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How to Pick the Perfect Brew Method for You

Ask yourself a few easy questions.

by Maciej Kasperowicz | May 13, 2020

So, you’ve decided to make brewing delicious coffee at home a part of your daily process. Maybe you haven’t been making coffee at home at all, or maybe the brewer you’ve been using just doesn’t work for your new lifestyle... or maybe you’re just bored! Well, we’re here to help you figure out the next brewer you should buy to make sure your home brewing routing fits your needs exactly.

Question 01: How Many Are You Brewing For?

The question I think is most important to ask — when deciding what coffee brewer to buy or to use — is: how much coffee do you want to make per brew?` There are many more nerdy questions to ask about coffee mouthfeel and pouring styles later on, but I think this is the best starting point.

For example, you could love the kind of coffee the AeroPress makes more than anything and you can technically brew it strong and then water it down for two small cups, but if you’re making coffee for six every morning with just an AeroPress, you’ll get pretty annoyed, pretty fast (I made this mistake on a trip to Cape Cod with friends years ago, woof).

On the other side of things, while it’s technically possible to dose really low and make coffee for one with a big ol’ 10-cup coffee maker, those machines aren’t really designed to do that. And, because of their shape and the speed at which they dispense water, they’re tremendously hard to dial in for great one-cup results. You could definitely brew several cups at once and drink throughout the day, but your quality will decrease, especially if you keep the coffee on a hot plate or reheat it in the microwave. As a side note, a “cup” when used on the packaging for a traditional US coffee maker usually means five ounces, so to figure out the amount of servings you can get from any of those coffee makers, I think it makes sense to divide by two.

Question 02: How Much Effort Are You Able to Put in?

How much effort and focus do you want to spend making coffee? Is the ideal experience for you just putting coffee and water into a machine, going to do something else for a while, and then coming back to tasty coffee? Or does the act of carefully manually pouring water actually a thing that might bring you joy or relaxation? The latter is still true for me, but I know many people — even and perhaps especially coffee pros — who would love to never see a fancy kettle again. And while a manual brew method gives you more room to make small adjustments, the amount of effort that you put into brewing doesn’t always correlate with better coffee — as many modern home drip machines brew way better than Mr. Coffee.

Question 03: How Much Equipment Do You Want to Use?

There’s also the somewhat-related question of equipment. A gooseneck kettle isn’t 100 percent required to make pour over coffee, but it helps a lot. Whereas for a French press or coffee maker, you don’t really need one.

Question 04: How Do You Want Your Coffee to Taste?

Finally, how do you like your coffee to feel and taste? I believe that with a little trial and error, you can make most any good coffee taste delicious on any brew method — but that doesn’t mean they’ll taste the same. Any brew method with a metal filter will let more oils through, making the coffee feel fuller and slicker while you’re drinking it, which some folks really value, though you’ll likely also have to deal with a bit of griminess at the end of your cup. A paper filter will give you what we often refer to as a cleaner cup: there’ll be no fine grind particles at the bottom of your cup, and you might find it easier to perceive acidity and the more gentle flavors without that oil in the way, but the body will feel lighter. My strongest personal preference on matching coffees to filtration types is actually on very dark roasts: I think those roasty, verging-on-bitter flavors really benefit from metal filters; those oils buffer their harshness a little.

Metal filters are harder to clean than paper filters, but they are reusable (though from a sustainability standpoint, there probably is some math to do on how many times you’d have to use a metal filter before it becomes more sustainable to produce than the equivalent amount of paper filters). If you’ve decided on a metal filter, don’t think that excludes pour overs from your range of choices; there are many metal filters out there for a wide variety of pour over shapes.

Question 05: Other Lifestyle Considerations...

There are, of course, many other questions to ask. If the aesthetics of your kitchen are important to you, there are plenty of different-looking options whether you choose a pour over, a French press, or coffee maker that you can match to your decor.

Or, even if the particular colors and shapes aren’t important to you, the total amount of counter (or cabinet) space a brewer takes up definitely makes a difference. Are you prone to dropping things enough that a metal or plastic brewer makes a better choice than glass?

And we certainly shouldn’t forget the money. Maybe the ease of an auto-drip machine speaks to you, but it doesn’t call out to you as loud as the over $100 difference between a good coffee maker and a Hario V60.

As with any purchase, there are many things to weigh (speaking of which, try to fit a small scale into your budget if you don’t have one — trust me on this). But if you start by quantifying size, convenience, filtration, and price, you’ll be able to get to something that works for you pretty quickly — though I definitely can’t promise you won’t end up with an ever-growing collection of different brewers for different occasions and moods.

Here are some examples of brewers and the characteristics that might help you decide whether they're right for you:

Coffee Decision Revise