By: Lillie Wright
Everyone has their favorite way of brewing coffee. It can be an overwhelming decision from the French Press to Aeropress and drip to cold brew. What makes each method unique? Are there really differences between them? What even is an Aeropress? We’re going to demystify the often secretive world of gourmet coffee brewing and teach you the trade secrets you need to become a star barista.
There are many different methods of brewing coffee, and the French Press is beloved far outside the region of France. Many people have created versions of this popular device throughout history, dating back to the 1800s. Some have springs attached to help facilitate the plunging; some consist of a thin piece of tin covered in holes and wrapped in flannel. Despite these variations, the main concept of the French Press remains the same: a glass cylinder with a plunger and filter inside that rises and falls by pulling or pushing a knob on top. Coffee grounds mix with just-boiled water at the bottom of the cylinder for about four minutes; then, the plunger is lowered to separate the grounds from the water. The coffee then rises to the top of the cylinder and pours out a spout. Because of the filter, very few grounds make it into the final product, which is not often achieved using other methods like drip. French Press coffee is deep and robust because the grounds can steep directly in the water for an extended period. French Presses also extract more oil and sediment than traditional brewing methods, adding to the creamy, rich mouthfeel.
There are some concerns to look out for when using a French Press. The optimal water temperature for this device is 200º, any hotter, and you risk scorching the beans. A thermometer is recommended to monitor the water temperature. Any cooler, and you risk under extract your beans, and it will taste watery. French Press coffee also must be served immediately after plunging so as not to continue the cooking process and again scorch the coffee. The best grind style for French Press is medium to coarse so that the water can percolate and extract enough flavor. If the grounds are too small, they will not yield enough flavor. It is advised to grind one’s own coffee for a French Press so the grind size stays consistent. Coffee grinders are relatively inexpensive, and nothing makes the house smell better than freshly ground coffee. Regarding caffeine levels, French Press coffee is on the lower end of the spectrum, averaging 80–135 milligrams. For the coffee lover who wants to indulge in old-school techniques and doesn’t mind a bit of waiting, the French Press may be the perfect device.
Created in 2005 by a retired Stanford University professor and mechanical engineer, the Aeropress is a portable coffee brewing device that combines medium/coarse coffee grounds and water in a tube. The grounds steep for ten to thirty seconds, and a separate plunger forces the coffee through a paper filter. Those who enjoy tasting all the bitter and earthy notes of coffee will likely not enjoy this product. Whereas the metal filter in a French Press allows tiny particulate to pass through, enhancing the flavor, the Aeropress only allows liquid to pass, resulting in a smoother, less bitter drink. Many people enjoy the Aeropress because of its compact size, meaning it can go anywhere you go. On the run and need a cup of coffee? Look no further than the Aeropress. You only need the device, grounds, hot water, and a cup. It can even make a cold brew; just swap out hot water for cold water! It’s perfect for outdoorsy people who hike and camp in areas without electricity or plumbing but still want the comforts of home. If the power goes out at home, and you can’t use your coffee machine, the Aeropress can step up and save the day. It is a unique, modern take on a time-honored tradition that stands to make big waves in this ever-evolving industry. The one downside is the caffeine levels, which are lower than a French Press, averaging about 50-70 grams per eight ounces.
Drip coffee keeps much of America running. No one would argue that it makes good coffee, but setting it up and balancing the proportions between the grounds and water can be frustrating. Oftentimes, people don’t understand how much water is needed to produce quality coffee or how many scoops of grounds make one cup. On the other end of coffee brewing methods, the classic setup of a paper filter filled with store-bought grounds dripping into a waiting carafe below has become synonymous with a hard day’s work. The result varies from robust and bitter coffee to a thin, barely there drink, hardly passable as coffee. The advantages of drip coffee stem from its ability to produce a large amount of coffee at once, often up to eight cups at a time. Drip coffee makers are a lifesaver for busy families and workplaces who need multiple cups of coffee but don’t have the time to stand there and plunge a French Press for 20 minutes. Drip coffee is fast, efficient, and practical. It’s become a meme for offices to run out of coffee and have the entire staff collapse without it. Another advantage of drip coffee is the caffeine level. The caffeine level can range from 95 to 165 milligrams, depending on the strength of the coffee. These levels are possible because the grounds slowly drip through the filter as opposed to the plunging of a French Press or Aeropress. The longer the coffee steeps, the stronger it will be. It’s perfect for busy office workers or exhausted new parents who don’t care how their coffee tastes as long as it keeps them awake.
Cold Brew is unique because it is the only method not to use hot water. Cold Brew works by combining coarse-ground coffee with distilled cold water. The grounds are placed in a large muslin bag, similar to tea, and steep in a vat of cold, distilled water overnight. Most coffee, even iced coffee, does not steep overnight. Instead, the water pours through the grounds quickly, producing coffee in only a few minutes. Steeping Cold Brew overnight allows the water to penetrate the grounds and extract more decadent flavors. The result is a highly caffeinated coffee concentrate traditionally cut with water and served over ice. The concentrate is rarely consumed straight from the bottle due to its intense flavor and caffeine level. Many people, especially young people, enjoy adding flavors to their Cold Brew or creamy mix-ins like oat milk. Of all the different methods of brewing coffee, Cold Brew takes the crown concerning caffeine–a single 12 oz cup contains 200 milligrams. By comparison, a Keurig pod contains about 75 milligrams. The FDA established the safe caffeine level at 400 milligrams per day. Two cups of Cold Brew reach that mark and set a new precedent for daily caffeine consumption. Many people enjoy this drink without considering the amount of caffeine they are ingesting and end up with disastrous consequences. Like any form of caffeine, one can enjoy Cold Brew safely as long as they know how much they’ve had and don’t go overboard.
The coffee industry is constantly evolving, and trends come and go. Maybe Cold Brew will fall out of fashion in ten years, or perhaps it is here to stay. No matter how you enjoy your coffee, every great cup starts with quality beans. Bitty and Beau’s Coffee produces high-quality, locally roasted coffee with a mission. We’re on a mission to change how society views people with disabilities in the workplace. People with disabilities run our coffee shops, serving every cup with a smile full of hope. Our coffee represents more than a morning rush or a late-night Hail Mary; it represents dignity, respect, and acceptance for people with disabilities in society. Check out our website to purchase some of our world-famous coffee or find a location near you. Join our mission and remember that It’s More Than A Cup of Coffee.