time than something like drip coffee.

The shorter brewing time is also a key factor in the final taste of the coffee, which by and large is much less acidic than even French press brew. All of these factors result in a smooth, easy to drink and consistently great cup of coffee.


How to make AeroPress Coffee

So after reading the above guide, we assume by this point you’re hooked. You’ve got your AeroPress and now you’re wondering exactly how to use this contraption and create the wonderful coffee we’ve waxed lyrical about. It’s pretty simple:

  1. Boil some water, let it rest then set it aside while you prepare the other components of your coffee.
  2. Grind your beans. The AeroPress usually requires a finer grind that even espresso, so make sure you have a grinder that can handle this. You want to use about four tablespoons of coffee grinds. 
  3. Assemble the AeroPress by placing your filter in the bottom of the larger cylinder, then placing it on top of a mug or other container. Splash a little hot water onto the filter before you start to avoid having the papery taste of it affect the coffee.
  4. Add the coffee grinds. If you’re unsure about your aim use the funnel provided.
  5. Once your water has rested add it into the coffee grinds until it’s near the top line.
  6. Stir the mixture briefly and then allow it to steep for 20 – 30 seconds.
  7. Insert the plunger on top of the AeroPress. Apply steady pressure to the plunger until you begin to hear a long hiss and the coffee accumulates in the mug below.
  8. Enjoy your creation. The AeroPress is known for quite strong espresso-style coffee, so if you find that it’s a little bit too intense try splitting it between two or more cups.

An Alternative Way to Make AeroPress Coffee

Introduced in 2005, the AeroPress is definitely one of, if not the, youngest brewing methods to hit the coffee market. Bluntly put, it took the world by storm, and baristas have been figuring out creative ways of using this device other than its intended purpose ever since. And while numerous methods have made the cut, perhaps the most popular is the Upside-Down AeroPress Brewing Technique.

Upside-Down AeroPress Technique
Upside-down AeroPress Brewing!

To make it you’re going to need all of the same ingredients used to make normal AeroPress coffee. The main difference is the setup of the AeroPress itself. 

You’ll want to start by placing the plunger on the counter facing upwards. Then, turn the brewing chamber upside down and place it securely on the plunger, resting the stopper around the #4 marking on the chamber. Now add your coffee and hot water just as you normally would.

Secure the filter to the top of the AeroPress and let the coffee brew for around 90 seconds. Unlike a normal AeroPress setup, this method allows the coffee to become fully immersed in a process actually quite similar to the French press. 

When you’re ready, flip the AeroPress and place it on your mug or desired container. Apply pressure as you normally would and in 20 seconds or so your Upside Down AeroPress coffee is ready to go.

Since making coffee this way can occasionally get a little bit messy, it helps to have something like the AeroPress organizer just to ensure all of your AeroPress parts are properly stored and ordered.


French Press

What is it?

Now that we’ve spoken at length about the AeroPress, it’s time to address the other device in the room.

The French press is a staple piece of kit for anyone looking to make premium, delicious coffee at home. It consists of a glass cylinder and a plunger with a fine wire mesh attached to it. Some variations of the French press are also made from steel or ceramic.

We went into detail about the history of the French press in a previous article, but some pertinent facts are worth repeating. Patented by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, the French press is actually an Italian design, although it may have been first created in France.

It saw a rise of popularity across Europe in the 60s and eventually became a common household device for making coffee. Its ability to make copious and consistently delicious cups of coffee, as well as draw out the best quality of the coffee being used, also makes it a firm favorite among baristas.

The Myriad Advantages of using a French Press

To start with, the French Press is a very simple device. Consisting of only two separate parts, it makes producing a surprisingly good cup of coffee a very easy affair.

Unlike other methods of producing coffee – looking at you, espresso – the French press is also able to produce relatively large amounts of coffee per brew. Whereas the AeroPress, for example, will only produce enough coffee for one or two people, the French press makes enough for six. This means you don’t have to brew multiple times when having guests over.

The French press is also renowned for allowing maximum control when it comes to manipulating the flavor profile of the coffee. From the amount of coffee used, the water temperature and volume, and steeping time of the coffee, the French press lets you fully determine how long you would like to extract the coffee for.

And because the grinds are steeped before it is filtered, the French press retains many of the oils and aromas that other methods lose. The resultant brew is more textured, intense and contains a more complex flavor profile that other filtered coffee.

How To Make a Perfect Cup of French Press Coffee

Making the perfect cup of French press isn’t rocket science. In fact, it couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Grind up the bean of your choice – about 8 grams of coffee to 200ml of water. The type of bean and roast you choose are the main determinants when it comes to your coffee flavor. The grinder you use, and the way you grind it, also play a role, so ensure you pick the correct fineness.
  2. Add the ground up coffee to the cylinder.
  3. Boil some water. Let it rest for about 30 seconds and add it to the cylinder.
  4. Stir the mixture gently with a spoon or coffee stirrer.
  5. Place the plunger on top of the cylinder but don’t push it just yet. Allow the French press to sit like this for around 3 to 4 minutes. If you like your coffee extra strong, let it steep for longer.
  6. Once it has rested, push the plunger down slowly, applying steady, even pressure.
  7. Enjoy! Some sediment may find its way into the final brew. This is normal and shouldn’t affect the final flavor.
Pouring a cup of French Press Coffee

AeroPress vs French Press – Which is Best?

The showdown between the AeroPress and French press is one of the most heated in the coffee world. While both devices require manual use, and utilize steeping as the brewing technique – admittedly very similar functionalities – the distinct difference between them lies in the way in which the coffee is filtered.

And because so many coffee aficionados want to have ultimate control of the exact flavor of their coffee, this is oftentimes the deciding factor on which device they opt to buy.

While both brewing methods offer control over most of the crucial variables that determine coffee flavor, each method possesses a quality that sets it apart from the other.

With the AeroPress, it’s pressure. While you won’t achieve anything close to the massive amounts of pressure generated by an espresso machine, you can produce a not insignificant amount of force with this trusty little hand brewer. It’s this pressure which allows for a faster and (some would say) more complete extraction.

The French press, on the other hand, allows for more complex flavors and aromas. Because the filter used is a more coarse and made of steel, many of the oils found within the coffee are retained. The resultant brew is generally tastier, more intense and more aromatic. 

So if you’re after a cup of coffee with a stronger flavor profile, then the French press is your friend. If, however, you prefer a more rounded cup of coffee, then you can’t go wrong with the AeroPress.

Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.

How to Make Espresso: A Beginner’s Guide to the Perfect Shot

Learning how to make a good espresso can take you to heaven, even if the process to make one looks like rocket science. Watching a barista expertly grind beans, pack multiple porta-filters simultaneously, twist countless nozzles and coax steam, hot liquids and frothed milk from the hundred alien spouts of the massive machine in the coffee shop is an impressive spectacle, to say the least.

But we’re going to let you in on a secret – learning how to make an espresso isn’t the Herculean task that many consider it to be.

The truth is that in order to make a perfectly fine espresso, you don’t necessarily need the barista or the expensive machinery. Of course that’s one way to make it, but if you’re just looking to learn how to make espresso at home, there are way more cheaper and less cumbersome ways to go about it. We’ll get into the different methods below – but first let’s start with an explanation.

Regular Coffee vs Espresso: What’s the Difference?

To the untrained observer coffee and espresso look pretty much like the same thing. After all, they’re both dark, bitter, intense and beautifully-smelling liquids, and espresso, after all, is a form of coffee. But the main difference between your everyday cup of coffee and learning how to make espresso comes down to the way in which it is prepared.

Many other methods of coffee production rely on steeping coffee grounds in water and so take a lot of time to prepare, while espressos are made relatively quickly using a specialized espresso machine. 

The fineness of the grinds is also a distinction which sets espresso apart from other styles of coffee. Espresso grinds need to be extremely fine in order to restrict the flow of water and build up pressure which is used to produce the final product.

Which leads to the question, what exactly is the production process behind a great espresso?


Learning How to Make Espresso Starts with Espresso Beans

Like most styles of coffee, one of the most critical variables for obtaining a great final brew is the type of beans used. When it comes to creating an espresso this rule is doubly true. In fact, the type of beans used for espresso actually taste entirely distinct from those used in ordinary coffee.

It all has to do with the way in which the beans have been roasted. Coffee beans come in a varied of different roasts from light-roasted to medium-roasted to dark-roasted. These roasts will yield different colored coffee beans, with each distinct roast being more suited to a specific style of coffee.

Espresso beans will almost always be dark-roasted (you can tell by the sheen on the beans before they are ground). The reason for this has to do with the fact that dark roasted beans contain the lowest acidity and have the fullest body. Dark roasts help the beans to retain most of their natural oils, meaning their flavor profiles are much stronger and more robust. 

The emulsification of these and other oils in the coffee is what produces the crema on top of the espresso. Crema, for the uninitiated, is the white and creamy head on top of the final shot, which is a hallmark of a fantastic espresso.

You can find espresso beans just about anywhere, but below we’ve included a list of some of our favourites:

Lavazza EspressoDeath WishCaribouKoffee KultHale Espresso
Lavazza - Italian espresso coffeeDeath Wish whole bean coffeeCaribou coffeePowerful Espresso Coffee by Coffee KultHale Espresso Coffee

Espresso Grind: How to Do It

Now that you’ve selected the exact type of bean you want to use, it’s time to get down to the business of creating an espresso. And like any act of creation, it’s going to require some tools in order to pull it off successfully.

The first step in learning how to make espresso is to transform those beans in grinds. And for that you will need a grinder. Now the exact type of grinder depends on your needs, proclivities and budget, but since we’re assuming you’re not going to have an entire warehouse to dedicate to cumbersome, specialized coffee equipment, we’re going to discuss fairly compact grinders.

Grinders by and large are distinguished in two main categories – blade and burr.
Blade grinders, as the name suggests, use blades to finely chop the beans into ever smaller pieces, while burr grinders utilize conical burrs and a static plate in order to crush beans into the desired grind. In terms of consistency and functionality, burr grinders almost always outperform blade grinders and so should be prioritized if you have the budget for them.  

Again, the exact grinder you choose depends on your own needs, but here are some that we’ve found to be functional and effective:

While these grinders may seem like an unnecessary expense at first, they’re absolutely vital to achieving a fine enough grind for quality espresso.View them as an investment, especially if you’re serious about making coffee for years to come.


How to Make Espresso at Home: 4 Different Methods

You have your beans and you have your grinder, so how do you turn those into espresso? Luckily you have a number of different methods at your disposal when learning how to make espresso at home.

1- Espresso machine

If you want a method of producing consistently good espresso shots in large numbers, then it’s hard to go wrong with an espresso machine. Designed specifically for creating espresso, these machines are the ideal companion for any coffee lover. Choosing the right one, however, depends on a number of different variables.

Espresso machines work using extremely high pressure (between 7 and 10 bars) to rapidly push hot water through a tightly-packed “puck” of coffee. The flavor of the coffee is extracted swiftly and you’re able to enjoy the finished product in a matter of seconds. 

Espresso machines tend to be a bit bigger and more expensive than other methods on this list; the reason being that they contain a lot more specialized parts than say, a moka pot or French press. That being said, you don’t have to blow your child’s entire college savings in order to purchase something halfway decent.

Mr Coffee Espresso Maker
The Mr Coffee Automatic, for example, retails at $79 on Amazon, and is capable of producing hard-hitting espresso shots that hit lightly on the wallet.

For something a bit more upmarket, the DeLonghi Magnifica is a more complex machine capable of making multiple espressos at once, frothing milk, and also customizing precisely how you would like your espresso to be produced. 

2- Moka Pot

If you don’t have the space or the money to invest in an espresso machine, then a moka pot is an innovative solution that produces strong, delicious and overall superb espresso. Invented by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialletti in 1933, the moka pot works by using heat generated by a stove to force hot, pressurized water through coffee grounds, resulting in delicious espresso every time.

The moka pot consists of a bottom chamber, a funnel and filter for holding coffee grinds, and the upper collection chamber where the finish coffee ends up. To make espresso using a moka pot, simply:

  1. Fill the bottom chamber with water.
  2. Pack the funnel and filter tightly with coffee then place over the water-filled chamber. 
  3. Tamp the grinds down with a spoon or other blunt object.
  4. Screw the collection chamber on top of the filter, thus completing the moka pot.
  5. Place over a stove or flame and wait until you hear the coffee liquid begin to bubble up through the spout in the collection chamber.
  6. Once the chamber is filled, turn off the heat and allow the coffee to settle for a minute.
  7. You now have around six to eight shots of hot, delicious espresso.

The benefit of a moka pot is that they’re inexpensive, easy to clean as well as store when not in use, and they’re extremely durable. Investing in a decent model means you won’t have to buy another one for years to come. On top of that, the act of packing the moka pot and waiting for the coffee to brew is a very satisfying ritual that also fills the entire house with the smell of freshly-made coffee.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on one – a few of our favorite models are the Moka Express, Cuisinox Roma and Bellemain Stovetop.

3- French Press

As far as making an espresso goes, utilizing a French press is not going to give you the most optimal results. That being said, it can still be used successfully to make some delicious tasting coffee, and if you’re a serious coffee drinker you should definitely have one in your coffee arsenal anyway. 

Because the French press is usually used to make larger quantities of coffee, you’re going to have to tweak the usual process in order to adapt it to espresso production. The main difference in this regard is that you will be using roughly double the amount of coffee grinds that you normally would use with a French press. This will ensure that your coffee has the strong flavor and dark finish that espresso is renowned for. 

Once you’ve got everything ready, simply follow these steps to make Espresso with a French Press:

  1. Ensure that your coffee is ground very finely.

    A good rule of thumb is that you’ll need about two tablespoons of beans for every one cup of water that you use.

  2. Boil some water using a kettle and set it aside.

    Remember that you want to use about double the amount that you normally would when making ordinary coffee.

  3. Add the coffee grounds into the French Press.

    Remember that you want to use about double the amount that you normally would when making ordinary coffee.

  4. Add a couple of splashes of hot water to the grounds.

    This will allow them to bloom and start the release of the coffee’s natural oils and aromas.

  5. Add the rest of your water to the French press and let it rest.

  6. Place the lid on top of the French press, but don’t put pressure on the plunger.

    Simply let it rest there for about four minutes. The longer you leave it, the stronger the coffee will be, but it’s important not to leave it for too long or else you risk over-extracting it.

  7. Press the plunger down slowly and consistently all the way to the bottom of the glass.

    Don’t rush this step; slow, even pressure is the name of the game here.

  8. In order to halt the extraction process, pour the coffee into a separate container.

  9. From here your French press-made espresso is ready to serve.

    Enjoy!

If you’re not sure what French press to buy, check out some of the best on the market below:

4- AeroPress

It’s worth stating upfront that an AeroPress is never going to yield true espresso. While both espresso machines and AeroPresses utilize pressure in order to make coffee, the amount of pressure generated by an AeroPress is a fraction of that generated by a machine. For reference, a machine uses around 9 bars of  pressure (640 pounds of force) and an AeroPress can generate a maximum of .75 bars of pressure (about 50 pounds or so).

That being said, it’s not a lost cause. With some finely ground coffee, an AeroPress and some decent muscle power, you’ll still be able to produce a satisfactory and delicious shot of coffee at home. It won’t be true espresso, but it’ll be close, and still worth it if you can’t get your hands on an espresso machine.

In order to make a quality AeroPress espresso, grind your beans extremely finely, add them to the AeroPress and add some hot water. The next step is the crucial one – in an attempt to mimic the workings of an espresso machine you’ll want to plunge the coffee as hard as possible to generate as much pressure as possible. 

The result should be a shot of strong, dark and intense coffee – not 100% espresso, but not a bad alternative either. If you’re too strong for your own good, you’ll probably also have a little bit of mess on your hands. 

If you don’t have one already, you can pick up this AeroPress here.

an AeroPress

Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.

French Press vs Drip Coffee: Which is Better?

Coffee has undoubtedly experienced a certain renaissance worldwide, and especially within the United States. It has occurred steadily over the last two decades and has brought us to the caffeinated frontier on which we now find ourselves. As the interest in coffee has waxed, the methods used to produce a good cup of coffee have themselves become more refined and complex.

Cue: The French Press.

While many caffeine addicts remain attached to their drip coffee machines, another type of café has made headway among the enlightened crowd.

It used to be that in order to produce a truly exception cup of coffee, you had to know a barista who had been in the industry for several years. But boutique coffee production has since shifted to the home. It’s more common than ever to find an espresso machine, mocha, french press or drip coffee maker alongside other high quality kitchen products, as coffee aficionados search for more ingenious ways to manipulate the flavour profile of different roasts. 

This leads to a often-asked question within the coffee community: which method is the best for brewing coffee?

It’s a big question, and we’re going to try unpack it below by comparing two of the most popular home-brewing methods – the French press and drip coffee. We’ll be looking at exactly what constitutes each method, the history of their development, the differences in flavor and texture of the resultant brew, and some good tips on how to make some of the most fragrant, delicious and eye-opening coffee variants of each.

French Press Coffee: What is It?

If you’ve never heard of it, it’s understandable that the French press may sound like a complicated martial arts move, capable of rendering a person immobile and tearing the breath from their body. That’s only half true. The French press is neither a martial arts move, nor is it complicated – but it’ll still take your breath away every time.

The modern French press as we know it today is a simple construction consisting of a large glass, steel or plastic cylindrical beaker with a plastic or steel lid and plunger which fits snugly into the cylinder. The plunger is equipped with a fine mesh filter to capture all of the coffee particulates, but not liquids, as it moves downwards.

It might be worth mentioning the French press actually doesn’t even deserve to be called French. The machine itself was designed by a man called Paolini Ugo and patented by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani in 1929 – a group of Italians. 

A French Press Device filled with Coffee
A French Press with the Plunger down – The Coffee is ready to serve

It underwent several design modifications by another Italian called Faliero Bondanini, who developed his own patent for the machine in 1958, after which its popularity spread across Europe.

And this popularity has continued to spread, with French press makers becoming a commonplace item in kitchens all over the world. This has resulted in a number of different names for the machine, depending on where you purchase it. In Germany, for example, they call it a Stempelkanne, or stamp pot. In South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, it’s known as a plunger, and the coffee it produces as plunger coffee. In France it is called a cafetière à piston, but often shortened to cafetière, which is what coffee drinkers in the UK and the Netherlands call it too.

Drip Coffee: What is It?

Unlike it’s francophile cousin, drip coffee is a little more straightforward to understand as a brewing method for coffee. Drip coffee involves placing a filter over a container, filling the filter with roasted, ground coffee beans and then pouring hot water through the mixture. The resultant concentrate at the bottom is what we know as drip coffee.

An Automatic Drip Coffee Maker
An Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

While many people will be more familiar with the drip coffee brewing process through the use of an automatic drip coffee machine, the more minimal, hands-on, pour-over method has become a vogue process in recent years.

Pour-over drip coffee brewing step1
Manual, “pour over” Drip Coffee brewing

Pour-over drip coffee brewing step 2
Manual Drip Coffee brewing in process

Unlike the French press, making drip coffee gives you slightly less control of the brewing process, especially with regards to brewing time. The resultant flavor is also difference since the water passes through the grounds rather than mixing with it for an extended period of time. However, it’s also very easy to do, which is perhaps what has led to its rise in popularity.

French Press vs Drip Coffee: What Makes Them Different?

There are a couple of main differences between French press and drip coffee. The two big ones are the type of grind used, and the amount of control of the brewing variables each method affords you.

The French press requires a coarse grind since the grounds need to steep, whereas drip coffee requires a medium grind in order to let the water pass through it. Because both devices rely on filters in order to get an even and consistent cup of coffee each time, the grind of the beans needs to be just right. 

Coarse Ground Coffee for French Press
Coarse Ground Coffee for French Press
Medium Ground Coffee for Drip Coffee
Medium Ground Coffee for Drip Coffee

Then there’s the amount of control of the brewing variables which each method allows for. Since the French press gives you the freedom to add as much or as little coffee as you’d like, and steep it for ten minutes or ten weeks, it gives you way more control over the final flavor of the coffee. Drip coffee, on the other hand, is going to give you a fairly consistent brew every time.

The natural oils within the coffee bean is the factor most responsible for the particular flavor of the coffee, and it’s these oils which get filtered out when coffee is prepared using a drip filter. Drip coffee uses osmotic pressure to drive the coffee concentrate out of the beans, which can result in an over-extraction when robs the coffee of its essential oils. The French press does away with over-extraction by using a much slower brewing process. Here, the grounds and the oils within them, are not merely saturated and then discarded. Rather, they’re allowed to steep, and the water as well as the heat draws out the oils and retains them in the final brew. It’s this extraction which captures the richness and depth of flavor for which the French press has become renowned. 

All of the above variables affect the taste to a greater or lesser degree. While drip coffee, especially machines, can produce full-bodied brews depending on the exact model you use, more often than not it’s going to be the French Press which produces a stronger, fuller-bodied cup of joe. 

The Science Behind the French Press: Here’s Why It’s Not the Same as Drip Coffee

With many other coffee-brewing methods, hot water is poured through your ground coffee beans, and how finely you’ve ground your beans is going to determine how quickly this water passes through. This ultimately has an effect on the flavor, strength, and bitterness of the end result.

A French press works slightly differently in that the brew yield, grind size and brew time are not married to how much water passes through them. With a French press, you’re much better able to control all of these variables, which in turn will give you a lot more control with regard to the final brew. 

Unlike the pour-over method, which using hot water to extract flavor from the grind pretty aggressively, a french press is all about going low and slow. It allows for an even saturation of the grounds rather than an uneven stream of water passing through them, which in turn makes for a more balanced flavor.

Is French Press Worth the Extra Effort?

It all depends on how pedantic you are about the flavor of your first cup of coffee. 

For many people the ease and convenience of drip coffee is one of the main reasons that they invest in either a drip coffee machine or a set of pour-over filters. There’s something to be said about simply pushing a button, waiting for a couple of minutes and receiving a decent cup of coffee in the morning.

In the same breath, if you’re a coffee aficionado who understands the difference between dark roasts and light, prefers single origin compared to multiple, and knows how to coaxe the best and most delicate flavors from your grind, then going the full mile with the French press is going to undoubtedly appeal to you.

Fifteen minutes waiting time is a small price to pay for a full-bodied, velvety-textured cup of the dark stuff.


Making Coffee with a French Press

To make a cup of coffee using a French press, use the following steps:

  • Start by heaping as much ground coffee into the bottom of the beaker as you would like. It’s important that the coffee is fairly coarse; if the beans are ground too finely they’ll simply slip through the mesh filter and into the liquid. 
  • Next, add enough hot water to the coffee and fill most of the beaker, but not all the way to the top. 
  • Allow the coffee to brew for as long as you would like, and when it’s at a satisfactory strength, place the lid and plunger on the top of the beaker. 
  • Push the plunger all the way down to the bottom of the beaker. Do this slowly; too fast and you’ll displace the coffee and it’ll spill everywhere.
  • Pour out a cup and enjoy your handiwork.

I’m a French Press Noob – What Gear Should I Buy?

If you’re new to the French press and unsure what to buy, then we’ve got you covered.

Perhaps the best overall French Press is the Chambord by Bodum. It’s a classic French press that can trace its design all the way back to the fifties, but that still uses the same manufacturing processes today. It’s of the glass and stainless steel variety and is perfect for one or two servings with a 12oz capacity.

For a more premium model and one less prone to breakage, the Freiling double-walled stainless steel French press is the one to buy. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but with a capacity of 36oz, you’ll be able to brew enough coffee for a party of five or six.


How to Make the Best Drip Coffee

In order to make a perfect pour-over drip coffee, we’ve put together a number of steps for you to follow below:

  1. Start with a good grind. You’ll want to ensure that the grind is not too coarse or too fine, but somewhere in the middle. 
  2. For a single cup of pour-over coffee you’ll want somewhere around 23g of ground coffee.
  3. Place the filter over your beaker or mug and prewet it with some hot water. This will allow the water to filter through a little easier while also removing a lot of the paper taste that filters can sometimes have.
  4. Remove the water you used to prewet the filter, then place the filter back on top of your container.
  5. Add the coffee grounds to the filter, then shake it around gently to even it out.
  6. Boil 400ml of water, take it off the heat, then let it rest for around 30 seconds. 
  7. Pour just enough water to wet the grounds, then let the brew sit for 30 or 40 seconds. This process is called blooming, and it releases some of the gases trapped within the grounds. This allows for a smoother extraction, and will prevent the coffee having a sour taste. 
  8. Pour the rest of the hot water through slowly, starting in the center then working outwards and then inwards in concentric circles. If you find that water runs too fast, try using a finer grind, and if it’s too slow, try a coarser one.
  9. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the grinds and drain the last of the water.
  10. Remove the filter, let the coffee sit for a moment, and then it’s ready to drink.

I’m Looking to up my Drip Coffee Game – What Gear Should I Buy?

With regards to drip coffee machines, the Bella 12 Cup Coffee Maker comes out on top. Not only is it affordable and stylish enough to fit in any kitchen, but it can brew consistently great cups of coffee in only nine minutes.

And if you’re serious about pour-over drip coffee, then we recommend the Kalita Wave 185 Dripper as well as the Kalita Wave Series 500. Bolster your purchase with Kalita’s wavy filters in order to produce a fast and incredibly delicious cup of coffee.  


Can’t spring for French press? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Average, Everyday Cup of Joe

If you’re not in a position to grab the latest and greatest French press just yet, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some steps you can take in order to up your coffee game to the next level. Coffee, after all, is about more than just the device used to brew it.

There are two important things that will change your morning coffee routine for the better: your bean and your grinder. Choosing a well-roasted coffee bean is the basis for getting the most delicious-tasting coffee possible. Of course, this is a matter of taste, so you’ll have to switch it up until you find one that you really like.

Some favorites include:

Now that you have the beans you’ll want to get a grinder. It doesn’t have to be an expensive electronic one with different gauges and measuring tools; a hand grinder will work fine. The important thing is that you have a tool that can produce consistent grinds that range from fine to coarse depending on your needs. Check out our favorites below for all budgets:

  • Hero Manual Coffee Grinder – For a no-frills grinding experience that won’t break the bank but will still produce a consistent grind, Hero’s manual coffee grinder is hard to beat.
  • KRUPS GX5000 Burr Coffee Grinder – This affordable electric grinder by KRUPS will let you get the precise grounds you need while still leaving some cash in your pocket for another bag of beans.
  • The Smart Grinder Pro by Breville – If you’ve got the money to spend and want the absolute best when it comes to grinding beans, the Smart Grinder Pro by Breville is hard to pass up. With over 60 grind functions and a design geared towards preserving the essential oils within the coffee bean, this machine is worth the price.
Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.