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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hario 'woodneck' design and some thoughts on hand pour

The Hario woodneck is one of those brewers that is near and dear to my heart. It's not dissimilar to the v60 in it's benefits. Well, a v60 using the cloth filter, that is. The woodneck may look a bit like a Chemex but do not be deceived, there is nothing between them that is common beyond the carafe like shapes.

Woodneck spout
I have been rethinking how something as delicate and simple as the spout on the woodneck is created. The technical skill it takes to make something in this shape, consistently, with high quality glass, to exacting standards in quantity is an elegant piece of engineering. It's something we could easily miss in a North American coffee scene dominated by paper and plastics.

The problem is, we don't have a base for many of the manual coffee brewing methods. As we (re?)discover them, there seems to be an almost ridiculous assumption that we are the first person to ever brew with them. Seeing reviews written on these manual brew items by people using them for only a week or two reinforces this though not nearly as depressing as it is to read coffee pundits decrying the blasphemy of 'new' brew devices they seem to have little understanding of.

The v60 itself is actually one of the newer brew devices, only three years out of the Hario design labs but it's brew concepts are based on decades of experience in a culture that does a lot of hand pour (aka pour over) brewing.

I have experienced that a good kettle brew takes the same kind of investment and practice espresso does. That is to say, it is not something you pick up in a few brews and relies a lot more on repitition and user input than do most of the pour and fill methods we are used to. In the last two years of using woodneck and v60, I have come to appreciate them as much as Syphon. It was not until I had spent a year working with them in the shop and serving on them daily in the last half year that I really got to understand these items better and grasped the do's and don'ts in relation to our coffees using hand pour methods.

The woodneck specifically is elegant in it's own right but it is unique because it is a cloth hoop brewing device which are pretty rare in the US coffee culture right now. It requires the same skill set as we have discussed with v60 but produces a slightly different taste profile. Cloth is depth filtration and produces not only great clarity and oils, it gives a very layered and complex cup when done correctly. Take care of the cloth and rinse it well, use it often, clean it with coffee detergent as needed, and it will never 'taste like cloth'. Store it wet in a ziplock bag in the fridge but don't freeze it or dry it out. It will only 'taste like cloth' when it is either rinsed poorly, stored poorly, or allowed to dry out. A good boil in water is often enough to get the filter ready to brew again in short order. These are the facts as we use our cloth filters daily in shop.

So take a moment to enjoy a couple of videos on wood neck. One was forwarded to us from the folks at Hario and the other is a one cup ~6 ounce woodneck video by our own Chris. Catch him on bar in at the shop this Sunday or Fri.

'Jamie lynn will say OMG when she sees this.'

Quote Chris: '2 minute brew plus pre-infusion, 18 gram dose (of light roasted Kenya), 90.5c water temperature. Produces 5.5~6 ounces. Keeping an even small stream of water is very important for this short continuous pour.'

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pour over videos from Taiwan/Japan

Here's a few collected videos of pour overs to give a broader view what is out there.

The following is a famous very old school Japanese roaster doing his pour over method on TV. His book on coffee roasting and brewing is interesting, techniques on double roasting, dark roasting, and the benefits of aging/aged coffees. About as far from barismo philosophy as you can get so you will understand we are not endorsing this method, it's just interesting to view. I personally think the bit at the end where the hosts get into the brewing is the most entertaining part.

Next up is Jet from Bella Taiwan doing a quick and easy continuous single 1 cup 2 minute brew. It's closer to methods we like to use at the moment on our own coffees for a 1 cup but the timing may be different. Of course, every coffee behaves differently and so do different roast styles so match it to personal taste.

After that is a demo of the stop and go method. We use variations of this for larger 2 and 3 cup brews. It involves pouring a little faster and relies on setting the grind well to control the drainage. I had been using this style for a one cup until I finally got comfortable with the continuous pour.

The last video is the type of method I understand Osir of Taiwan does. It involves a coarse grind, lots of volume, and a rapid continuous pour. This method seems more in line with the old school Japanese methods I have seen but it's not one we use.

So there are some basic pour over ideas to get people started.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Catching up with old friends

I have just recently gotten back from a week and a half tour of Taiwan and a brief stop in Tokyo, Japan. It will take me a little while to collect my thoughts and organize my photos but there is a lot to discuss. Tea farms, equipment manufacturers, and a drop in with Hario Japan that all will be discussed in the next few weeks.

First off, it's worth noting something that came as a shock to us. Just after visiting with Simon Hsieh in Taipei, we discovered Simon scored two very high scores on coffeereview to take the top two spots in a ranking of 2009 best sellers. I want to say congratulations to Simon and I hope he gets worthy notice for his roasting skills and ability. As a student of his in roasting and brewing methods, I can only wish him well.

Simon H. on left, me on right.

Strangely enough, we finished 4th in the same poll rather unexpectedly. The request for coffees to be reviewed was for best sellers of 2009, not the sexy premium lots but the ones that have performed well in sales. I believe at the time we sent the coffees, we were nearly out of our Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero and just discontinued our Kenya Kiandu in drip so our lineup was slim.

The Koke scored a 94pt review which we'll happily accept. We only roast this coffee as an espresso as it is very popular in our cafe accounts and is a component of more than one of the Sonata series espresso blends. Since we only roast it as espresso, we took a risk that it would not fare well on the cupping table but we came out fine.

Simon and I only had a short time to exchange coffees, catch up, and brew some Syphon before we had to keep on schedule but it was good seeing him again.