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A Beginners Guide to Immersion Coffee Brewing

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Picture of our immersion coffee brewer lineup

Manual coffee-making methods are becoming an increasingly popular option for home enthusiasts and coffee shop baristas alike. The abilities to control every variable in the brewing process, create a cup that's exactly suited to one's preferences, and highlight the unique character of the coffee has convinced many to make the switch. This new popularity has prompted the birth of several new methods and devices, as well as the resurrection of older methods. In this article we'll feature our favorite immersion brewing methods and explain the differences between them. This post is confined to full immersion devices, but if you're interested in other methods then check out our Beginner's Guide to Pour Over Coffee Brewing.

Brewing Tips

These suggestions are meant to provide a starting place for beginners. Our recommendations are dependent on batch size, pour rate, roast level, processing method, and more, all of which vary. Experiment and adjust to taste!

Grind

Use a quality burr grinder. This will ensure an increasingly consistent grind and even extraction — or, in other words, a tasty cup of coffee! Anything from Baratza or Mahlkonig will serve you well.

Dose

Begin with 60 grams of coffee for every liter of water. Adjusting this ratio will affect other factors in ways both obvious and subtle, so pay close attention. Changing any single parameter will also require change elsewhere.

Water

Thoroughly filtered water, heated to 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit, usually yields the best results. Review the recommended accessories below to learn about controlling water.

Accessories

Since brewing at the proper temperature is vital for producing a great cup, we recommend purchasing the Bonavita Variable Kettle. A gram scale and thermometer will also help you brew great coffee consistently.

Clever

The Clever has a uniquely sealed filter cone for true immersion brewing

Design

The Clever Dripper is a hybrid brewer of sorts. At first glance, it seems like just another pour over dripper with a paper filter. But the Clever actually uses a unique stopper and release mechanism to keep coffee and water together until they're ready to be poured into a server or mug. Because of this dwell time we consider the Clever a full-immersion brewer. The Clever is a very affordable option for manual brewing and is made entirely of BPA-free plastic. Both lightweight and durable, it's excellent for travel.

coffee ground for clever dripper

Grind

One thing we appreciate about the Clever is that it is perhaps the most forgiving of all the brewers in our current lineup. Even without a quality burr grinder, you can still enjoy a nice cup of coffee from the Clever. For the best cups, however, we recommend using a burr grinder and coarse grind setting.

Technique

We like to use a Melitta #4 filter with the Clever. Place the filter in the cone, give it a thorough rinse with hot water, and then decant to warm and rinse your server or mug. Set the Clever on a flat surface, using the included coaster if you prefer. After grinding the coffee, add it to the Clever. Pour hot water over the bed of coffee evenly until the desired volume is reached. We like finishing our pour by hitting all the walls so that the coffee bed is level when you're ready for the draw-down. Some folks like to stir, and we encourage you to experiment with this. Just remember that the agitation caused by stirring increases the rate of extraction — the more you stir, the shorter your brew time and/or the coarser your grind. Place the lid atop the cone to retain heat, and after 3:30 place the Clever on top of the receiving vessel. (Both the Hario and Kalita servers fit the Clever nicely.) Draw-down should take about 30 seconds, for a total of 4 minutes. Toss the grounds and filter and rinse the Clever with hot water.

Advantage

The Clever method is just so dang easy. It combines pour-over and immersion brewing to consistently produce a clean and well-extracted cup — and all of this in an accessible and affordable way. If you're just starting out with manual brewing we recommend the Clever as a fun and easy introduction. This method requires little-to-no experience and you can produce a great cup from the get-go.

Any coffee is well-suited for the Clever. Check out our Clever listing to learn more.

French Press

French Press has a glass or metal beaker and plunger for pressing the coffee

Design

The french press is a classic and is probably the most widely recognizable brewing device available. It's comprised of a glass or metal beaker and a mesh plunger that separates coffee grounds from water. With a barrel-shaped mesh filter, the Espro Press functions like the original but yields a cleaner cup with less grit. Hario's Double-Walled Olive Wood press offers improved insulation over the traditional brewer with two thick glass walls.

grind for french press

Grind

We generally recommend a coarse grind.

Technique

Preheat the press with hot water. Toss the preheat water and add coarsely ground coffee to the press. Heat water and pour about 10% of the total target volume over the ground coffee. Allow the coffee to bloom for a few seconds, give it a stir, and then add the rest of the water. Put the plunger on and press just far enough to fully submerge all the grounds in the water. After 3:45-4:00 minutes, press slowly and decant into a mug or server.

Advantage

The press provides a full-bodied cup and, using a metal filter, permits more oils to pass than do other filter mediums. Many folks enjoy a french pressed beverage more than anything else, and the full and viscous mouthfeel is exactly what they want in a cup of coffee. To keep your pressed coffee tasting great, we recommend taking the press and filter apart completely and thoroughly scrubbing all of the components with detergent immediately after brewing. Neglecting to do so can result in the buildup of stale oils that impart an unpleasant flavor to coffee.

Darker roasts typically do better in a french press than in other brewers. Try coffees from Sumatra, Mexico, or Brazil. Check out our french press listings to learn more.

Aeropress

aeropress coffee maker

Design

The Aeropress is a very unconventional device. Designed by a manufacturer of flying discs, there was little expectation that the Aeropress would emerge as a legitimate brewing option. But, surprise of all surprises, the Aeropress makes a great cup of coffee. It's constructed entirely with BPA-free plastics and is virtually indestructible, making it ideal for travel. The design seems to be inspired by the french press, using a plunger to push brewed coffee from the grounds through a paper or metal filter.

aeropress grind size finely ground coffee from burr grinder

Grind

It’s hard to provide a universal grind setting recommendation for the Aeropress, as it's an incredibly versatile brewing device (one of the reasons that we love it!). We've had great results with all different grind settings. If you opt for a medium grind, shoot for a 2-minute dwell and a 30-second press. If you're interested in playing around with a finer grind setting, brew for 45-90 seconds. Of course, all of this is dependent upon your precise technique.

Technique

We’ll provide you with a couple of different methods, the first being the inverted method. For this recipe, turn the Aeropress upside down and insert the plunger just enough to seal the bottom. Be very careful. This is a tricky maneuver to master, and the possibility of spilling near-boiling water is high. Dump medium-ground coffee into the chamber and add hot water until the desired volume is reached. Steep for 1:45-2:00, stirring once or twice. Screw the filter on and press just until a blond crema-like head appears on top. Carefully invert the entire apparatus and place onto your mug or server, pressing down slowly for about 30 seconds.

Here's another method that's geared toward espresso-lovers. Although some claim that the Aeropress makes espresso, this not an accurate description of what happens when brewing with this device. But we've found that you can produce a cup with the Aeropress that carries some attributes of espresso and — whatever you want to call it — we think that it makes a delicious cup of coffee. Use the traditional upright position and a fine-medium grind setting. Place the Aeropress atop a server or mug with the filter in place. Add coffee and pour hot water to target volume. Stir thoroughly and, after 30-45 seconds, begin to press in a steady and controlled motion. You should have a cup with a syrupy body and intense flavors.

Advantage

The Aeropress is compact, easy, versatile, and virtually unbreakable. In addition to experimenting with different brewing parameters, you can also play around with different filters. The Aeropress comes with paper filters, which work very well. But if you want a more nuanced and full-bodied cup, the folks at Able Brewing created the Disk and Disk Fine, two stainless steel filters designed for use with the Aeropress. They're both reusable and will last for many years.

We really enjoy using the Aeropress with complex coffees. For these, we make use of the pressure applied by the Aeropress to highlight the most subtle characteristics. This method also brings the best out of bright coffees; the short brew time accentuates these characteristics. Try the Aeropress with coffees from Kenya, Ethiopia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Papua New Guinea. Check out our Aeropress listing to learn more.

Siphon

Syphon vacuum coffee brewer with a glass top and bottom as well as butane burner.

Design

The siphon (or vacpot) is the most visually captivating of all brew methods. But the design is more than just eye candy; it's driven by its fascinating function. As a "vacuum brewer", the two primary components are separate glass chambers. The top chamber includes a siphon tube that is inserted into the lower globe. This allows water in the bottom chamber to rise upward when pushed by water vapor pressure. The siphon brewer also includes a stand (table-top models only) and a cloth filter assembly.

grind size for siphon

Grind

The siphon, like the Aeropress, can be used with a variety of grind settings, depending on your preferred technique. We generally recommend a grind that is finer than that which is used for standard drip.

Technique

Boil water and pour into the lower globe. Compared to heating cool water over the siphon's burner, this will save time and conserve fuel. Apply heat from a butane or alcohol burner (included), fix the filter assembly, and fit the top chamber inside of the opening of the bottom bowl, ensuring a snug fit. When water begins rising into the top chamber, lower the flame (if you’re using a butane burner). Use a stirring utensil to push around the edges of the filter, minimizing large bubbles. If you have a thermometer, begin tracking the temperature at this point. Without a thermometer, a good stir on the 3-cup tabletop and 5-cup stovetop models can help steer the temperature toward proper brewing range. The 5-cup tabletop and 8-cup stovetop models should be ready to go by the time you’ve adjusted the heat and made sure that there are no air bubbles. Now grind the coffee and add it to the top chamber. starting a timer immediately. Stir the coffee in a zig-zag pattern until all the grounds are submerged. After 30 seconds, stir again. Once the timer has hit 1:00, extinguish the flame and stir one last time. Total brew time should be close to 2 minutes, including draw-down.

Advantage

The siphon is the ideal brewing method for those that desire complete control of brewing parameters. The water temperature is constant due to the applied heat source, the coffee is fully and evenly saturated, and the user can easily control brew time and agitation. All of these controlled factors have caused many to name the siphon the best manual brewing method available. The siphon uses a cloth filter, which creates a exceptionally clean cup. Besides, it looks awesome.

The siphon makes pretty much any coffee taste great, but we especially enjoy using it with highly floral coffees, as well as those that are dry-processed. Try coffees from Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Check out our siphon listings and siphon brewing guide to learn more.

Cafe Solo

Cafe Solo Coffee Brewer with neoprene sleeve for temperature stability.

Design

The Solo features an hourglass design, a stylin’ neoprene jacket to assist with heat retention and impact protection, and a mesh filter that separates grit from goodness as you pour.

cafe solo grind size

Grind

Like the press, we generally recommend a coarse grind setting.

Technique

We recommend preheating the Solo with near boiling water while you prepare. After tossing this water, add ground coffee to the Solo then pour the desired water volume. The coffee should begin to bloom. After about 30 seconds, stir and close the top. After 2:00, we swirl the Solo a couple of times to agitate the coffee, but this step is optional. At 4:00, slowly decant the Solo into a server. We recommend pouring in one controlled motion, so as to not over-agitate.

Advantage

We really like the Solo, but its only downside is its high price point. The idea behind the Solo is the same as that of the press, but the Solo seems to produce a cleaner cup, improve heat retention, and provide an easier cleanup (no parts to unscrew). The Solo is a beautiful brewer and makes for a great presentation in a shop or at home.

Many coffees will do well in a Solo. We especially like the fullness that the Solo brings out of dry-processed coffees. Try the Solo with dry-processed coffees from Panama, El Salvador, and Ethiopia. Check out our Cafe Solo listings to learn more.

Disqus - noscript

Another method is the BRAZILIAN FABRIC FILTER used as an INFUSION/STEEPING METHOD.  Tastes richer than French Press and can use not only coarse grinds, but also finer grinds for richer, deeper flavor.

I am glad that some people take the TIME to brew their coffee as an ART FORM.

I too brew it with an INFUSION APPROACH AND ALLOW TO STEEP FOR AT LEAST 3 MINUTES, then pass it through a unique Brazilian Cotton Cloth Filter. It is worth the effort !!!

Rafael

I highly recommend the Aeropress. Unconventional, yes. It's easy to use and clean, versatile, and it just works.

We're right there with you, Aajaxx!

Many thanks!

That gets me thinking about what would be a good grind to water ratio for milk application in your opinion? The instructions suggest using one scoop of coffee to one Aeropress chamber measure of water. That is probably quite a bit of coffee relative to water.

Are there any downsides to this sort of high coffee to water ratio in brewing? I guess I'm trying to understand the trade-offs here. What happens to the final brew when the ratio is altered?

Greetings,

I like to drink my coffee with a good amount of milk and wondered how could I best imitate the flavor of espresso (without an espresso machine) and make lattes from it?

Is Aeropress the tool to go with?

Hey, Martin. Espresso is a really unique beverage that, honestly, can only be made with a really unique machine. But, while not making true espresso, the Aeropress can yield a cup that's similar in its body and intensity. Using a fine grind and short brew time, you'll be able to make a cup that holds up well with milk. Enjoy!

Good questions, Martin. Adjusting the brew ratio can affect both "extraction" (the extent and variety of coffee bean solids that are dissolved in water) and "strength" (the intensity of flavor relative to total volume). Adding too much coffee to a small amount of water can actually prevent adequate extraction – and there is such a thing as "too strong"!

However, it's definitely worth experimenting. I think you'll find that a slightly steeper ratio (more beans or less water) enables your coffee to take milk better.

Hope that helps!
Chris

Skygeezer can you elaborate on how you do that with an automatic drip coffee maker?

Thanks for the walkthrough, Skygeezer!

The thing i don't like about a syphon, is the cleaning up afterwards, it takes ages to make sure it is done right or you get that strange taste the next time.

That's a good point, Dale. Some folks won't enjoy the cleanup involved with siphon brewers, as they can be fairly time-consuming at first glance. But if you've got a foam brush, cleanup can actually be a breeze. Just sprinkle a little Cafiza in the lower bowl, add hot water, brush the inside, then brush the upper bowl, rinse everything out (including the filter) and you're good to go! That's more work than your typical coffee pot, sure, but it's not too bad once you've got the hang of it.

Would you recommend using a steel mesh filter with a clever dripper, or are paper filters better?

We generally gravitate toward paper filters, but there's nothing wrong with a metal or plastic mesh! What you'll get with those is more body, more oils, and a bit more sediment in your brews. If you like french press coffee, you'll love a mesh filter for your Clever.

Sisyphus:
1. First, you must have a drip coffee maker that allows you to remove the pot while it is still brewing. That is, it has a small valve at the bottom of the filter basket that closes when you remove the pot.

2. You then start as you normally would, putting the full amount of coffee in the filter basket, and the full amount of water in the pot. If you are making a full pot, add an extra cup of water to allow for evaporation and absorption.

3. Pour just 2 cups of water, as measured by the markings on the pot into the water reservoir, and turn the coffee maker on. Do NOT put the pot with the remaining water beneath the filter basket.

4. Instead, place an empty cup under the filter basket. This is just in case something goes wrong.

5. Allow the coffee maker to finish brewing the water that you added. The first time you do this, periodically peek at the filter basket to make sure it has enough capacity to hold all of the water you poured in Step 3. If it looks like it is going to overflow, shut the coffee maker off, skip Step 6 and proceed to Step 7.

6. Let the coffee maker finish brewing all of the water that you added and turn it off.

7. At this point you will have a filter basket full of hat water and coffee grounds. Wait 3 minutes.

8. Pour the remaining water into the water reservoir and turn the coffee maker on again.

9. Remove the empty cup from beneath the filter basket and replace it with the empty pot. If any drippings have accumulated in the cup, pour it into the filter basket.

10. When the coffee has finished brewing, pour a cup and enjoy. Using your regular coffee, you will find that it has a richer taste and is less bitter.

This is similar to the method Aeropress suggests for making more that 1 cup. I had an Aeropress and liked it very much, but someone in the house lost the little cup that holds the filter paper.

We just love the rich, full taste of French Press but would love to try Brazilian fabric filter to know which one's better.

Cloth filters will almost always provide a cleaner cup than metal filters, meaning you will lose some body in favor of flavor clarity. That doesn't mean you can't get a rich cup of coffee from a fabric filter, and we actually love the richness we get from a cloth-filtered siphon brew. Try it yourself and see what you think!

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