Handbrewing coffee

A cup of black filter coffee on a wooden table in front of a window to a street.

Shawn Blanc wrote about how he switched to a Moccamaster for brewing his morning coffee. It’s a nice post about productivity, but it made me want to talk about coffee.

We hand-brew all1 the coffee we drink at the office with a drip cone. We have been doing this for a couple of years already. I like it, but out of courtesy towards my colleagues I’ve floated the idea of buying an electric coffee maker a couple of times. So far they have preferred to continue with hand-brewing. But why bother?

It’s not because of the taste. I don’t think that I could tell apart my hand-brew and well-made batch brew in a blind test.

I like the ritual, and the exercise in patience. First you weigh2 and grind the beans while waiting for the way-too-slow kettle to boil the water. Then you pour and wait and pour and wait. Then you wash the cone and finally you get to taste the coffee.

The drip cone maintenance is easy, too. Washing the cone after each use takes only a couple of seconds. The fundamentals of good coffee are freshly-ground beans and clean equipment. Taking care of the latter couldn’t be easier. And hand-brewing makes it easier to not drink too much coffee, because the coffee is not there just waiting for you to overdose.

A Kalita filter cone filled with coffee grounds. The cone is on a mug and the mug is on a balance.

On the other hand, using an electric coffee maker would free me from pouring the water. I brew coffee maybe once per day, so that would take me about 3.5 minutes a day. There are about 200 working days in a year, so that amounts to almost 12 hours. It takes something like six hours to read a medium-size novel. In a year I could read two more books during my breaks instead of staring at coffee. The choices!

  1. We do have an espresso machine, but we use it maybe once a month. Also we buy beans that work great for filter coffee and turns out that not all of them are great for espresso. ↩︎

  2. My standard recipe is 15 grams of coffee to 250 grams of water. ↩︎

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