A Beginners Guide to Immersion Coffee Brewing
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.
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!
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.
Thoroughly filtered water, heated to 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit, usually yields the best results. Review the recommended accessories below to learn about controlling water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We generally recommend a coarse grind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like the press, we generally recommend a coarse grind setting.
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.
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.