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Ask HN: Coffee Drinkers, How Do You Brew?
20 points by crcsmnky on Aug 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments
Not in love with my current coffee setup and looking to hear what other folks are doing with their coffee setups? Do you just drink whatever is around or do you heat your water to 175F using a fancy temp-controlled kettle and press it?

I follow the guidelines quoted below. I use an old electric kettle: not very fancy, you just plug it in and it boils the water. There's no temperature control settings, but there's no need: the water comes out about 92C, which is just right. Note that 175F=80C is not hot enough, it's "supposed" to be over 90C. But try it for yourself a couple of times and see if you can tell the difference.

I use a plastic pour-over filter and a manual burr grinder by Kyocera, which costs around U$25. I use coffee ground in the same day or in the previous day. In my experience this is what makes the biggest difference.

I usually buy beans at an import shop that has good turnout, so I know the beans are fresh. But last time I ended up buying at Starbucks and it was... awesome. Really.

    If you follow these three guidelines and do nothing
    more, you will enjoy coffee better than you can find 
    in most specialty coffee shops:

    1. Buy only whole-bean coffee roasted within the last 
    few days.
    2. Grind it fresh, just before brewing.
    3. Brew it in a French press or a pour-over filter using
    fresh water, off the boil.

I've been using the cold brew method for a couple months now and prefer it to the traditional drip coffee method, at least. It's a more involved process for the initial brewing, but once you have a large batch of concentrate, you can have hot or iced coffee in seconds for a week or more. And I really enjoy the flavor I've gotten from this method: http://www.coldbrewingcoffee.net

Complete coffee snob here, but I also like to think that I can find the happy medium between crazy/exquisite and important. Here are my pointers:

1. The most important factor is fresh grind of good-enough beans. Grind just enough for each brew.

2. Water temp, which you mention, makes a difference, but no need to get a fancy kettle. Take water off a boil and count 10 seconds. Good enough!

3. Good-enough beans are basically anything that you can buy in whole-bean form. You could spend $10 on a pound of high-end Starbucks or you could spend $5 on a mid-range pound of 8 O'Clock. They taste different, but I find both levels of coffee to be sufficient.

4. Make coffee stronger than necessary and dilute to your preference. Never use fewer beans than necessary as it will make the coffee bitter.

5. Like flavors? Add them afterwards. Additives in flavored coffee will generally leech into almost any brewing vessel and subtly alter future batches.

Brewing method generally doesn't matter. French press is nice if you don't mind inevitable grit and a manual process. Most auto coffee makers are good enough. I try to steer people away from cups and pods due to waste, cost, and the fresh-grind factor, but they are very convenient if you're optimizing for time. My preferred work/flavor balance is a Melitta cone filter that requires hand pour of water.

Good luck!

The trick with a french press is to grind the beans just slightly coarser. If you aim for the consistency of sand, there's enough surface area to brew well in 3-5 minutes, but it's not so fine that you end up with a mouth of grit at the bottom of your cup.

Aeropress with local beans when I just want to make a single cup. If making more coffee for multiple people, the standard Bodum french press comes out. All water temperature coming from a water kettle/boiler with temp control usually set at 195.

I used to just drink whatever's available, but I recently gave myself a Hario v60 pourover for my morning routine and now it's become a bit more of a ritual.

I brew everything from pre-ground supermarket coffee (which can actually be surprisingly good if you buy it at an upmarket UK supermarket such as Waitrose) to local freshly roasted whole beans ground on the spot. In my experience, the difference between fresh coffee and old coffee is much bigger than between expensive beans and supermarket coffee. Old fancy coffee tastes worse than fresh supermarket coffee, but fresh fancy coffee obviously tastes best.

Using a pourover is pretty straightforward. As long as you allow the water to cool down to just below boiling point to not burn the coffee and allow the coffee to bloom for a few seconds with just a little bit of water before pouring in the rest, there's not much to go wrong. You can become a coffee snob in 1:38 by watching this video: https://www.makedecentcoffee.com/film-library/how-to-films/v...

I do it in the morning when I'm still half asleep and it's kind of a nice activity to wake up to. I also like the v60 because it's a nice object, made of heavy porcelain. In the end, coffee is coffee though. Don't take it too seriously ;)

A couple of months ago, when my drip maker finally broke, I switched to using a french press (thermally insulated, so it keeps warm for hours rather than minutes!) - I just boil it in a glass kettle. The whole setup cost me maybe $35 from Amazon. (Link: http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-Nissan-34-Ounce-Insulated-Stai... )

This has two effects:

First, the coffee tastes better. No more "ugh, burnt" taste, and the process of pressing it seems to produce a rounder flavor than drip-brewing.

Second, I actually drink less coffee! Since a pot (which gets me ~3 large cups worth) takes about 15 minutes to make, I don't tend to slam through it as quickly, and I waste less. Given that I was hitting ~3 12-cup pots per day before, I don't think this is a bad thing.

Overall, it'd made my coffee-drinking experience a bit slower and more enjoyable. The morning ritual of boiling the water and pressing the coffee is a lot of fun.

(My wife has a k-cup maker which I use when I don't have time to make a press worth's of coffee. It does fine.)

For me the Turkish grind is king but I don't like the miserly portion of a traditional Turkish. When I have access to good beans I'll get a bag of it in fine Turkish grind and keep it in the freezer. To cook the coffee I add a two or three tablespoons to a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then pour.

Once in the Middle East I came across a cafe that does it in a similar way, that is a much larger than standard Turkish. They managed to filter it in some manner too and it was delicious. Turkish coffee will not go through normal filter paper and so I don't know how they managed it. When I do my own I just let the sediment sink to the bottom of the cup like a normal Turkish.

If Turkish grind, or great beans aren't available I'll just get a regular medium grind from a supermarket or coffee shop and put it through a peculator.

This is a good source for a variety of beans in London, UK : http://www.coffee.uk.com/

Hey Sandeep!

Try the pourover method for coffee: http://lifehacker.com/5907612/make-your-own-pour+over-coffee...

You might have to buy some filters and a holder for it: http://www.amazon.com/Cilio-Porcelain-Coffee-Filter-Holder/d...

If you want to try and get a taste of what it's like, I _highly_ recommend Houndstooth Coffee or Patika Coffee. They both do excellent pourover coffee.

In general, with any sort of coffee, beans are at maximum flavor anywhere from 1-3 days after roasting. Grind right before you brew and with the pourover method, go slowly.

is this really something thats regarded a lifehack? my grandmother brews coffee this way since ... i dont know .. since she brews coffee.

there are even machines that mimic this: vhttp://www.amazon.de/Philips-60-Gourmet-schwarz-silber/dp/B0...

I wouldn't consider it one. Lifehacker isn't always about lifehacks and they also have good tutorials for things that some people aren't aware of. Many people I know think the only way to make coffee is with a drip coffee maker.

Starbucks has an amazing machine which you can apparently lease free if you purchase 4 cases (24 pounds) of coffee a month. I use one of these at work.


An Albertsons near my house has one of these Redbox SBC machines:


Or I'll get those little packets, like the Starbucks VIA, but other brands are cheaper.

Let me preface my response by saying I am a fairly snobby coffee drinker. I only really get beans or espresso drinks from coffee shops such as Intelligentsia, Ritual Roasters, Heart, Stumptown etc.. I've found that the likes of starbucks and most coffee you find at an average grocery store is roasted poorly, burnt, or roasted so dark you loose all flavor. That being said here's my recommendations for a great cup.

1. Use fresh beans. Whatever beans I buy I notice the quality of taste really starts to diminish about two or three weeks after roast. I'll sometimes still use beans up to a month old but nothing after that. 2. Grind Immediately before brewing. The moment you grind your coffee will start to lose flavor and oils. 3. Get a scale and use the right proportions of water to beans. Using a scale has been the single biggest factor in getting a consistently great cup whatever brew method I use.

I generally use a 6 cup chemex to brew, a bur grinder to grind immediately before brewing, a Bonita gooseneck kettle to pour the water, and a escali scale to measure both beans and water. STEPS 1. Measure 48 Grams of unground beans 2. Boil 000 Grams of water(1 Liter) in an electric kettle. 3. Grind beans 4. Use boiled water to wet the chemex filter 5. Pour out water from the chemex being careful not to loose the wet filter 6. Grind beans and put them in the filter 7. Tare your scale to zero 8. Pour 100 grams of water in a circular motion starting at the center of your grinds. 9. Wait 90 seconds for the grounds to "bloom" 10. Pour more water till you reach 710 grams total. 11. Wait for all water to pass through the filter and enjoy.

Ideally I'd like to control the temperature precisely but the electric kettle I have gets it very close. You'll notice I don't measure brew time, the way I've learned is the vary the grind in order to achieve the right extraction. If it comes out weak use a finer grind, if it comes out bitter use a more corse grind. If you want to use brew time as a reference however that amount should take 5 minutes total including the bloom and creates about 3 8oz glasses.

If you want to vary and make a smaller amount the ratio I use here is 14.79 Grams of water per Gram of unground coffee. This is the same ratio that Intelligentsia recommends for their chemex.


It sounds wonderful! When can I get a cup :-)

Inverted AeroPress [1] (wow, today I learned there's a World AeroPress championship, and this method was the 2010 winner!), fresh ground beans with manual burr grinder [2].

[1] http://sprudge.com/aeropress-champion-marie-hagemeisters-win... [2] http://www.amazon.com/Hario-MSS-1B-Mini-Coffee-Grinder/dp/B0...

I haven't made Aeropress myself yet but had a great cup at Heart in Portland and really enjoyed it. I like the hybrid approach between full immersion and filtered brewing. You get the fuller flavor of a french press without the residue that ruins your last sips.

Hack all the way: Dave Asprey's bulletproof coffee http://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulle... - I use whatever beans I can find so my coffee is probably not worthy of the "bulletproof" title, but the butter is such an unbelievable upgrade to your coffee.

+1. I've been drinking Bulletproof Coffee for six months now, and it's amazing. Aside from being tasty coffee, you benefit from clear-headed energy for hours, and I'm down ~10 pounds with no other lifestyle changes.

Almost boiling water + eyeballed grounds + french press.

Usually I do 75/25 with almond milk only because I don't have the patience to let the coffee cool.

I use almond milk when diluting cold brewed coffee to make iced coffee.

French press travel mug and a kettle, with fresh beans from my favorite Vermont roaster. It's not fancy and it's slightly annoying to clean unless you compost, but it is fast and easy when I'm rushing out the door. Unlike some other folks in the thread, I've found choice of beans to be the most important feature in delicious coffee.

I used to brew in aeropress but I switched to Chemex recently. You need like 30g of moderately-coarse grind coffee to make 0.5l coffee so it's good if you have some decent grinder (I use Ascaso i-2 mini). It's also good if you can pour water precisely - I use hario buono kettle.

I use a mocha pot. You can get them for like $15 or so, makes really great espresso (its a high pressure kind of clever system). Use espresso beans with a pretty fine grind. I love the concept behind it and it yields great espresso without the expensive machine.

I've been wanting to get more control over my brewing. For now I just use my Keurig. I love it, and I know I'll probably get shit from coffee snobs (no offense), but it's good enough to have a quick cup in the morning.

Have you ever used one of the re-usable K-cups? I've yet to find one that works well, generally they end up dumping grounds into my cup. Brand name cups are too expensive for me to feel comfortable drinking every morning.

Aeropress for filter or my rather ridiculous-toy-for-in-the-home Expobar Leva, complete with latte art.

Again, I'll stress the importance of fresh roasted beans - I like mine a few days old so they can degas a bit.

Fresh beans - Burr grinder - Aeropress. The three ingredients you need to make a pretty darn good cup of joe. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Nirvana this way. Pretty inexpensive as well.

I think one of the things I really appreciate about the Aeropress is the cleanup time. The plunger cleans the cylinder, everything else rinses with water in about 15 seconds.

I use Cafe Bustelo espresso grind (cheap!) and I get a pretty great cup in about 3-4 minutes. Grinding beans and cleaning the grinder became a turnoff for me.

Aeropress. Electric kettle (bought for $5 from CL). Kurps Blade grinder. (Burr grinder would be better, but too big for my kitchen). Heat milk on stove top. Froth with aero latte. Enjoy.

2 tsp of condensed sweetened milk + 2 shots of espresso, stir keeping the crema, top up with boiling water to 1 cup. Sounds a bit alien, but it's totally worth a try.

I do the drip filter with the condensed sweetened milk and usually pour it over ice afterwards(Vietnamese iced coffee)

Plain old Cuisinart drip machine with built-in grinder. I can put beans and water in the machine before retiring, and the whole thing can start up while I'm waking.

At work I drink from the typical diner-style coffee pot. At home I own a Tassimo, which I believe just swirls hot water/milk within the t-disc to make a brew.

Microwave water while grinding cofee, add both to french press, wait five minutes or so, press, pour, drink.

French press or Aeropress when I have time to spare, Keurig the rest of the time.

Aeropress at work (inverted method), at home in the morning I use a Nuova Simonelli MCF 50mm burr grinder and a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine (just turned 10 years old!) to make espresso or Americano, depending on my whim that day.

French press at the desk and a hot water tap in the commissary. It just works.

Forget brewing. Pull a double shot on my Rancilio Silvia

I know the subject is about brewing, but I have to agree. Loving the Rancilio.

I own a finjan and make Turkish coffee.

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