In volume 1 of our Home Brewers Guide To Coffee we will be discussing the V60 pour-over style and its role in the coffee world, as well as the equipment that we use and a few personal recipes that you can try yourself at home.
If you've never tried pour-over coffee or filter coffee let alone home brewing filter coffee you might be a little overwhelmed with all of the options at your disposal. Kalita wave? AeroPress? Batch brew? The list is endless and they all serve their own particular needs in achieving their goals. For example could make batch brew at home? Absolutely. Should you? Well that depends if you drink numerous cups of coffee throughout the day, but generally we'd say no. Do you have friends coming over for a coffee? Then you should probably keep the AeroPress in the cupboard as hand-making multiple single cups could take an eternity.
V60 is the method that we currently use for the vast majority of our own personal home brew coffee, and why is this? It's because the ability to fine tune variables, to tweak and experiment depending on the type of roast your beans have, how recently they were roasted, the process of roast etc takes this style of brewing into the realms of a science. We'll go into slightly more detail as we outline our guide from start to finish in brewing using this temperamental equipment.
The first step in any successful brew is the coffee beans themselves; select coffee that suits your requirements, for V60 we absolutely make sure we're buying coffee specifically roasted for the filter process, for this we recommend asking your local roaster what they recommend (we recommend Blacklist for Australians, a fantastic roastery based in Perth making waves with their experimental roasts), if they aren't sure or the bag itself doesn't say which brewing technique this bean is best for then we recommend going elsewhere. Next selecting the region you prefer based on flavours you like is important, typically African beans tend to be more fruity whereas South American tends to be more chocolatey or earthy. From there knowing whether you prefer a washed, natural or even honey roast process is something that you'll learn over time, for us personally we prefer natural varieties as the flavours tend to be more rich compared to a silkier almost dark tea like coffee that you can often get with washed.
The second step is grinding and for this we use the oft touted Baratza Encore for it's minimalist approach to doing one thing and doing it well, grinding coffee. If you're still new or unwilling to spend the money on this piece of equipment then we recommend a burr hand grinder, never used a herb or cheap coffee grinder with metal blades as the consistency in grind size will be nonexistent making it incredibly unlikely that you'll be able to brew a consistent cup. We tend to lean toward grinding coarser than fine as you will see below we prefer a pulse method of pouring which doesn't work as well with a fine grind. Remember, if you start tasting sourness then you're either too coarse or your water isn't hot enough.
Next is the water itself, we use filtered water that we heat to 95C and then adjust depending on the flavours we're getting; bland? maybe you need to extract more, water temperature can go up a little and maybe your grind can be a little finer for example. We use a kettle with temperature control that we pour into a small metal goose-neck pourer as using a slower more time savvy pouring method is only possible with a goose-neck spout, otherwise simply dumping water from your kettle onto the coffee you're likely to extract a lot from the top layers of coffee and not a lot from the lower making a very imbalanced cup.
Next you want to use paper filters with the right size for your V60 dripper, if you're using a traditional Hario 2 cup plastic V60 like we are then the Hario V60 2 cup pack of filter papers will be fine, no need to import specific papers as far as we're concerned, as long as you rinse the paper thoroughly to get rid of any potential lingering paper taste and to also heat the V60 cup itself then you should be fine.
Finally it's time to use your coffee! We recommend giving your freshly ground (always grind right before brewing, we heavily recommend investing in even a cheap burr hand-grinder over having a cafe grind an entire bag for you, your coffee will stay fresher for significantly longer doing this yourself) coffee a quick smell to enjoy how amazing it smells and to also see if you can smell any flavours that you'll be trying to extract. A quick tip is to read the tasting notes on a coffee and treat them as a non-definitive guide, it may say chocolate and you taste red wine and that's perfectly fine however we recommend brewing for the flavours you expect, trying to brew a slightly "weaker" coffee to extract fruity notes from a bean that's supposed to taste mostly of dark chocolate probably isn't going to work, but pulling the coffee:water ratio down a bit further to pull more earthy notes from a dark chocolate noted coffee may be the way to go.
Lastly you have the techniques of which there are myriad. Scott Rao's method tends to be one that is recommended to newcomers as it's quite simplified and takes a few variables out by having one long post-bloom pour rather than multiple; James Hoffman's method is also highly recommended and the one most similar to our own recipe, and lastly Tetsu Kasuya's 4:6 method is backed by Hario themselves! It can seem mind boggling how many techniques and tweaks there are and that's simply because the V60 method of brewing coffee is difficult, you might brew two cups using the same method and have two slightly different tasting coffee's. The absolute main thing is to find what works for you, everyone's taste is different and everyone's goals in coffee are also different so we highly recommend playing with a few methods and tweaking them yourself until you find what works for you.
On a scale from 1-10, one being incredibly easy almost push a Nespresso button easy to ten being needing a very good understanding of water properties, chemical reactions in relation to altitude of where the coffee was grown etc we would say that the V60 method is around a seven primarily because of the sheer amount of variables at play that can have a profound impact on your end result. We would recommend V60 pour overs to those who are more methodical in their approach to things, people who like to experiment and those who are after the ability to truly taste what a bean has to offer.
18g coffee - coarsely ground (we are using Blacklist's El Arbol, a Nicaraguan experimental carbonic maceration process that we highly recommend trying, with raisin, red wine, fig and honey notes)
300g water (roughly 1:16.5 coffee:water ratio)
50g bloom for thirty seconds, excavate the grounds when wet with a spoon so that all the grounds are equally damp
Pour until 120g of total water in slow spirals starting in the center and moving out so as to dislodge any grounds stuck on the side
Pour again until 200g of total water in the same fashion
Pour until 300g and wait until the water is around halfway drained then give the V60 cup a Rao spin so as to have a flat bed of grounds to finish
This should take around 3-3:30 minutes and we have found this to work well with African and South American roasts with fruitier tasting notes
20g coffee - medium fine ground (we are using Blacklist's Nelson Hurtado, a Colombian washed process with chocolate truffle, shiraz and berry notes)
300g water (roughly 1:15 coffee:water ratio)
40g bloom for thirty seconds, excavate like the first recipe
Pour until 120g of total water in slow spirals much like the first recipe
Pour until 200g of total water
Pour until 300g of total water, waiting to Rao spin as in the first recipe
Again you should be aiming for around 3-3:30 minutes depending on volume that you're brewing, if you're getting bitterness then you should grind coarser or perhaps lower the temperature a little, sourness you should grind finer or raise the temperature, do these things in small increments until you've discovered what works for you and the bean itself.
A few tips that have worked for us are to let the coffee cool considerably after brewed, usually around ten minutes as the more it cools the more sweetness you'll find in your cup, you'll notice this especially if you drink the coffee very hot and it tastes bland but gets sweeter the further towards the bottom you get; the second thing we recommend is tracking your progress by writing the variables down for each cup & coffee and the end result as a way to learn what variable tweaks work for you and what your end goal cup really is.