By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
Coffee talk is getting a little complicated.
There is a trend among coffee brewing aficionados to use more hand-brew methods rather than a conventional coffee brewer, said Tara Picklo, owner of Yeti’s Grind in Vail and Eagle.
“I use the word ‘aficionado’ loosely because you don’t have to be an expert to love the process behind brewing coffee,” she said. “One can really geek out on this stuff, but I love the morning ritual of preparing and drinking a good cup of coffee. It’s like a daily dose of gratitude in a warm, cozy mug.”
The AeroPress is the only hand-brew method of coffee served at Yeti’s now.
“It is often difficult for a fast-paced coffee shop to take the time to slow down to serve hand-brewed cups, and they are often not appreciated fully by the public because they don’t understand why it is priced higher and takes significantly longer than getting a cup of brewed coffee or even a latte,” she said.
Here’s a primer on some of the coffee-brewing methods that are currently popular.
Johnny Thompson, barista at Yeti’s, said the AeroPress is really in its own category of hand-brew methods. It combines an immersion brew, like a French press, with pressure and a thick paper filter. The brewer is able to create a concentrated cup, similar to a Moka pot or an espresso, which is at the same time very clean.
“Clean coffee does not have the oils or grit that are found in cups from brewing methods like French press,” he said. “While many people like the texture that is found when brewing with these processes, they can often mask the unique, beautiful flavors that are found in well-produced coffee.”
Thompson explained the Sweet Bloom single origin coffees used at Yeti’s Grind have these intricate flavor characteristics.
“An added benefit of pressurized brewing is that it overcomes one of the greatest obstacles we have in Vail, which is low boiling temperatures due to altitude,” he said. “Cooler water can often lead to coffee being under extracted.”
The syringe-like hand pressure system in the AeroPress is one of the most forgiving hand brew methods as well, so there is often less of a learning curve in getting great results. It is also a self-contained unit, Thompson said, making it very easy to clean.
A French press is also known as a press pot, coffee press, cafetiere and coffee plunger. Modern presses use a metal screen to press course coffee grinds through hot water after the water has steeped in the grinds for three to four minutes.
The plunger presses the grinds to the bottom of the glass, metal or thick plastic container, so what remains to pour out is coffee. Some consider the coffee to get too bitter after more than 20 minutes of sharing the container with the grinds.
The pour-over method is one of the most basic brewing methods and has been around since coffee’s beginnings. There are many different brands and styles of the pour over, including the Hario V60, the Chemex and the Clever Coffee Dripper.
“What they have in common is a conical design, a paper filter, and they require the user to pour water over the ground coffee,” Thompson said. “The benefits of the simple design of the pour over are that the user has the utmost control over the finished product.”
This method gives the brewer control over the water temperature, grind size, pour pattern, brew time and other factors for different beans and environments. The downside of this process, Thompson explained, is that it often takes a fair amount of trial and error to produce the “perfect” cup of joe. There is also the element of human interaction involved, which can lead to subtle changes in each brew.
“Although we don’t serve it on our menu, many Bookworm staffers use a Chemex pour-over coffee maker at home,” said Nicole Magistro, proprietor of The Bookworm of Edwards, where the Chemex system is sold. “It’s a great way to taste the nuances of your coffee. And when single-sourced — like our Anyestsu from Ethiopia — coffee can be as complex and satisfying as fine wine.”
Pour-over coffee is available at Northside Coffee & Kitchen in Avon.
This method is for iced coffee. The coffee is brewed for 18 to 24 house to create a concentrate and then is cut with filtered water (usually half and half) to create a smooth cup with less acidity.
“In order to eliminate the human element in coffee brewing we created automatic drip coffee makers,” Thompson said, “which are essentially pour overs with a mechanical water dispenser.”
The problem with most of these methods, he added, is that they make it difficult to micro adjust the brewing variables according to your chosen bean. This is what machines like the Starbucks Clover try to overcome. They allow for adjustments in temperature and saturation, which is supposed to brew a better cup of coffee.
“Personally, I believe that there will never be a machine that can brew with the same level of care and diligence as a person who wants to create the perfect cup,” he said.
Picklo recommends using two tablespoons of coffee for every six to seven-ounces of water for a balanced cup of drip coffee.