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I've heard it referred to as the coffee of snobs. But, really? Making coffee without a pricey coffee machine is snobbish?
I wasn’t always a coffee drinker. In grade school, I remember having hot cocoa in the morning. In college, it was loose leaf tea. It wasn’t until I was in law school that I started consuming copious amounts of coffee.
Late night partying and early morning classes just didn’t go well together, and I needed a boost before my first class. Coffee drinking turned into a habit and, eventually, I became psychologically dependent on it to get through my day everyday. The time came when I didn’t even have the energy for my morning shower without having downed a cup of coffee. After giving birth to Sam, we had a coffee maker installed in the bedroom. The girl just had such peculiar sleeping hours and I so needed to stay awake.
In time, coffee drinking became an obsession. It wasn’t just about drinking coffee to get a boost—it was as much about consuming good coffee. Instant powdered coffee gave me neither the mental nor emotional high to start my day. If anything, bad coffee made me feel down.
By the time I started working from home, I was consuming an average of six cups of coffee per day. I could work for 12 hours (with meal breaks, of course) without slowing down and still sleep soundly for eight straight hours.
It worked fine for me until I realized how much extra sugar I was consuming with my coffee. I’ve never drank black coffee. I want sugar and Coffeemate in my coffee. I calculated and that’s one teaspoon of sugar plus the sugar content in Coffeemate per cup of coffee. My, bad.
On the other hand, I’ve never taken my tea with sugar and milk. I take my tea plain. So, I figured that if I could have just one cup of coffee upon waking up—just for the boost—and have tea the rest of the day, that’s a lot less sugar in my body. And since tea has caffeine too, well, there was no reason to feel like a zombie without the usual six cups of coffee everyday.
Coffee withdrawal is real.
One day in September of 2017, I made a decision. One cup of coffee first thing upon waking up and freshly-steeped loose-leaf jasmine green tea the rest of the day.
Then, I cooked three dishes for lunch. By the time I was done, my knees hurt, my hands were shaking with fatigue and I was irritable as hell.
Worse, I felt and acted depressed. Alex asked what was wrong, I said I was tired and I was sad. She looked and sounded worried because that was so unlike me. I went around moping for a few hours until, out of the blue, Alex asked how much coffee I’ve had since I woke up. One cup, I said. And the significance of her question sank in. I was going on withdrawal.
You’d think that “withdrawal” is the wrong word because that’s a term used for drug addicts trying to kick their addiction. It isn’t the wrong word. A heavy coffee drinker does go on withdrawal if the usual consumption of coffee is drastically cut down. The caffeine in coffee (also found in tea and soda drinks) is a nervous system stimulant. Take it away abruptly and the effect is withdrawal. I know. I went through it. Apparently, the amount of caffeine in the loose-leaf jasmine green tea was not enough to offset my usual supply of caffeine from coffee.
So, back to coffee.
We’ve had our love affair with the stovetop percolator, the electric coffee maker and the French press. But we discovered that the most low tech brewing method yields the best cup of coffee.
Pourover coffee has been our default since 2018. It began when my brother’s family gave us pourover coffee drips two Christmases ago. We have acquired more drips since.
What’s so special about the pourover method?
The flavor. Can you image enjoying a very strong brew with very little bitterness? Oh. My. Goodness. It’s the most wonderful coffee experience!
What makes pourover coffee less bitter than other strong brews? The absence of pressing. With most espresso machines and even the French press, you press the ground coffee prior to pouring the brew into a cup. I never imagined until we switched to the pourover method that it is the pressing that is responsible for so much of the bitterness.
What you need to make pourover coffee at home
Is it too much work to have pourover coffee at home everyday? Oh, no. Not at all. Like I wrote earlier, it’s a such a low tech method. Grind the coffee, dump into the pourover coffee drip, pour in water slowly and voila! But, of course, you need the right equipment and know the correct techniques.
You may buy ground coffee and do away with the grinding. But did you know that coffee beans lose their flavor and aroma fast once they are ground? It doesn’t matter if you keep ground coffee in an airtight container. It will go bland fast because it has already been ground. Oxidation.
What we do is buy whole coffee beans and grind just enough for a day’s need. We have a manual grinder and an electric grinder. We grind just enough beans for one day so our coffee is always fresh.
Pourover coffee drip
It’s a conical cup roughly the size of a small coffee mug with holes at the bottom.
You just position the drip over your coffee mug or cup. The wide mouth allows you to pour water over the ground coffee then drip through the holes and into the cup.
There are two kinds of pourover coffee drip that I have come across. The kind that requires the insertion of a paper filter and the kind that does not. We have both. We were fine with the kind that needs paper filter until we started having problems sourcing paper filters in 2020 when it became a headache to source a lot of things. So, we bought the reusable kind. Use, wash and rinse, and reuse.
If you have a pourover coffee drip that needs paper filter, read on.
Paper coffee filters (for drips that require them)
Paper coffee filter comes in different sizes. But they all have two ridged seamed edges.
To make sure that the filter will fit snugly into the drip, you need to fold those ridged seamed edges. Start by folding the bottom. Turn the paper filter over then fold in the side going toward the opposite direction.
It’s not really a must for making pourover coffee but, unless you have a really steady hand, it’s a great convenience as it allows you more control.
Making pourover coffee
Once you’ve got all your gadgets and equipment, you’re ready to make pourover coffee.
Position the paper filter into the drip the place the drip over your coffee cup. Pour hot water into the drip. No coffee yet at this point. You’re warming up both the drip and the cup.
Pour your measured ground coffee into the paper-lined drip. How much ground coffee? That depends on how strong you want your brew.
Slowly pour hot water over the entire surface of the ground coffee. Leave for 30 seconds. This is the “bloom pour”, something that Alex and I picked up at a coffee class in Vietnam. You’re really just moistening the ground coffee at this point. You will get a better-tasting brew if you don’t skip this part.
When the 30 seconds are up, start pouring water again. Pour just enough to cover the ground coffee then stop. Wait for the water to disappear as brewed coffee in the cup underneath. Pour water again as before. Repeat until you have enough in your cup.
So, there. Never mind those pricey electric coffee machines.