Oct. 30, 2012
Last Friday, Oct 26th, I participated in a brewing event at the SCAA headquarters in Long Beach, CA. There were 7 stations/brew methods and 2 coffees. The coffees were a Costa Rica from the Helsar mill roasted by Verve Coffee Roasters and a Washed Ethiopia Yukro from Portola Coffee lab. The brew methods were: Chemex with Able Kone filter, Press Pot, Aeropress with paper filter, Hario V60, Clever, Fetco batch brewer, and Espresso. The discussion was less about a straight up comparisson of the brewing methods, but rather was centered around the sweetness of a coffee and how the different brew methods delivered the sweetness of the coffee. The people working each station also talked about the pro and cons of each method and what was necessary to brew well with them at home, excluding the larger batch brewer and espresso machine.
For me personally, I felt that for the Costa Rica that the Fetco batch brewer really did the best job of showing the sweetness of that coffee. For the Ethiopia, I was very pleasantly surprised at the brew in the press pot! The press pot has been getting poo-poo'd quite a bit these days in specialty coffee circles, very unfairly if you ask me. The common misconception is that you can't brew a "brighter" coffee with the device, that it will become much too aggresively acidic. In this brew there was tons of the honey-suckle floral notes of this coffee present, and a really lovely and long finishing sweetness. If anything, I found this brew to be the most balanced of the set except for one other method.
The Clever dripper was most everyones' favorite brew out of all of the methods for both coffees. Most people also found that the Clever brew was also the sweetest iteration of both coffees. I mention this because there were a handful of folks who's favorite wasn't what they considered to be the sweetest cup.
During the discussion following the tasting there was really just a little bit of talk about comparing one method to the other, outside of talking about what the favorite cup was. The conversation that was more actively participated in was about the moods of the different methods. This was really interesting, with the Chemex having a social mood, and the Aeropress was both technical yet playful at the same time. We also compared methods to different shoe styles, with the Clever being a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, the Fetco being a steel toed work boot, and the Aeropress being those sort of creepy toe shoes!
These kind of conversations can be really fun and help us to think about brewing methods in different ways, and maybe make some of them less threatening or unapproachable than they were before. One of the other things that I asked about at each station was how much other gear was necessary to use the method properly at home. I felt that this was important to keep in mind with all of these manual brew methods. The 2 methods that required the least amount of extra gear according to the station intructors were the press pot and the clever. The one universal piece of equipment that was used for each manual method was a scale, so that's important to keep in mind when considering which brew method you might want to invest in.