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Brewing Methods Matter. Period.

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I deal with this issue on a daily basis.  My company owns and operates an office coffee service here in the midwest in addition to our national internet business.  Here in the midwest it can still be a challenge to push our customer base forward in their coffee thinking.  I understand that this is OK, because coffee is a completely individualized product.  Some like it strong, some like it weak.  Some drink it black, some drink it with all sorts of additives.  What I'm addressing here is the misconception that the same coffee should taste the same no matter where, or how it is brewed.  I'm going to walk thorough brewing methods we use within our company, and start from the worst methods, and work up to what we feel are the best.


One long-standing trend in the office coffee industry is to brew in little premade pouches called filter packs.  This coffee is packaged inside of a filter, eliminating the need to pour coffee into a filter before brewing.  It's very convenient in that you just toss it in, brew, then toss it in the trash.  The grounds stay inside of the pouch, and there is very little mess as the coffee is handled.  We sell more filter pack than any other coffee package type.  Although improvements have been made to address the shortcoming of the filter-pack, it is still a much inferior brewing method than any other method we know of.  Water tends to shed off of the package instead of allowing water to go through the coffee that lies inside.  This produces a weak, and highly inconsistent pot of coffee.  No matter how much we educate our customer base of this, they can't get away from the convenience of that little pouch.


If you like coffee, and don't mind spending an extra 10 seconds on each pot, it is an enormous improvement to use coffee that you place in a traditional coffee filter.  This eliminates the water shedding issue, and gives a chance for consistency from pot to pot.  Water travels evenly through the coffee grounds and fully extracts the goodness from the coffee before going into your serving vessel.  We sell coffee in pre-measured, pre-ground packets for this purpose, along with larger bulk options.


Taking a moment to grind your coffee right before you brew it will wake up your coffee in a way you didn't know was possible.  The grinding of coffee exponentially speeds up the deterioration process of coffee's freshness.  Quite simply, after grinding more surface area is exposed to oxygen, the enemy of fresh coffee.  So, the longer you wait to grind the beans you already have on hand, the better off you are from a freshness standpoint.  We offer commercial bean grinders that take a lot of the mess and guesswork out of fresh coffee.  Due to savings in packaging costs, we can offer whole bean at the same pricing as our pre-ground options.  To me, its a no brainer, but I've become a bit of a coffee snob :).


The french press is a great brewing method.  You place freshly ground coffee into a vessel, pour in hot water, allow to steep for around 4 minutes, then push a plunger down into the vessel that pushes the grounds to the bottom and allows the filtered liqued to stay at the top.  You then pour directly from the brewing vessel into your cup.  Coffee in a french press is full of flavor.  I feel like you can taste everything that a coffee has to offer within the cup.  You will find every nuance, every thing you love, and in the case of bad coffee, the obvious imperfections.  If you love coffee, love tasting differences between coffees, this is a great method.  For me, the biggest drawback is that you can get some solids in your cup more-so than other methods.  Its also a little more time consuming to clean up after a brew.  You have to scoop out the grounds into the trash, and then give a rinse to the press.


These are some of my favorite brewing methods to date.  Freshly ground coffee is placed into a filter basket, a small amount of hot water is poured into the basket to allow the grounds to swell, and get a little wet.  After 30 seconds or so, the rest of the water is slowly poured over the grounds and allowed to drip into a serving or drinking vessel.  This method has similar taste to a french press, yet is a cleaner drink because the solids are all filtered out very well.  You get full body and full taste with less fuss.  After the brew, you just toss out the filter and you're done with cleanup, minus a quick rinse if you like.  The chemex system has the filter basket and serving vessel built into one glass device.  The aeropress changes things a little by adding forced air behind the water after it steeps with the coffee and presses it out into the cup.

Yes, there are many more variables within each brewing method, but this is a brief overview to give you an idea of the options.  The last three methods produce great coffee if you nail all of the techniques involved in each that should satisfy all coffee snobs including myself.  The moral of the story here is that the exact same coffee can taste very different depending on how it is brewed, the cleanliness and taste of the water used, amount of coffee used, grind type, etc. etc. etc.  I've had people tell us "This is not your Rimshot Blend!."  They simply didn't understand how diverse a coffee can taste from method to method.  I hope to delve deeper into each method in future posts.

I encourage you to try some of these relatively inexpensive hand brewing devices for yourself to see what all your coffee can offer you.  It certainly makes coffee a more hands on, rewarding experience.

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