Brewing coffee is as much of an art as it is a science. The history of brewing devices is rich, and methods of brewing are culturally dependent. Of the thousands of machines and brewing devices invented since the advent of coffee consumption only a few have gained worldwide popularity. The methods discussed below are recommended since they have been found to maximize the extraction of the beneficial flavors of coffee, while minimizing the extraction of bitter and undesirable components.

General rules: The following general rules apply to each brewing method discussed. Coffee should be brewed for 4.5-5 minutes using a ratio of 55 grams of ground coffee per liter of filtered water (195-205°F). It is convenient to use 2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of filtered water. Filtered water and spring water are recommended. Tap water imparts off flavors to the coffee and since some minerals are essential to coffee flavor, distilled water is not recommended.

French Press: The best way to control the time and temperature is to use a French press. French press is essentially open-pot coffee with a sophisticated method for separating the grounds from the brew. The pot is a narrow glass cylinder. A fine-mesh screen plunger fits tightly inside the cylinder. You put coarse-to-medium ground coffee in the cylinder, pour water just short of boiling over it, and insert the plunger in the top of the cylinder without pushing it down. After about 4 minutes, when the coffee is thoroughly steeped, you push the plunger through the coffee, clarifying it and forcing the grounds to the bottom of the pot. The French press offers unparalleled flavor due to perfect extraction time and delivery of the volatile oils that are often trapped in filters. A French press is also the least expensive brewer available.

Vacuum Pot: The vacuum pot is a clever device invented by Robert Napier in 1840 that prepares an exceptional cup of coffee with a potent aroma. This is an appropriate alternative for those who have an aversion to the taste of the paper filters from the drip brewers or who do not like the sediment in the bottom of the cup from the French press method.

To prepare coffee in a vacuum pot add the proper amount of filtered water to the bottom bulb, attach the filter to the upper bulb and fit the upper glass bulb tightly over the bottom glass bulb. Place the vacuum pot on the stove making sure that the bottom bulb is completely dry on the outside.

Use a medium grind and add the grounds when the water begins to fill the upper chamber. Leave the pot on the stove for 3.5 minutes and then place on a hot pad. Within 30 seconds the lower pot will cool enough to form a vacuum to pull the brewing coffee into the lower chamber, thereby separating it from the grounds. Experiment with the heating and cooling cycles until the total extraction time is between 4-5 minutes.

Automatic Filter Drip Brewing: About 70% of the coffee consumed in the United States is brewed with paper filters, a method that produces coffee in the classic American style: clear, light-bodied, with little sediment or oil. Any other brewing method (except cold water concentrate) produces a coffee richer in oils and sediments and heavier in flavor than the typical American cup of filter coffee.

The easiest way to brew coffee is by using an automatic drip brewer. To brew coffee in a drip brewer place a thick paper filter in the brewing cone (basket) and wet thoroughly with water. This helps remove the paper taste from the filter. Then freshly grind the coffee using a medium grinder setting. As the water begins to boil pour the coffee into the coffee filter. Now as the water pours over the coffee shake the basket to ensure an even extraction. Brew time and temperature are taken care of automatically. If your brewer has a hot plate under a glass carafe, remove the carafe after the coffee is fully brewed to prevent the coffee from burning.

Manual Pour-Over Filter Brewing: Fewer and fewer people choose to pour the water over the coffee themselves when automatic filter drip brewers sell for as little as $15 or $20. Reasons to pour-over yourself: The basic plastic cone and glass decanter set is still the cheapest brewing device on the market, short of a tin-can and coat hanger; pour-over units do not require counter space; you can be absolutely sure all the ground coffee is saturated because you are doing the pouring yourself; and you can congratulate yourself on being a coffee purist.

Most importantly, however, you can stir the water and grounds in the cone as they steep. This last possibility is of great importance to some aficionados. After you saturate the grounds, stand over the brewer and stir with a long-handled spoon until most of the coffee has exited the filter.

The disadvantages to manual pour-over filter drip brewers? In addition to the obvious inconvenience of heating and pouring the water yourself, it is also very difficult to keep the coffee hot. You need to either pre-heat the decanter and drink the coffee immediately, keep the decanter atop an electric warmer or other heating device, or brew directly into a pre-heated insulated decanter, probably the best approach.

Soluble or Instant Coffee: Making instant coffee is not really brewing, rather mixing and stirring. However, at first glance (not taste), instant coffee does seem to offer many advantages: It stays fresh longer than ordinary roasted coffee; it eliminates the mistakes that can occur when brewing ordinary roasted coffee; it can be made quickly; it can be mixed by the cup to individual taste; and it contains somewhat less caffeine than regularly brewed coffee. Furthermore, because the process of producing instant coffee neutralizes strong or unusual flavors, the manufacturer can use cheaper beans and pass the savings on to the consumer.

Espresso: The word espresso is derived from the Italian word for express since espresso is made for and served immediately to the customer. A double espresso is a 47-62.5 mL (1.5-2 ounce) extract that is prepared from 14-17 grams of coffee through which purified water of 88-95°C has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure for a brew time of 22-28 seconds. The espresso should drip out of the porta-filter like warm honey; have a deep reddish-brown color, and a crema that makes up 10-30% of the beverage. The espresso is ready to be brewed after correctly roasting, blending, grinding, dosing, and tamping the coffee. Before placing the porta-filter in the group head, allow 2 ounces of water to flow through the head. Tightly place the porta-filter in place and place a pre-warmed glass below the spouts of the porta-filter. Use the manual switch to begin the pre-infusion cycle. This distributes water over the top of the espresso pellet to allow it to expand and seal properly before blasting it with pressurized water.

For 1.5 ounces of espresso, the extraction should take between 23-30 seconds where the time starts when the espresso begins to flow from the spouts. The pour should look like warm honey dripping from the spouts. Manually stop the extraction if the espresso turns a slight shade lighter in color. If it took longer than 30 seconds, adjust the grind to be larger in size. If it took less than 25 seconds, adjust the grind to be smaller. Do not vary the pressure you apply in tamping since you only want to adjust one variable at a time. By adjusting the tamping pressure you are simultaneously adjusting several parameters that will often result in an undesirable product even if you do attain the right timing.
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