There are several options when it comes to brewing coffee manually, providing you with complete control of the flavor and aroma. They require a bit of an effort compared to using a coffee machine, but it is sure to be worth it.
Among others, French Press, Chemex, Aeropress and Pour Over are some of the best ways to make your coffee using manual methods. Which one’s the best? The rest of this post will help you explore the similarities and differences.
Before going to the comparison of the different methods, let me point out the main features, as well as the pros and cons of each.
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Invented in 1941, the Chemex is a brewer with a timeless design, a perfect definition of how form seamlessly blends with function. It uses a sophisticated and charming tool, which even doubles as an attractive decorative piece.
Basically, the Chemex utilizes the brewing process in a manual drip coffee. It produces a clean and refined coffee with well-balanced notes. It can be an intimidating process for beginners, but once you know how it works, this will be a lot easier.
It is a manual method of making a pour over coffee. It uses an hourglass-shaped tool, which is also known for its elegance. The bottom is shaped like a bowl while the top is like a funnel. In the midsection, there is a handle, which is made of glass or wood.
This is a coffee preparation technique that utilizes the infusion method. It uses a paper filter, which is 20 to 30% thicker compared to what will be used in a traditional pour over. This will brew the coffee slowly but without compromising the flavor and the aroma. The filter is first rinsed, which will get rid of the paper-like flavor.
The setup is quite simple. You will have the filter on the top and this is where the coffee will be poured.
The French Press
Simplicity with flair – this is what the French Press is all about. The initial design of the French Press was patented as early as 1852. However, unlike the current design, it used to have no seal in the carafe. The contemporary design has been patented only in 1929 by Italians and not French.
Basically, a French Press is a full immersion brewing tool that comes with a metal mesh filter. It produces a coffee with a full body and a few particles. This is ideal for those who like their caffeine fix to be heavy and robust.
In a nutshell, the French Press works by steeping the coffee grounds in the beaker. After steeping the coffee, a metal mesh filter will be pressed all the way to the bottom. This will separate the grounds from the water. However, there are still sediments that can remain since the filter is not as fine as those that are made of paper. The natural oils of the coffee will be passing through the filter to provide a rich flavor.
Technically, the process by which the French Press works is called the immersion method. This is because the coffee will be immersed in water, as against other methods wherein the water will be flowing into the coffee. The problem with this method, however, is over-extraction, which is because of having too small coffee grounds.
If you are looking for a portable way to make your coffee, the Aeropress is one of the best. Compared to most of the methods of manual brewing, this is relatively new. It was created by a company called Aerobie and invented by Alan Adler.
Considered a breakthrough in brewing, it produces a coffee with a clearly defined flavor, which is attributed to the use of a paper filter that blocks the sediments from coffee, preventing it from reaching your cup. This allows it to get rid of the sludge and the bitterness that you will commonly find in a coffee prepared using the French Press method.
With this method, the coffee grounds will be immersed completely in hot water. Once it is immersed, a high level of pressure will be exerted manually by pushing the plunger. In turn, this will allow the full extraction from the coffee grounds. This process results in a coffee with a strength that is similar to an espresso.
The Pour Over
This is a traditional method of brewing coffee that has been around since 1908. It was first discovered by Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz, who looked for an alternative to a percolator. At first, she used a blotting paper from the notebook of her son. However, it was only in the 1950s when the familiar cone-shaped design hit the commercial shelves.
As it provides complete control of the brewing process, the flavor of pour over coffee will depend on a number of things, such as the water and the grind.
The meticulous process that is involved in making a pour over coffee allows it to deliver a clean and bright caffeine fix. Basically, it works in a manner that is pretty much simple. Grind the beans based on the required size, add it to the paper cone filter that is placed on the top of a container, and add water on the top of the grounds. Simply put, it works by drizzling water on the coffee grounds slowly, providing enough time for the flavor to be extracted.
Chemex vs French Press
Ease of Use
If you are looking for an easier method, the French Press wins. It is easier to ensure the perfect cup with every brew. You just need to add coffee and let it steep.
On the other hands, with a Chemex, you need paper filters that should be rinsed to get rid of the paper-like flavor.
On average, the brew time for Chemex will take four minutes. Meanwhile, with a French Press, the approximate brew time is five minutes.
However, despite the fact that brewing using the Chemex method takes only four minutes, you will need to rinse the filter. For this reason, it takes quite longer compared to a French Press.
With Chemex, the grind setting is a medium-coarse.
With a French Press, you will need coffee grinds that are coarse.
A coffee that is brewed using the Chemex method tends to produce a cleaner and brighter flavor, which can be attributed to the use of a paper filter.
With a French Press, there is a huge possibility that there will be sediments at the bottom of the cup, which can escape the metal mesh filter. The flavor tends to be robust.
The Chemex is made of borosilicate glass. It also uses a paper filter.
The French Press brewing chamber, on the other hand, can be made of using different materials, including glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and plastic.
The French Press wins if you want an easier method of preparing your coffee with a bolder flavor. The Chemex, on the other hand, will be a better choice if you want a cleaner cup without the sediments and it also tends to be less bitter.
Chemex vs Aeropress
Ease of Use
If simplicity is what you are after, Aeropress will prove to be a better choice. No special skills will be required, making it the perfect option for newbies. It uses pressure while the Chemex method uses filtration or dripping.
With Chemex, the brewing time will be four minutes on average.
The brewing time with an Aeropress will vary depending on the preferences of the user. It can take anywhere from one to five minutes.
A medium-coarse grind is needed if you want to brew your coffee using the Chemex method. For Aeropress, the coffee should be as fine as table salt. However, the grind size can be altered depending on the brew time. If you intend to brew longer, you will need a coarser grind.
Your coffee will have a clean, bright, and less acid taste if you choose the Chemex method, which is because of the use of paper filters. The infusion method makes it possible to get rid of the sediments in your coffee.
In contrast, the Aeropress uses the immersion method. This results in a delicious and stronger flavor with an aroma that is sure to wake you up. Still, when compared with other traditional methods of manual brewing, it is milder and more rounded.
As earlier noted, a Chemex brewing device is made of borosilicate glass.
On the other hand, an Aeropress is made of polypropylene. It is a lightweight and durable plastic, which makes it perfect for traveling. The plastic is also BPA-free, so there is no need to worry that there will be chemicals in your drink.
If you are after convenience, portability, and simplicity, the Aeropress is the clear choice for you. For a cleaner flavor, the Chemex is better, especially if you are patient.
Aeropress vs French Press
Ease of Use
The French Press wins in terms of ease of use. You can set it and forget it. It requires minimal effort on your end.
In contrast, the Aeropress will require more effort although it is still relatively easy. It also allows you to experiment with different recipes, which can make it more complicated.
The brew time for French Pres can take three to five minutes on average.
With the Aeropress, you can enjoy versatility as the brew times can vary. This will depend on the grind size that you will be using. You can brew your coffee for one to five minutes as desired.
With an Aeropress, the grind size can vary depending on the recipe. With a French Press, on the other hand, you will need a coarse grind.
If you want a coffee with a stronger flavor, the French Press is the better choice. It uses a metal mesh filter compared to the micro filtration in an Aeropress. Because of this, the French Press can retain the aromatic oils. If your personal preference is a lighter coffee with a well-rounded flavor, the Aeropress is for you.
There are various materials that are used for the brewing chamber of French Press, which include glass, ceramic, plastic, and stainless steel.
The brewing chamber of an Aeropress is made of polypropylene, a lightweight and BPA-free plastic. There are also rubber parts.
In sum, using a French Press allows you to enjoy a rich and full-bodied flavor, basically because of the stainless steel filter. On the other hand, the Aeropress produces a clean and bright coffee.
French Press vs Pour Over
Ease of Use
Looking at the overall process, the French Press is an easier method when compared to pour over. However, the clean-up is a different story. You need to dismantle the different parts, which will make it more complicated compared to cleaning with the pour over method.
With a French Press, the brewing time will approximately be three to five minutes.
If you choose to prepare your coffee using the pour over method, the brew time is about three minutes for a dark roast and up to four minutes for a light roast.
Your ground coffee needs to be coarse if you intend to prepare it through the French Press method.
On the other hand, with a pour over, a medium grind is recommended. A medium fine or a grind that is finer than sand will also work.
As it has been mentioned in this post, the French Press is a popular choice for those who love to have a stronger flavor in their coffee. If you want it lighter, on the other hand, the pour over is the better option.
The brewing chamber for French Press is typically made of glass, although there are other materials that are available, including ceramic and plastic. The pour over also uses a variety of materials, such as glass and ceramic.
For thicker and richer coffee that is easy to prepare, the French Press is the right choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a subtler flavor without losing the qualities of a good coffee, the pour over can do justice.
At the end of the day, it is personal preferences that will dictate which manual method of brewing coffee is the best for you. Using Chemex, Aeropress, pour over, and French Press will all yield to a high-quality caffeine fix with varying flavors. Whatever tickles your taste bud, there is a method that is right for you!