5 Interesting Manual Brewers & Methods
Monday, March 16, 2020
— Updated March 18, 2022
The year is 2020. It sounds so futuristic, doesn’t it? Cybernetic "perfect cup" brewers, VR coffee you can taste, a coffee mug with a secret reservoir that instantly refills a second cup. Not all of these have been invented yet, but definitely hit us up when that VR coffee comes out. Back in the mid-2000s, we assumed 2020 would be a technological wonderland, and while the coffee industry has advanced tenfold, many people still find manual brewing to be the best way to get a next-generation flavor.
In a world of continuous automation, many coffee connoisseurs still reach for their Chemex, Hario V60 Dripper, or AeroPress. Make no mistake, though. People aren’t gravitating toward these "primitive" methods just because they don’t care to learn new ways of brewing coffee. As the old adage goes, "if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it." The French press, Timolino Ingeni, and coffee siphons of the world are perfectly viable and delicious ways of making the bean juice, albeit the siphon being quite complex and headache-inducing.
If there’s a new, faster way of making coffee that uses a neat robot with a silly name, why not run with it? Because the art of coffee is an experience—it is a meditation for the soul: the patience, the aroma, the simplicity. The world is already crazy enough. Make 2020 your year to slow down, step back, and enjoy the little things because, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, “one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
Make your small, eight-ounce cup of coffee a big thing.
You may know about Chemex, pour-over, AeroPress, etc., so I won’t bore you with yet another reiteration. Instead, here are five manual methods of brewing coffee you may not have heard of. Sorry, Sentient Java-Dispensing Robot Best Friend 9000, this blog’s about making coffee with human hands, not clamps.
1. Cold Drip
Let’s start with the most deceptively simple method. It’s not drip coffee you brew over ice, nor is it the same as the cold brew you might be familiar with. Cold drip is all about patience and attention. You know, those things no one truly needs when making either regular drip or cold brew.
If you’re a fan of how cold brew makes your skin crawl with caffeinated goodness, cold drip is even more concentrated, so much so that it could theoretically cause bonus eruptus, a disorder made famous by The Simpsons in which the skeleton tries to leap out the mouth and escape the body.
For a cold drip, you’ll need a cold drip machine, paper filter, ice, and extra coarsely ground beans. Unlike most brewing methods, cold drip’s brew time is entirely subjective. A carafe of cold drip takes anywhere from one to 12 hours, depending on how strong you like your coffee. And that’s still less time than it takes for cold brew, which will leave you coffee-less for about 24 hours. This is a technique that requires its brewmaster to monitor the number of drips per minute as well as be a living ice machine, as the reservoir requires constant re-ups of ice to stay cold.
But like I said above, coffee is an experience, even if it takes awhile and makes your hands cold.
2. Turkish Coffee
When I first saw a video of coffee magically boiling in a cezve (or ibrik) submerged in sand, I was astounded. Seldom do videos show you there’s a fire beneath the pan of sand, so it really does look like magic. Sand is used not only because it gets unbelievably hot but also because it heats evenly and it’s easier to control the brew. Simply, the deeper the cezve is in the sand, the quicker it will brew, which is already almost instantaneous.
Another thing that may shock you about Turkish coffee is that the grounds are not filtered out, which makes it a thicker and richer coffee. Some people don’t like pulp in their orange juice (which is insanity—it’s literally bonus orange), so we bet they wouldn’t be stoked about this. Whatever your preferences, there’s no denying this is a flavorful cup. I had my first Turkish coffee my freshman year of college. I don’t think my friend had hot sand in his dorm, but I could be mistaken. I try not to pry.
For your own Turkish sand coffee, you’ll need very finely ground coffee (nearly powder), water, and a cezve, not to mention an open flame, large pan, and sand. Mix the grounds and water in the cezve and place in the hot sand. Before you know it (truly before you know it), you’ll have a genuine cup of Turkish coffee.
3. Kopi Tobruk
Similar to Turkish coffee in consistency, the Indonesian Kopi Tobruk is also brewed in an interesting way: in a beer mug. Yes, a beer mug. So pour out that brew to make room for a different kind of brew. Thankfully, Kopi Tobruk isn’t like sand coffee in the sense that it is crazy easy—and doesn’t require hot sand. You also don’t need anything more than a kettle, a beer mug, and medium-ground coffee.
Simply add a heaping tablespoon to your mug (like you would for instant coffee), add your water almost to the top, stir well, let it sit five minutes, and voila, a beer mug of coffee! Simple as that. The only somewhat tricky thing is the water. It cannot be at a rolling boil. As soon as you hear that kettle sing, if you have a whistling kettle, treat it like you would a fire alarm. Exit [it from the flame] immediately, otherwise you’ll be left with a flat-tasting cup. No one likes that.
Coffee is an experience, and experiences should be flavorful. POP QUIZ! Where are the coffee grounds? Correct! At the bottom of the mug! It is not recommended to drink Kopi Tobruk in its entirety. They don’t call it “mud” for nothing.
4. Sock Coffee
I know what you’re thinking. No sensible person would brew coffee in a sock, not unless they were truly desperate. But even then, sock coffee isn’t worth it. Popular in countries like Malaysia and Costa Rica, this method delivers a full-bodied cup, and it’s good for the environment! The specially designed cotton sock filter is infinitely reusable, and you don’t risk the papery taste a common filter can leave in your coffee. No one wants to leave the house, coffee in hand, only to take a sip on the train and feel like they’ve just consumed a notebook. Leave the paper behind with sock coffee.
It’s like the pour-over you may have seen in cafés, but a little different. For possibly the first sock coffee of your life, you’ll need the filter (which is not just a regular sock), water, coarse-ground coffee, and a sock coffee stand, so you don’t have to hold the sock. But if you really want an adventure, we here at Fresh Roasted Coffee say hold the sock. Coffee is an experience, and a stand would only make it secondhand, like watching someone’s birthday party in a restaurant. Sure, you can vibe off the party, but you’re not at the table.
5. Scandinavian Egg Coffee
First off, let's keep an open mind. I might just drink coffee from a no-show sock before I introduce a raw egg into my coffee game, but those of you who have had Scandinavian egg coffee, I have no doubt in my mind that your coffee game is #strong. You won’t find this on the menu at your local coffee shop, unless Oslo is local for you. Let’s try to get through this one, though. Start by adding a whole—a whole—raw egg to your coarsely ground coffee. Yes, that means the shell, too.
Mix thoroughly and pour into boiling water. After five minutes, remove from heat and douse with cold water to stop the extraction. Most of the egg and grounds will be stuck to the bottom of the pot, so just pour yourself your very first Scandinavian egg coffee. If you’d like a little normalcy, maybe run your brew through a French press to remove any lingering texture.
I’ve said it exactly four times before, and I’ll say it a fifth time, coffee is an experience. Coffee is the perfect excuse or mindful decision to slow down and appreciate all that is around you. Coffee can be both routine and ritual. If you’ve mastered your daily cup, maybe try your hand at one of these five manual methods. With so much going on in the world, I have no doubt you’ll feel better having to focus intently on the aromatic magic before you, even if you’re just looking at a sock.