What We’re Reading: “The Unimportance of Brew Methods”

 
By 9 October 2012
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Spotted today via Espresso Parts customer service rep Michael “Panda” Fernandez’s indispensable Facebook feed, this thought-provoking read from the Extractions & Distractions tumblr. Titled “The Unimportance of Brew Methods”, it’s the best 6 paragraphs on specialty coffee we’ve read all week. Have a gander:

Brew methods are just different ways of extracting coffee. If technique is adjusted, you can get basically the same type of extraction from most pour-over devices. So, why not use one brew method and several different techniques? Is it a lack of understanding extraction basics or what’s happening in the brew itself? …You wouldn’t walk into a coffeebar and ask for a La Marzocco shot or a Slayer shot. Oddly enough we have no problem asking for a Chemex even if we’re unsure of that particular barista’s technique.

My suggestion: find a place that brews good coffee and TRUST THEM. Also, if you’re a barista, I highly recommend mastering a brewing device. Dive into it. Push it to its limits.

Read the whole thing here via Extractions & Distractions on Tumblr, and feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

 
  • Sterling says:

    Brew methods are different ways of extracting coffee, yes, but depending on the brew method and variables executed, there will be a different spectrum of flavor clarity and body from each method used. Reading through Scott Rao’s brewing book will make that extremely evident.

    With adjusting variables and parameters, one can achieve the same strength (concentration) and extraction (yield), but depending on the brew method and variables used, the final product will be different indeed.

    If we compare a V60 to a Chemex (both pour over methods), each one will yield a different flavor profile in the cup no matter how equal the variables and parameters are, even with the same extraction percentage and TDS reading. Please test this first and report back if you think otherwise.

    Depending on the type of cup I want and even more, what the coffee is telling me, choosing a proper brew method *IS* important to get the quality cup my tastebuds want. Taste is EVERYTHING.

    It’s more important more than anything, to have a grasp on basic brewing fundamentals and the brewing process before anything else (which still has a long way to go).

    I have a question for the author of this post:

    1. What made you write on the importance of brew methods? Was there a heated debate on which brew method was better that prompted this post? Please elaborate.

    Reply
    • john says:

      Wow, honestly didn’t expect that so many people would be reading this!

      I wrote about it because honestly I think it’s silly when someone is dead set on having a siphon coffee or a chemex coffee, etc., when they may be passing up an excellent coffee just because they expect a certain brew method to be better.

      I’m not saying that brew methods are altogether unimportant, but that there is often TOO much importance placed on the device regardless of technique or even quality of the coffee.

      More than anything else, I’m glad to see people discussing this because that’s all I really wanted.

      Reply
  • Spencer says:

    Cool it with the snark, Justin. Late night mis-read.

    Panda, I’m not one to blog, but I have an old one I may revive soon. Thanks again for sharing, and thanks to John Martin for his insight.

    Reply
  • drew says:

    I almost wholeheartedly agree. While I agree that instead of focusing on different brewing METHODS, we should focus on different brewing techniques, I disagree that altering your technique can produce the results of say a French press in a Chemex.

    Of course, things like Chemex, V60, and even the Clever are similar enough where you can do this; but a French press or Aeropress probably won’t produce the same results as a V60 no matter how much you change your technique.

    Reply
  • Justin says:

    Ummm… Mr. Fernandez didn’t write that. John Martin of Intelli Pasadena did.

    Reply
  • Spencer says:

    Mr. Fernandez makes a sound argument. I think baristas (myself included) get comfortable with certain brewing parameters and stick to them. I just made a V60 with 24g/360g, ground to 7 on the Mahlkonig – and I know that I can do that with any coffee at any roast and get a pretty good cup – but why aren’t I (we) trying 27g on a 9 or 20g on a 5, all with the same coffee?

    Part of the issue may be busy bars, where having set parameters makes for consistency and speed, but that calls into question a cafe’s commitment to presenting the highest quality cup possible.

    I can’t speak for others, but for me, the idea of drastically changing parameters is intimidating and almost radical. Realistically, no one should be scared to make a bad cup of coffee in the name of experimentation.

    Thank you for sharing Ferndandez’s article. I’m gonna shake things up tomorrow.

    Reply
    • Hey Spencer! I didn’t write the article. I just shared it because I totes agree with what was said. I’m glad people are reading it! Have fun shaking things up. Do you have a blog that you’ll be posting shaked up stuff?

      _Panda

      Reply
  • Willie Pate says:

    So then my question is what is all the Hoopla about different brewing methods highlighting different nuances in different coffee’s? Thoughts? Experiences?

    Reply
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