Often when I'm teaching a class—especially to people who want to learn about brewing coffee at home—someone will ask me how I make coffee for myself in the morning. I'm really self-conscious about giving the answer, for a couple of reasons: One, because I don't want to seem like I endorse any one brewing method over another. Two, I know that no matter what answer I give I'll then be prodded for details—How? How much? What grind size?—that quickly turn a friendly conversation into something very boring and esoteric to everyone else unfortunately caught overhearing it.
Third, and most importantly: I don't limit my morning coffee ritual to one way of brewing, and, to most normal people, that makes me seem a little bonkers.
The question is a bit like asking someone how they make eggs at home, and expecting each person to have one stock response: "Me? I hard-boil them. Yes, all of them. Always. Every egg."
Well, that's great, if you really like hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes, however, a soft-boiled egg might better suit both your mood and the foods it accompanies. Hard-boiled eggs don't quite have the sex appeal of poached ones broken over perfectly grilled asparagus, for instance. Sometimes—the hell with it!—you might even want a sunny-side up.
I feel the same way about coffee and coffee brewing, but admitting as much makes me sound, well, like a total geek. I mean, I am a total geek, but that's a little bit beside the point here. You aren't a geek, necessarily, just because you might want the coffee equivalent of a soft-boiled egg one day, scrambled the next. You're just someone who loves flavor, and coffee, and making things. Right?
One of the problems with having and utilizing multiple brewing methods at home is that each one requires a different piece of gear: Before long, your kitchen starts to look like a coffee lab, with all the filters and the pots and the grinder, and the hot-water kettle. If coffee-brewing gadgets weren't unitaskers, perhaps it wouldn't be as much of a red flag of weirdness to have so many scattered atop your counters. (You can use many coffee-brewing devices for tea, as well, but be sure to wash them thoroughly or this morning's oolong will taste like last week's Guatemalan.)
Another obstacle is that, well, most people make coffee because they need it, and decisions made before caffeine should largely be struck from the official record. It can be difficult to mix up a brewing routine when you find it hard to concentrate before coffee, and a second cup might or might not be advisable, which lends itself to the rut.
I propose a weekly rotation: Try scattering brewing methods throughout a month, rather than day-to-day, and give something else a whirl for a change. If your go-to is a French press, try out something with similar principles and a little twist, like a Clever dripper. If you normally use a filter cone, a Chemex isn't terribly much of a stretch technique-wise, but the flavor and body of the resulting cup can be remarkably different.
How do you normally brew your coffee, and do you ever switch it up?
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.