Ideally our coffee brew cycle will take 4 to 6 minutes. That’s the amount of time required to extract the good flavors from our coffee. Less than 4 minutes and our coffee will be underextracted. More than 6 minutes and – you guessed it – our coffee will be overextracted. [I see you’re catching on to how this all works!]

Once again, however, we find that the designers of our home brewing equipment appear to be conspiring against us. If we load the filter basket of a home drip brewer with ideal coffee proportions it overflows. If we try to brew less than a full pot so that we can use proper coffee proportions, we’ll likely experience too short a brewing cycle [while there may be plenty of coffee in the filter, the use of less water decreases the duration of the overall brewing cycle]. Home auto-drip brewers barely reach a proper brewing time when they’re run at a full pot capacity. Some never reach it at all.

Other brewing methods – vacuum pot, French press – offer much more control over the time element of our coffee formula.

Finally, once we get our coffee in our brewing vessel of choice, we want to make sure it doesn’t just lie around being lazy… we want it to interact with the water, so that the water can extract all of those wonderful flavors. On auto-drip brewers a shower head delivers water in a particular spray pattern that’s intended to create whirlpools and vortices within the filter basket. Other methods rely on you and your trusty spoon… simply stir the brewing coffee to make sure the grounds are suspended in the water.

Bear in mind that glass pots – vacuum pots, in particular – can be very fragile. Vigorous stirring with a metal spoon is not a good idea, and could lead to a coffee disaster. Instead, gently stir with a wooden spoon, or even a lacquered wooden chopstick!

To Sum Up
You may have decided by now that the coffee brewer that most of us has at home –an auto-drip brewer — simply isn’t up to the task of making really good coffee. You’re probably right. Only one home auto-drip model that I’m aware of — the Bunn Pour-o-matic — comes close to meeting the demands of our formula for great coffee… and even it is not without its problems.

Other brewing methods – manual drip brew with a cone filter or a Chemex pot, the French press, and vacuum pot – have the advantage, as each in its own way offers you more control over essential parts of the brewing process – in particular temperature, time and turbulence.

More: coffee | brewing

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