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  • Chemex Coffee Brewing

    The Chemex coffee machine is a beautiful piece of engineering. Brought to life by German expatriate inventor Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, whose many design innovations, described by him as “Beautilities,” focused on reducing a product to its most essential parts and eliminated unwanted complications.

    Chemex Coffee Brewing Chemex Coffee Machine Photo: Porsche Brosseau

    Based on long-lasting experimentation while Schlumbohm was working in his lab on refrigeration techniques, the glass-bulbed Chemex was finally patented in its current form in 1941. The lab influence is easy to see: outside of the kitchen the Chemex coffee brewing system could easily be a piece of a science experiment, the only thing it's missing is graduations along the side.

    Wartime America was the perfect place for Chemex coffee brewing to take off, as production of the device required no rationed raw materials and was very simple to use. The popularity of Chemex coffee brewing continued to blossom in the 1950’s, climbed to prominence in the 60’s and 70’s, even making its way into James Bond’s detailed coffee brewing peculiarities. The Chemex movement eventually plateaued and now maintains its popularity among a dedicated coffee community even today.

    How does Chemex coffee brewing work?

    At it’s heart, the Chemex coffee brewing system is a traditional drip coffee machine. Only minus the machine!

    Starting Equipment

    You will need the Chemex coffee brewing maker (5 cup model in this example), a patented Chemex coffee filter (designed specifically for the maker), and a supply of your favorite coffee freshly ground using the medium-fine setting on your grinder. A few friends to watch you work might also be fun, as one of the big benefits of the Chemex is the visibility of every part of the coffee brewing process!

    Chemex Coffee Brewing

    Measure 4 cups of water into a stovetop kettle or other device. Start preheating your water to an operating temperature of about 195 to 200 degrees.

    While the water is heating, you can practice folding your Chemex filter into a cone, which will sit at the top of the carafe and hold the coffee while you pour the water in.

    Once you’ve added the filter, take some of your hot water and use it to completely moisten the filter. This is to both condition the filter, as well as preheat the carafe. Dump out excess water before you start the next step.

    Measure out 2 tablespoons of your ground coffee into the moistened filter.

    Pour a small amount of water into the filter to moisten the grounds. Try to cover the coffee evenly, allowing no dry spots and staying away from the edges of the filter. Let the wet coffee mixture sit in the filter for 30 seconds, allowing the ground coffee to “bloom.”

    Pour the rest of your hot water into the filter, starting at the center and moving in a spiral motion out to the edge. You should run out of water before reaching the paper filter edge.

    Wait another 2 to 3 minutes for the Chemex coffee brewing to finish, exiting the filter into the bottom of the vessel. Lift out the filter/grounds and throw them away.

    Now you can pour and enjoy your delicious (and somewhat time-intensive) Chemex-brewed coffee!

    Chemex Coffee Brewing: Further Reading

    For more reading on Peter Schlumbohm’s life and designs, the best resource we’ve found is this incredibly detailed article at Collector’s Weekly It includes both the Chemex coffee brewing system, as well as a treasure trove of period advertising to really appreciate the full 1950’s Chemex zeitgeist.

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  • French pressing is a time-honored method of making coffee. It doesn’t use any fancy percolator, drip or espresso system to brew. Instead a French Press (sometimes referred to as a “press pot”) allows ground coffee to soak in hot water for a pre-determined period similar to tea. Once the coffee has brewed, you simply push down the built-in metal filter (the “press”) until all the coffee grounds are on the bottom and the delicious full-flavored coffee is left sitting on the top. Figuring out how to make French press coffee is actually pretty easy if you follow a few rules.

    French Press CoffeeFrench Press Coffee Photo:Don LaVange

    First things First: Starting with the Right Grind

    Learning how to make French Press coffee begins with the grind. You will need a much coarser grind than with espresso. And even more important, the grind must be consistent. People researching how to make French press coffee usually mess up this small point.The one high-priced investment with using a French press is inevitably the grinder - you’ll definitely want a fancier burr grinder to ensure all your grounds are the same shape and size.

    Recipe for Satisfaction: Measuring your Coffee

    French press pots come in all sizes, so measuring depends on your equipment. But a good rule of thumb to follow is 2 tablespoons of coarse ground coffee per cup of water. Some people like their coffee stronger, but 2 tablespoons is a good place to start, and you can always adjust your recipe later. The French press method is best when making coffee to be consumed all at once, so once you get more familiar with how to make French press coffee, feel free to make a follow-up batch!

    Temperature Quest: Finding the “Goldilocks” Zone

    Too-tepid water will make your coffee taste terrible, but so will water that’s too hot. The trick to how to make French press coffee is you have to be able to heat water until its “just right.” A well-calibrated digital thermometer is best to use until you get more familiar with the fine tuning of your stove top, and water temperature should measure within the narrow band between 195 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit (91 to 93 degrees Celsius).

    The Most Precious Minutes of your Journey: The Brew

    The penultimate piece to how to make French press coffee is the brew. Once the ground coffee is in the Press, add the amount of water you plan on using. Cover this murky mixture and let it sit for about a minute. Then take the cover off, stir vigorously, and cover again. Don’t press down! Simply let the coffee soak like you were steeping some tea, approximately 5 minutes. At this point, the grounds should mostly be settled on the bottom of the glass.

    How to Make French Press Coffee: The Press

    We're almost to the end of the process! Make sure the filter on your French press is perfectly aligned with the sides of the vessel. Otherwise, grounds are going to sneak around the sides and get into your coffee (which isn’t a tragedy, since you can always pull the filter back to the top and try again). It should take about half a minute to do a careful filtering from top to bottom.

    And that's how to make French press coffee. Now all you have left to do is pour and enjoy!

    The Issues with the French Press System

    Knowing how to make French press coffee is easy. The press itself is completely human powered, with no disposable parts to replace or wall outlet to plug into.

    But the finicky parts are right there for you to see: getting the right grind and getting the right water temperature. Not to mention watching the coffee like a hawk to make sure you don’t forget about it! More than a few French press users have walked away only to come rushing back 15 minutes later to cold, black, tar-like sludge.

    We’re going to level with you. We love the flavorful, consistent, repeatable results from espresso pulled through Nespresso®* compatible coffee capsules. But French Press coffee is quite tasty too, and you should definitely try how to make French press coffee at least once to see what all the fuss is about. We’d never turn down a cup!

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  • 5 Minutes to the Perfect AeroPress® Coffee

    One of the greatest methods to brew coffeehouse-quality coffee at home is by using the AeroPress coffee press. The AeroPress makes it incredibly easy to make the rich, perfectly balanced cup of espresso. There are countless varieties of drinks that can be made using this concentrated brew as a base such as Americano, Latte, Cappuccinos, Macchiato, and Mocha. The AeroPress produces a brew that is as aromatic and flavorful as one produced by machines that cost hundreds or even thousands more than the AeroPress that retails for around thirty dollars. The AeroPress is so small and lightweight, it is also the ideal brewing method for use while traveling.

    Aeropress Brewing Small and easy to use. Photo: Yara Tucek

    The AeroPress uses a method similar to a French Press, putting hot water in contact with fresh grounds, allowing the grounds to steep, and then passing the brew through a filter prior to serving. The AeroPress adds one key element to this process: pressurization that occurs in expensive espresso machines. The combination of these two highly effective and time-tested technologies makes the AeroPress the best choice for home brewers that demand a consistent, rich and smooth brew.

    Follow these seven AeroPress instructions to see just how easy it is to make the best brew possible:

    1. Heat Water

    Heating water will likely be the most time-consuming step, so begin it first. The method for heating water is not important, whether you use an electric kettle, a stovetop tea pot, a carafe in the microwave, or any other method. The two most important factors for preparing the water are water quality and temperature. Water quality can have a huge impact on the flavor of your final product, it is important not to overlook this aspect. AeroPress advises that the water be heated to 175° Fahrenheit (80° Celsius). Note this is quite a bit lower than the boiling point of water (212°F), so you will need a thermometer and some patience to finding a method that works for you to get the ideal water temperature.

    2. Prepare and Install the Filter

    Take one of the filters out of its packaging and rinse it well using tap water. It is important to rinse and wet the filter prior to using because it will help the brew flow freely without sticking and will help keep the filter in place during the brewing process. When the filter is ready, place it firmly into the bottom of the filter cap. Next, take the filter cap with filter in place and twist it onto the brewing chamber.

    3. Grind, Measure, and Add Coffee to the Chamber

    Grinding coffee beans at home is an optional step, as you can purchase pre-ground coffee at any coffee retailer. The benefits of grinding at home are that freshly ground beans have more flavor and you have control over how fine the grind is. Aim for a grind somewhere between espresso (very fine) and drip (medium grind) and adjust from there. The AeroPress comes with a scoop for measuring the appropriate amount of ground coffee to add to the brewing chamber. Two full scoops per 16 ounces of water is the amount recommended by the manufacturer, but adjust according to your individual preference. There are also new options coming to the market of pre-apportioned capsules that are designed to fit into the AeroPress filter cap. These capsules combine the filter, pre-ground coffee, and optional flavors.

    4. Add Water and Blend

    Next, place AeroPress on your mug and begin adding water. When adding water to ground coffee, it is important to stir the hot water and coffee mixture. Stir gently as you gradually add coffee and water. Whether using freshly ground coffee, pre-ground coffee, or the capsules, you should experiment with all the options to find the blend the tastes best to you.

    5. Press

    Next, align the plunger with the top of the chamber and slowly begin to force the plunger downwards toward the coffee. This will be similar to the mechanics of a French Press. Press the plunger until it compresses the coffee grounds or reaches the capsule.

    6. Remove the AeroPress and Add Water

    Lift the AeroPress off of your mug. The results of the press will be a highly concentrated brew that is not at all bitter. Because of the strength of the brew, it is advisable to dilute it prior to drinking. You can use the entire remaining hot water, a lesser amount, milk, or steamed milk.

    The AeroPress is a top-notch method for brewing delicious, smooth, coffee in minutes. Take care to follow these AeroPress instructions and you will have an excellent brewing experience. Experiment with water temperature, coffee grinding, water amount, and additives to determine what blend matches your palate preferences.

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