I. Love. Coffee.
When I moved to Seattle a few years ago, I could not wait to work in the coffee industry. I did briefly work in specialty coffee, and I learned a ton. Even though the company I worked for was an Italian espresso machine manufacturer, we had every type of brewer you could imagine in the lab. I also learned that 15 shots of espresso a day will take its toll on your body. And as a result, I rarely drink coffee anymore (insert sad trombone). And when I do, it’s usually decaf cold brew (insert even sadder trombone for decaf).
Since “real” coffee is a huge treat for me now, I am very particular (read: snobby) about every aspect of what I drink. Around SLT HQ we have automatic coffee centers and capsule machines, and they are very convenient for getting your coffee fix at the touch of a button. However, if I am going to have only two cups of coffee a month, they are not coming from a robot.
For my rare cup of coffee, I prefer brewing with a Chemex. I like the clean flavors that come from lightly roasted coffee through their special filters. While Chemex and pourover brewers are popular in the specialty coffee industry, I’d noticed many people outside of those circles are not familiar with them. Since I have declared myself a Chemex ambassador, I decided to make a tasting out of it. We’d pit the Chemex against the much-beloved French press. Exact same coffee beans, two different brew methods.*
For the tasting, I chose a medium roast coffee (two days off roast); it was dark enough to be in the popular flavor profile around the office, but had no visible oil on the beans. I used the recipes from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) for both types of brewers. Our tasters categorized their responses by appearance; flavor and texture; overall grade; and “Which Musician/Band Best Represents This Brew Method.”
The results were … a perfect tie. Exactly half the tasters liked the Chemex better, and exactly half preferred the French press.
Chemex Flavor/Texture comments:
- “Bold, subtle, bright”
- “Smooth, not bitter, bland”
- “Refined, but not too complex”
- “Most bitter, but different bitter flavors”
- “Great texture, bland, I taste nothing”
French press Flavor/Texture comments:
- “More earthy, balanced flavor. Heavier mouthfeel”
- “Smooth, intense, middle/back of the tongue stuff”
- “Smells bitter, no bitter flavor. Coats the teeth a bit”
- “Rich flavor and aroma. Yummy”
- “Smells roast-y. Smooth, a little sour”
It was universal: we found the French press coffee to be darker and have sediment, while the Chemex was a lighter brown.
Half liked the French press coffee better; half liked Chemex better.
Chemex Band/Musicians comments:
- “Beach Boys”
- “Miley Cyrus (all flash, no substance)”
French press Band/Musician comments:
- Pink Floyd (twice)
- “Someone playing in a smoky bar”
- “Red Hot Chili Peppers”
- “Pavement” (editor’s note: this is my favorite response, although I could probably make an argument for Pavement for any brew method)
In conclusion, coffee is like food and art. It’s not so much about good or bad, but trying what’s out there and enjoying what you like. What’s your favorite way to brew coffee?
*We also tasted a 16-hour cold brew, but not a single taster preferred it over the other two brew methods. No one likes cold brew in the winter, unless you have tummy problems like me. Sad trombone.
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