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Len's Coffee®

How To Brew (Hot) Coffee

Why's "hot" in parentheses? Because we have a separate page for brewing iced coffee!

This is not going to be a "fair and balanced" coffee brewing page. This is an unapologetically opinionated page with one goal: helping you brew the best coffee with the least amount of frou-frou or wasted time.

Use A French Coffee Press

For the best coffee, brew in a French press. Here's why:

Full water immersion extracts the most flavor.

Pouring water over or through your coffee grinds limits the amount of exposure of coffee to water. This, in turn, limits the amount of flavor and aroma that can be extracted. Thus, brewing methods involving total immersion in water and allowing free movement of the water will give you a more flavorful brew.

Many brewing methods, such as the Chemex, offer improved coffee, but the reason is because these methods expose the coffee to the water for longer periods and in greater quantity. Quite simple, really.

French coffee presses have zero waste.

No disposable filter = zero wasted manufacturing or (in the case of non-recyclables) landfill space.
No extra electricity = zero wasted energy.
No bulky appliance sitting on your counter = zero wasted space.
Requires less coffee grounds per cup, on average = zero wasted coffee.
No fiddly steps or techniques = zero wasted effort.
Can be taken apart and washed in the dishwasher = zero wasted water.
Cheap = zero wasted money!

But what about Chemex / K-Cup / Aeropress / Toddy / Drip machines / Percolators / Expensive-Device-of-the-Week?

Those all have their place. Lots of people like them. But, when answering the question "What brewing method is best, all things considered?", we're always going to say French press.

The Chemex: Why?

Chemex comes in close second to French press. It brews a quite fine cup of coffee. But here are the problems:
- it's slow
- because it's slow, the coffee gets cold while brewing
- it's not insulated, either, which makes the temperature problem worse
- it requires a filter, which is wasteful, and also it totally ruins your day when you run out of filters, and
- its hourglass shape makes it hard to clean.

Why deal with those inconveniences when you could just use a French press to brew coffee that's as good (or better)?

K-Cups: The quality issue

We'll let cartoonist and coffee-lover Dave Kellet field this one:

Sheldon Comic about freshness and k-cups the wastefulness involved in packaging the darn things. Also, they're way overpriced. 'Nuff said.

The Aeropress: Actually, this one's kind of cool

Aeropress devices straddle the line between French press and espresso. It's a partially pressurized extraction that results in a unique brew. We personally don't like to use plastic for hot beverages, however, since it can be hard to clean (plastic tends to pick up oils and aromas) and every month it seems like they're finding a new chemical in plastic that leaches out when exposed to heat. So, we think of this as a "sometimes coffee".

The Toddy Cold-Brew System: Another gadget

Cold-brewing coffee is one of our favorite ways to make iced coffee. We have detailed cold-brewing instructions here , as a matter of fact. Our problem with the Toddy cold brew system isn't with the coffee it produces, but rather, with the presence of yet another plastic gadget in our kicthen. We like to make our cold-brew coffee in a glass jug and pour it through a metal strainer; even after we bought a Toddy, we still found ourselves using the jug and strainer. They're multi-purpose items that you probably already have in your kitchen. But, if you like kitchen gadgets and want a special thing just for making your cold-brew coffee, then go for it. Cold-brew coffee is amazing.

Drip Brewers: Sure, why not

The ubiquitous drip brewer has a few undeniable advantages. It's everywhere, you already know how to use it and probably already have one, you can program the nicer ones to brew in advance to streamline your mornings, and they will keep your coffee warm for you.

Will you get the best brew? Well... not really. But if you use good coffee, it will taste good no matter how you brew it. We're more interested in helping you enjoy your coffee than in getting snobby about how you simply must use our preferred method, and good drip brewers can serve you well.

For the best drip brew, find a machine with the following features:
- multiple water jets (drips) to increase water exposure
- a slow brew, not pouring water over too quickly
- all glass and metal parts (if it has plastic parts, they must be easy to remove and thoroughly scrub)
- for best results, brew half a pot at a time; a full pot is likely to brew unevenly, with water touching some of the grounds more than others.

Percolators: For when you're serving a crowd

Percolators use a unique brewing method that involves recirculating water through the coffee grounds multiple times. The result is something in between a drip and a French press. Not all coffees work well in this method; some end up bitter. We suggest choosing flavorful, well-rounded coffees, ideally blends, for best results. The percolator won't get the most from your delicate single-source Arabica. With the right coffee, a giant percolator can provide a delicious cup to the entire church potluck, fancy rabbit show, Star Trek convention, or any other large gathering you're serving.

Anything priced in excess of $100: seriously?

Don't let anyone tell you that you "need" anything big and expensive. Maybe if you own a coffee shop, you might get good value out of it. But, in our experience, all the expensive machines do is make the average lover of Joe feel bad about their limited budget. We oppose that kind of classist prejudice. Coffee is a natural agricultural product meant to be enjoyed by everyone.

The Vietnamese Phin: An option you might not have considered

Cheap, easy, simple, and delicious. Sound good to you? The Vietnamese Phin coffee brewer has its origins in the farming communities, where coffee is life. It's the original single-cup coffeemaker. Unlike the Keurig, however, coffee brewed in the Phin comes out as strong, dark, and aromatic as Old Spice Guy. Click here to learn more about Phins.

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