Mornings around my house begin with pre-dawn tiptoeing into the kitchen to turn on a kettle and ready my Bodum Travel French Press for its life giving duty: making my coffee.
Using high-quality coffee—beans close to the crack mustachioed Brooklynites tweak out over—I brew a darn mean cup of coffee. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is, normally, the go-to grind when it’s in stock. Brewed in my Bodum, my coffee is complex and tasty yet brewed with basically the same fuss as if I’d opened a can – yes, a can – of grocery store joe and tossed it in faithful Mr. Coffee. (As the only coffee drinker in my house, I’ve long ago given up on the multi-cup coffee maker.)
A heavy tablespoon or so into the bottom of the press, add hot water, set and forget for a bit and then drink. Cleaning the Bodum takes a minute, but its mostly painless.
My Bodum is most handy because of its portability. I’ve traveled thousands of miles with it in my bag, and I’ve walked to work and back. I can safely toss a full Bodum into my backpack and know that it won’t spill as long as I don’t flip cartwheels on my commute. A second cup is easily brewed at work using an electric kettle. So it fits my life nicely.
But I’m not always satisfied with the taste. Often it allows a bean’s acidity a too comfy spot on my palate.
So is there an even better brew method than my Bodum? Will it travel? Will it taste good? Will cleaning it be a pain in the ass?
I asked Ben Myers, head caffeine junkie for Athens, Ga.’s 1000 Faces Coffee, a recent winner of a Good Food Award for their Ethiopian Mora Mora roast, to show me just how elaborate coffee making can become and what devices I could buy to further succumb to the good coffee beast. We ran my favorite Yirgacheffe through the gadget gauntlet and got mega jittery. And we didn’t even fire up the espresso machine.
ABID CLEVER COFFEE DRIPPER ($22)
Though bulky, the Abid is as easy to clean as other pour over immersion brewing method, and perhaps tied with an AeroPress for clean-up speed.
It’s a bulky plastic contraption in which a paper filter sits. We used a reusable metal micro filter. Like all coffee preparation at 1000 Faces, Ben incorporates a digital scale and a timer to accurately segment different stages of what’s called immersion, but what I’d call pouring hot water over coffee grounds. If you’re an expert, you pour water over in stages, 30 seconds here, 45 seconds there. The entire process, following all the rules, lasts about 4 minutes.
The taste is worth every stingy second. Clean, crisp flavors await the coffee brewer who taps the Abid dripper. The biggest downsides, though, are its size and that it can’t be used with any size cup. That aforementioned plastic contraption releases the brewed coffee when it’s pressed down onto a container. If the cup or container is too big, it won’t let the coffee loose.
BEE HOUSE POUR OVER ($24) and HARIO V60 ($25)
We brewed two pour-overs at the same time: Melitta’s Bee House and the Hario V60. Each look rather similar except for one important distinction: the width of the aperture through which coffee leaves the filter and enters the cup. The Melitta filter, the smaller aperture, is Western, Ben says. And the Hario V60, the wider one, is Japanese. Perhaps the resulting brews represent cultural differences in how we like our coffee to taste.
The Melitta Bee House is ceramic, as is the Hario, but a cheap plastic version is now available in most grocery stores for about $5. A plastic Hario runs about $8. Each use the basic #2 filter also found in grocery stores. Clean up is easy. Just discard the filter, which would be a downside for waste conscious people, especially since one filter makes one cup of coffee only.
Melitta Bee Houses are common at your local farmers market’s coffee pureyor, so I’ve therefore consumed a ton of coffee brewed using one of these. But during our taste test, the Hario V60 emerged as the winner, producing a coffee with what I’ll call bottom end. It’s a heavy coffee that sits in your mouth, something to be savored and not consumed mixed with breakfast eggs. The Bee House, comparatively, produced a milder coffee, still wonderful, but one you would toss back without much contemplation.
Either pour over would be perfect for the single morning cup drinker. Preparation is quick—roughly two minutes—and the coffee is great. But I don’t see taking a ceramic pour-over to work making sense.
AEROPRESS – $25
All my chef friends, especially the traveling types, swear by the AeroPress. It’s light and compact and only requires these two-inch wide filters. In short, perfect for suitcases. You pour hot water into the plastic vessel, wait about a minute, turn it over onto a cup and apply pressure to squeeze the water through the coffee filter. Make sure you’re using a sturdy cup, as Ben said he’s seen slim glass cups crack under the pressure. Clean up, again, is a cinch, requiring only minimal washing.
The brew is strong, for sure, and it’s recommended that you add a few ounces of warm water to dilute it. But I wouldn’t. Enjoy the thing for its power.
CHEMEX – $38
A Chemex is beautiful, plain and simple, which is why one sits in the design museum at MOMA. But it requires these filters the size of baby diapers. Between the Chemex and its accoutrements, this coffee brewing set up would require a decent chunk of your shelf space. The Abid filter does fit into the Chemex, which cuts out the paper waste. The resulting coffee, though, is a bit muddy and doesn’t feel worth the effort. But it looks great.
WHO BEAT THE BODUM?
The Hario V60 and the AeroPress notched my two favorite brews. I could easily see the AeroPress coming in handy on business travel when a quick hotel room caffeine jolt is needed. But I wouldn’t look to it everyday.
I want a Hario around on the weekends when I’m not rushing around and can sit down, drink coffee and watch my lawn not get mowed.
The Abid was a powerful cup of coffee, but its bulk would be unwelcome in my kitchen.
So I’m sticking with my Bodum, even though the coffee produced by other methods is superior. That is until my boss ponies up for an office espresso machine—which, I’ve been told, is just a month away.