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Find Your Perfect Brew


An experienced barista and roaster tells you
four great ways to brew your coffee

By Erik Evenson ’03 | Illustrations by Olga Zelenska

If you are ready to be a little more hands-on with your coffee than just pushing a button, congratulations! You are entering a larger (and more delicious) world of coffee. If you are intimidated by all the options out there, breathe easily. The act of brewing coffee is stunningly simple. Pour water into ground coffee, let it steep, and filter the coffee grounds from the new mixture. Every coffee beverage, from espresso to iced coffee, is the result of a variation on this theme. This chart offers some simple guidelines for the various brewers and the tastes they produce.



Best for: Black coffee, people with patience

This method filters out the most coffee particles resulting in a thinner-bodied, more acidic coffee. You might want to add a little sugar, but cream doesn’t mix as well. From Chemexes to Melitta Cones, there are a whole range of pour-overs on the market, but the basic idea is to put coffee grounds in a paper filter, pour the water slowly and constantly for 3 to 4 minutes, and let it drain. It takes a little more effort, but the results are worth it.

Coffees to try: Light roasts, single origin from Ethiopia, Kenya, or Latin America

Brew time: 3–4 minutes

French Press

French Press

Best for: Heavy-bodied coffees, milk and sugar

French presses filter out the least amount of coffee particles, resulting in a heavy, full-bodied brew with lower amounts of acidity. If you like cream in your coffee, this is the brewing method for you.

Coffees to try: Dark roasts, Sumatra

Brew time: At 3 minutes, break the crust that formed with a spoon. Plunge at 4 minutes.




Best for: Meticulous tinkerers, those who like strong coffee

Espresso is a brewing method, like other brewing methods. The biggest difference is that it introduces pressure into the brewing, forcing a small amount of water through the coffee grounds, resulting in about an ounce of strong, syrupy coffee. Add hot water, you have an Americano. Add steamed milk, you have a cappuccino. Add a little more steamed milk, you have a latte. Home espresso can taste great, but requires large purchases (espresso machine, burr grinder) and lots of experimenting to make well.

Coffees to try: House blends, espresso blends

Brew time: 25–30 seconds



Best for: Multipurpose brewing, camping

If you really need a strong cup of coffee, but are on a budget, consider an Aeropress. This brewer uses pressure (albeit from your own arm strength) and results in tasty, strong brews of coffee for only a fraction of the price of a home espresso machine. You can also make a regular cup of coffee in an Aeropress. It is forgiving and flexible, works well with many coffees and can take a beating. Pack it up and make it your vacation-brewing device.

Coffees to try: Almost any coffee

Brew time: 30 seconds (with pressure) to 4 minutes

Erik Evenson is a writer who has worked as the head roaster and green coffee buyer for Zoka Coffee Roasting Company. He also managed Tony's Coffee Bar where he taught brewing classes.