November 23, 2021

Which filter coffee brewing method is best for you? Six years on

The coffee industry evolves, and as it does, so too do the most popular filter coffee brewing techniques. Keeping up with the ever-growing list of brewers and updated extraction techniques can be overwhelming.

To help with this, we published a filter brewing method guide in 2015. It focused on recipes for four different brewing methods – including the AeroPress and V60 – and looked at how they affect coffee flavour.

However, to keep pace with the ever-evolving world of specialty coffee, we’ve decided to update this brew guide some six years on. To do so, we spoke to three coffee professionals. Read on to find out what they said.

You may also like our article on achieving even extraction with filter coffee drippers.

pour over coffee

Deciding on a brewer

There is an ever-growing range of filter coffee brewers, each of which has its own unique effect on extraction, flavour, and mouthfeel. Choosing which one to use is an important first step in the brewing process.

Stathis Koremtas is the Coffee Campus Specialist and Platform Content Manager at Coffee Island in Athens. He is also a three-time Greek Brewers Cup Champion, and was a runner-up at the World Brewers Cup in 2017 and 2018.

To start with, he tells me about the difference between immersion and percolation coffee brewing methods. Both, technically, use a filter – but provide a very different flavour in the final cup.

“With immersion methods the coffee stays in contact with the water for as long as the recipe states,” Stathis says. “By pressing a button or a plunger, the coffee and water are filtered. These methods provide stability, giving the coffee a higher body and a longer aftertaste. 

“In contrast, with percolation methods, the extraction starts as soon as we pour the water. The coffee is extracted with the help of temperature and gravity,” he says. “These methods require more developed skills and the coffee they produce is usually more aromatic and complex.”

Stathis goes on to say that there are several key brewing variables to consider when brewing coffee. “You should understand the extraction factors, such as grind size, brew time, and water temperature, and experiment with them.

“Dose and yield are related, but there are other factors to also consider, the most important of which is the coffee itself.”

Emi Fukahori is the co-owner of MAME Specialty Coffee in Zurich, Switzerland. She is also the 2018 World Brewers Cup Champion and 2020 Swiss Barista Champion.

“Keep your options open,” she advises. “Think: what do you have access to? What kind of budget do you have?

“Consider a coffee shop where you go that serves coffee you like. Maybe try brewing with the device they use, for example.”

hario v60

The Hario V60

The Hario V60 is one of the most popular pour over brewers in the coffee industry. It is popular with baristas and home brewers alike. 

The V60 was first launched in Japan in the mid-20th century. It became more renowned internationally around 2010, mainly thanks to its widespread use in coffee competitions.

Stathis chose the V60 for his 2017 World Brewers Cup winning routine. “I chose the V60 to emphasise acidity and aroma,” he says. “The fine paper filters also allow a sufficient amount of the coffee’s oils to pass through, strengthening the body of the beverage.”

The conical walls of the brewer are angled at 60° (hence V60), which ensures a continuous flow rate. The V60 also has a larger hole compared to other brewers, which can be beneficial or detrimental for the brewer, depending on their skillset.

“In contrast to flat bottom brewers, conical brewers can have a higher probability of channeling,” Stathis says. “We should be a little more careful in the way we pour the water.”

Channeling occurs when water travels through the path (or “channel”) of least resistance through the coffee bed. This leads to a mix of under and overextracted flavours. Making sure you evenly bloom your coffee grounds can help to minimise any channeling.

Stathis says: “The more skilled you are, the more consistency you can deliver in a cup. When it comes to the V60, however you pour, you will taste it in the cup.”

Recommended for: skilled brewers, those looking for cleaner and more aromatic flavours, and consumers who want to experiment.

kalita wave

The Kalita Wave

The Kalita Wave was also invented in Japan, and is now commonly found in cafés and homes across the world. The brewer is available in a range of materials and two different sizes.

However, it is designed differently to a V60, with a flat bottomed shape, rather than a “true” cone.

“With a flat bed brewer, the flow will be a bit slower,” Emi says. “There’s also always some water remaining towards the end of extraction. In contrast, with conical brewers, the water flows out quickly.”

The Kalita has a flat bottom with three small holes that allow water to pass through more slowly and evenly than a V60. 

For less experienced coffee brewers, the slower and more even flow rate means any inaccuracy has less of an affect on the resulting brew. This reduces the risk of under or overextraction.

“With flat bottom brewers, channeling is minimised because the coffee stays at the bottom of the filter during the extraction, rather than on the walls,” Stathis explains. “This increases the percentage of extraction.”

However, as water is retained in the bed of the Kalita towards the end of the brew, it can extract at a much slower rate than expected. As such, you should be mindful of finer grind sizes when using this brewer.

“For more body and sweetness, try flat bottom brewers,” Stathis says. “For higher acidity and a cleaner aftertaste, try conical brewers. However, it all depends on the coffee and how it’s been roasted.”

Recommended for: less skilled brewers, brewers looking for more consistent flavour profiles in their coffee, and consumers who prefer more sweetness and body.

chemex on table

The Chemex

The Chemex was created in the US in the 1940s. The idea behind the glass brewer was to simplify the process of extracting coffee.

The Chemex is also designed as both a brewer and a carafe, making it ideal for brewing larger batches of coffee.

Similar to the V60, the Chemex is a conical brewer, albeit with a noticeably larger hole. This means brewers should be more mindful of their pouring technique, and how this will affect flavour and aroma.

“As soon as you start pouring, think of the kettle as an extension of your hand,” Emi says. “Use a gooseneck kettle if you can; it will help you maintain your pouring speed.”

Gooseneck kettles have long, curved spouts, making them more precise than traditional kettles when pouring. This allows the brewer to pour water with more care and precision to improve extraction.

“I tell the baristas at MAME to stay in the middle of the brewer when pouring, for extraction consistency,” Emi says. 

Ultimately, this can help to saturate all the grounds at an even and consistent rate – as opposed to pouring water over certain areas of the coffee bed more than others.

However, while the Chemex has a larger hole than the V60, its flow rate is considerably slower because of the increased thickness of the filters. 

Brewers are advised to grind coarser and use lighter roasts with a Chemex. Darker roasts can be easily overextracted because of the brewer’s slower flow rate.

Recommended for: consumers brewing larger batches and people opting for light to medium roasts.

using aeropress

The AeroPress

Having discussed some of the major pour over brewing methods, we now turn our attention towards immersion brewing. 

Immersion differs from percolation because the coffee grounds and brew water are in full contact for the total brew time, as opposed to passing water through the coffee bed. This heightens the body and sweetness of the coffee, but can reduce acidity.

Alan Adler is the creator of the AeroPress, a portable manual coffee brewer that works similarly to a French press. To use the AeroPress, ground coffee and water are added to the brewing chamber, before the slurry is forced through a filter using a plunger.

“For any brewing method, lowering the dose will reduce bitterness and mouthfeel. However AeroPress’ naturally low bitterness leads some users to increase the dose for a richer cup,” Alan says. 

Because of the compact size of the AeroPress and AeroPress Go (its smaller counterpart), baristas and consumers often extract more concentrated coffees and then dilute them with water to create bigger batches.

“The flexibility of the AeroPress allows users the option of experimenting with their brewing recipes,” Alan explains.

The popularity of this brewer has led to annual national and World AeroPress Championships, which are now held in many countries around the world. At these competitions, participants use a range of brewing techniques to highlight certain aspects of their chosen coffees, such as sweetness or body.

“A minimal skillset is required to brew with the AeroPress,” Alan says. However, the inverted method can provide more experienced users with a wider range of variables to control and tweak.

Recommended for: brewers with a range of skillsets, consumers looking for a full-bodied cup, and those who want to experiment more with brewing techniques.

coffee syphon on table

The syphon

The syphon (also referred to as the siphon or the vacuum pot) was originally patented in Germany in 1830. The brewer consists of two main parts: the lower spherical chamber that holds the water, and the upper chamber where the coffee is added. 

A heat source is placed under the lower chamber to create pressure, which draws the water into the upper part of the brewer. Here, the coffee and water brew until the heat source is removed and the pressure drops, causing the coffee to draw down into the lower chamber.

“If you brew using an immersion method, the first thing that you would recognise is the weight of the liquid that you have in your mouth,” Emi explains. “Immersion provides big flavours, but less aroma.”

Coffee in a syphon will also usually be brewed at a higher temperature. As a result, you can immediately decant the brewed coffee into a carafe or cup to cool the coffee down and taste the full spectrum of flavours. In addition, depending on the type of filter, you may also find some sediment in your cup.

Because of the more complex extraction process and the amount of cleaning and maintenance, syphons are more appropriate for occasions where consumers have a little more time to enjoy the coffee making experience.

Recommended for: skilled brewers, consumers looking for coffee with more body, and brewers interested in the art of coffee making.

clever dripper

The Clever Dripper

New brewers are frequently launched on the market – and the popular Clever Dripper is one of them. 

The immersion brewer is shaped like a pour over dripper, but has a sealed chamber at the bottom. The brewer adds coffee and pours water over it, before placing the Clever Dripper on a cup or carafe. 

After the coffee has steeped, the brewer then triggers the release mechanism. This allows the brewed coffee to draw down into the receptacle – which should take one to one and a half minutes.

“A beginner can start with an immersion method as [they do] not need any special technique [when] pouring the water,” Stathis suggests.

Although the Clever Dripper is an immersion brewer that enhances body, it also highlights clarity and cleanliness – serving as something of a hybrid between immersion and percolation.

During her winning 2018 World Brewers Cup routine, Emi says she used a brewing method similar to the Clever Dripper that allows the user to switch between immersion and percolation using a valve system.

Recommended for: those looking for new brewing methods, less skilled brewers, and consumers wanting more body with cleaner flavours.

cup of black coffee

No matter how you like your coffee, there will be a out there to suit your needs. To figure out what you want, think about how much body, clarity, sweetness, and acidity you want to experience in your cup. This will help you decide on which will best highlight these attributes.

Emi concludes by noting that one thing, however, is more important than anything else: “Your coffee should always be the highlight of the brewing process.”

Enjoyed this? Then read our article on which filter brew method is best for you.

Photo credits: Nikki Bigger, Ben Waugh, J. Andersson Photography, Nathan Dumlao, green ant

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