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Cyle Talley

Get Smart about coffee brewing

Ar 160309563
Shaun Stanley/BCI Media

A perfect cup of joe is no accident, says Durango Coffee Co. barista Lauren Best.
Ar 160309563
Shaun Stanley/BCI Media

A perfect cup of joe is no accident, says Durango Coffee Co. barista Lauren Best.

Has making coffee become a grind? Feeling despressoed about your brewing method? Don’t lose your tamper! Let Lauren Best, barista at Durango Coffee Co., tell you about brewing methods, and then go give them a shot.

What’s your favorite method of making coffee?

The Aeropress. It’s the love child of a French press and a pourover. It takes anywhere from 30 seconds to four minutes to make a cup of coffee. It’s easy to transport, smooth cup of coffee – so delicious. It uses a thin, paper filter, which removes the oils and particulates, and also makes it really easy to clean up.

Is it the simplicity that appeals to you?

The simplicity, but also that it’s really hard to mess up. Anyone can do it. You can use Folgers coffee and [the Aeropress] would still produce a good brew. It’s not as picky about how coarse the grind is as some other methods are, though I do suggest a medium to fine grind, and it does any roast well – dark, light, whatever. I’ve really been liking African coffees in it.

How does it differ from the French press?

The French press has a metal filter, which allows particulates and oils through – which some people really like. A dark roast is usually best for a French press. You get a lot of flavor from the oils. If it’s done well, it’s really smooth and the oils really complement. If you like a dark cup of coffee, use a French press. It takes a little longer to make, usually around four to seven minutes, and it’s really easy to over-extract the grounds, which gives the coffee a very bitter taste, almost like it’s been burned.

Over-extract?

Basically, when you leave the grounds in water for too long. That’s a really broad definition. With a French press, the coffee basically steeps for as long as it takes to drink the pot, so if you pour it all out immediately, you’re fine. If you leave some in the pot as you drink your cup, well ...

What about the pourover?

It’s very smooth. Very, very smooth. The only problem is that it, too, can be easily over-extracted. It’s a delicate balance. Coffee shops that offer pourover service usually really know what they’re doing.

How does a pourover differ from drip?

Drip coffee is continuously pouring very hot water over the grounds. With a pourover, you pour the water over the grounds, allow them to bloom, and then pour more in. It’s a slower process.

What’s “bloom”?

Carbon dioxide escaping from the grounds, which leads to fuller, richer flavor. The fresher the coffee, the larger the bloom, which is why you should always grind the beans just before you make coffee, no matter which method you’re using.

So then why do coffee shops use drip makers?

They’re easy, simple and they produce anywhere from six to 12 cups at a time. Less wait time for customers.

What about a percolator?

My tried-and-true method for camping! A percolator cycles the water through coffee grounds using gravity. It takes five to 10 minutes, and the longer you go, the darker the flavor. It can be bitter, especially the longer you wait, but it can also be really robust and it has a really pleasant aroma. It can be gritty, it can be overly strong, and it’s easily over-extracted. But when you’re camping, you don’t really care – you just want something hot! It’s pretty concentrated and gets espresso-y tasting, but it’s not a true espresso.

It seems like the purpose of all of these methods is to achieve smoothness.

Oh yeah. For a long time, bitter was the first word that came to mind when I thought of coffee. It’s easy to achieve bitter coffee, but with all of the third wave shops now, that stigma is going away –

Third wave?

Coffee shops that have slow bars. 81301, Bedhead. That’s something we’re trying to achieve here, too. They’re slower, it takes a little more time to get a cup, but you know that you can depend on those shops to get you a great cup of coffee.

So what do you use at home?

I have all of them, and they live together on top of my refrigerator. Percolator for camping, Aeropress for daily use. I’ve got a Chemex, which is a fancier, Erlenmeyer flask-looking thing that makes a great cup. There’s even a drip machine up there. I’d like to think they’re all friends up there, but it’s probably not true.

What? Why?

Well, because coffee is cliquey. I’ve made the mistake of telling customers that I love the Aeropress and they’ll immediately be like, “WHAT? Why would you use that when you can use a French press?!” When I tell them that I like the French press, too, they’re sort of confused.

Which method has the most fanatical following?

Probably the people who use percolators. They’re the crotchety old people of the coffee world.

Cyle Talley only slightly regrets the puns in the intro. If you’ve got something you want to Get Smart about, email him at: cyle@cyletalley.com