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Hand Making Coffee at Home

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With the holidays coming up and family and friends coming home and visiting, it's time to pull out your old coffee maker. Or is it? There are some great ways to coffee by hand-brewing it with different devices. The apparatus you choose can alter the way even a single-origin coffee can taste. The figures above show some great options for changing how you make coffee.

The first chalice shown on the left is a Chemex coffee maker. They come in various sizes, from three-cup (about 15 ounces) to 10-cup. If you're brewing for yourself, the three-cup is the way to go, but the 10-cup works great for parties of three or more. The beauty of the Chemex is the ability to adjust the coffee grind to suit your personal tastes. If you want a fuller bodied coffee with more dark tones, make the grind finer. If you prefer a sweeter, more aromatic cup, try increasing the grind size and slowing down your water pour. Chemex can be purchased at House of Coffee Beans on Bissonnet.

The second object is a vac-pot. These are generally Japanese-made and have been around for a long time, dating back to the early-1900s. They use a butane burner to heat the water in the bottom half of your coffee "bong," creating pressure at just the right temperature to shoot the hot water up and mix with your ground coffee on top. When brewing has finished, the coffee funnels through a filter back down into the bottom of the vac-pot, ready to be served. This method allows for a piping-hot, fully flavored coffee and takes a finer grind than your drip coffee maker. We really like fruit-forward coffees from Ethiopia or Kenya in this apparatus, since the aromas really play a leading role here. Catalina Coffee on Washington has a couple of these bad boys for sale.

The third suggestion may be the most familiar: the infamous French press. These work well for achieving a thick, rich, and full-bodied coffee. We suggest using low-elevation coffees focusing on chocolate, peanut and baking-spice flavors. Good Indonesian, Brazilian, or even Salvadoran coffees are all a good way to start on the French press. We have one major piece of advice for brewing with a French press: be sure to pour the finished coffee into a separate cup right after the four-minute brewing is complete. The press is great for adding big body and ease of use to the equation, but the over-extracted grinds at the bottom of the press can be a problem if left there, creating bitter and astringent flavors after a few minutes. Buffalo Hardware on Westheimer has a good selection of the French presses.

Last but not least is the classic Melitta. This was the original pour-over method dating back to the late 1800s and is a great way to make one cup at a time. Exploring different coffees and avoiding waste is what this method is all about. Gravity is the main component here, and the thinner filters ask for a finer grind than drip coffee makers. Melitta filters come in all shapes and sizes and can be found anywhere from grocery stores for a basic plastic filter, to sites like Barismo for more elaborate and intricate models.

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