One of the reasons we operate in the commercial espresso business is that we get to work with so many people who indulge in the sheer joy of making coffee.
To that end, we sell and service equipment for a range of alternative brew methods. Most are very old in other parts of the world, up-and-coming in the U.S. and very representative of the importance of coffee in other cultures.
Here are some of our favorites.
Chemex is actually a trade name, but the name is synonymous with the method. It was invented in the early 1940s and its’ been catching on ever since for the clean coffee it produces. There’s also a small thrill being seen brewing a Chemex cup; the combination of funnel and flask is stylish in an hourglass sort of way but still affords the attitude of an experienced chemist.
This isn’t far from the truth. There’s an art to brewing coffee Chemex style, and it takes a while to master.
A main component is its thick paper filter, which fits into the modified funnel on top. You must use a coarse grind; anything fine won’t filter properly. The other main component is the water, which is normally heated to a specific temperature.
The rest of the magic is in the pour. Usually you start with a small amount of water to preheat and moisten the grounds. Then it’s an outside-in pouring method that maximizes the grind, and highlights the skill of the barista.
Also known as vacuum coffee brewing, the siphon uses two chambers in reverse of what we’re normally used to in coffee brewing. This technique was invented in Germany in the 1830s, but uses principals from the ancient Greeks.
The water goes into the bottom chamber, and the coffee grounds go on top. They’re separated by a metal, paper or cloth filter.
As the water is heated past the boiling point, the pressure forces it upward through the grounds. The brewing process takes place in the upper chamber, and as the brew cools gravity lets it drop back down into the lower chamber.
The result is a clear, clean coffee that you can’t find just anywhere.
Now we refer to Japan, and to a coffee brewing method that seems created specifically as an “anti-drip” technique. Pourover involves a pouring kettle, a grinder and a filter cone. It also involves a patient, precise pouring of a measured amount of water over a measured grind.
The process brings you closer to actual handcrafting (in fact, that’s what it is). The result is a truly unique, pure taste.
Pourover isn’t for mass production, however. It can take up to five minutes to brew a single cup of pourover coffee. Hint: it’s worth the wait.
Small and inexpensive, hand coffee grinders are another way to show that you’re a coffee crafter.
They’re not much different in theory from the standard electric grinder, but the conical burrs are well-made and grind much more efficiently. Which, again, isn’t really the point: hand-ground coffee tends to release the flavors from the beans more intensely than a rapidly-whirring machine, and it tends to reflect the love of the coffee making ritual more effectively.
And, once again, you can’t argue with the results even if they do take a little more time to achieve.
Espresso Partners proudly supplies Chemex brewers, Yama siphons and Hario pourovers, plus Skerton (originally misprinted from the Japanese, which was meant to be skeleton) hand grinders.