Have you ever hoped to brew a perfectly balanced, full-bodied cup of coffee — one like you can only get in a coffeehouse? You can. But first, you’ll need a little insider information and a gadget or two.
I was recently exposed to the world of coffee and brewing gadgets after taking a tour of the Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roastery with Atlanta Culinary Tours. The tour was led by Batdorf & Bronson’s Jason Dominy, a man fondly referred to as Atlanta’s “coffee evangelist.” Jason is also the chair of the Barista Guild of America and writes industry standards for manual-brewing techniques.
After a lesson on coffee growing, drying and roasting, our tour ended in the “brewing lab.” This is where Jason spends entire days brewing coffees to test for flavor and consistency as he evaluates the best roast for teasing out the subtle flavors of each bean.
This brewing lab houses the gadget museum, Jason’s impressive collection of manual-brewing devices. I’d never imagined there were so many techniques for brewing a single cup of coffee.
The brewing lab also plays host to a monthly manual-brewing battle which draws serious baristas from all over the Southeast and from local shops such as Dancing Goats, Aurora, Octane, Empire State South, Rev Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee. Here, baristas hone their skills using the museum’s array of brewing devices. As a judge at last month’s battle, I was enlightened by each barista’s description of his/her brewing techniques and devices, every one told with fervent passion for the craft.
Given my fondness for gadgets, I zeroed in on two particular brewing devices used in the competition: the AeroPress and the Clever Dripper. Yes, I am now the proud owner of both and the experimentation has begun.
The AeroPress ($26 on Amazon) brewing process begins with hot water poured over coffee in an oversized syringe-like device. Using a steady hand, depress the stopper to force the coffee through the special filter at the bottom. The Aeropress is very clean, user-friendly and less labor intensive, similar to a French press. In fact, it’s so easy to use, Jason uses it to make professional-quality coffee on airplanes.
The Clever Dripper ($21), Jason’s current favorite manual-brewing device, is a little fussier but makes a strong cup of coffee. To use it, follow his carefully timed and precisely measured sequence of pouring and stirring. At the conclusion of the brewing process, the Clever Dripper can be placed on top of a mug, which causes its lower valve to release the brewed beverage through a standard #4 filter. My husband prefers the Clever Dripper because he says, “it feels more like a science experiment.”
Which brews a better cup of coffee? Well, that depends on what you like. Both brew a cleaner cup of coffee than a French press, leaving no sediment or an oily surface behind. The Clever Dripper allows more control of the brewing process, especially if you experiment and vary the brewing sequence. The Clever Dripper also seems to brew a stronger full-bodied cup.
Both gadgets brew great coffee and are worth a shot. If I’m going to make a cup on my own, I’d probably opt for the AeroPress simply for the ease of use and clean-up. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys the precision of the Clever Dripper. And because he’s both the appointed house barista and dishwasher, it looks like our Clever Dripper will see more action.
Pick up one of the brewing devices and watch one of Jason’s tutorials to start making your own coffee like the pros make.
Atlanta Culinary Tours has additional tours of the Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roastery scheduled for the coming months.
Atlanta’s Batdorf & Bronson hosts monthly manual-brewing battles. Follow their Facebook page for details.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team.