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Manual Brewing - Making Quality Coffee at Home


There are so many ways to brew coffee. You don’t need a fancy espresso machine to have quality barista level tasting coffee and you are also not limited to using that French press hidden in the back of your cupboard. This article focusses on the types of manual brewing methods that you can explore and master. 

We are going to explore the two main manual brewing methods and what they can offer you according to your preferences.

Immersion Vs Pour Over
Immersion: ground coffee is immersed in water and left to brew for a given amount of time and slowly becomes more concentrated, once appropriately extracted it can be filtered out and is ready to consume. The contact time of water and coffee grounds is the duration of the whole brew. There are few variables to control with this method.

This type of brewing can be seen in a French press/cafetière/plunger which is very hands off and uncomplicated. The only variables would be your brew time, grind size and water temperature. You can improve your brew by tweaking certain aspects of it if you’re really hoping to get the best out of this type of immersion brewer. An example of this is decanting your cafetière as soon as it has finished brewing and not leaving it to steep any longer than it needs to. This creates negative flavours such us bitterness due to over extraction of the coffee.

Immersion brewers tend to produce fuller bodied coffees, because the coffee is immersed in the water for the duration of the brew a lot of coffee oils and the very fine silt of grounds ends up in your final cup therefore these both factor into the heavier mouthfeel. It also pairs well with milk and can produce a creamy full cup of coffee.

Coffee equipment can be quite innovative like the clever dripper and Aeropress which combine both brewing methods giving you full immersion and a clean filter at the end when it has finished brewing. The Aeropress has become very popular in the recent years, due to its compact size, portabilIty and simplicity. There are heaps of recipes for this brewer from the Aeropress championships so there’s lots to get you started this is your chosen brewer.

Pour-over: hot water is poured through ground coffee and filtered down and out into a carafe/cup, so clean water is going through the coffee from start to finish - once the all the water used to brew has filtered through the coffee grounds and into the cup, it is ready to consume. There is a shorter contact time but many variables that affect the final cup.

Pour-over brewed coffee has a medium to lighter body due to cleaner filtration of the coffee because it goes through a paper filter (or fine metal filter ) eliminating the finer coffee grounds and some of the oils as well. There is a lot more complexity and clarity of cup with pour over coffee - it brings out delicate flavours like florals and juicy fruitiness in a coffee. Focus is mainly on water temperature, grind size, brew time, pouring style, water flow, frequency of pours, filter types (paper and mesh thickness) therefore allowing customisation of each brew.

There is so much room for experimentation if it interest you. You can curate your perfect coffee with the way you pour, how long you pour for, the temperature of water that you use and so many other interesting ways.

On a professional level, there is such an achievement in mastering how to use these brewers and creating unique recipes for them. That alone should give you motivation to try these, because you could very well have created an astounding cup with your special recipe in the comfort of your home! The point is that great quality coffee is so possible to enjoy in your home without the need for very expensive espresso machines. If you prefer milk-based coffees then that would probably suit you, however the magic you could produce at home with a few straight forward pieces of equipment would surprise you.


Zoe Da Silva Sweetman, Barista, Leicester Coffee House Company