This is the kit I pull out of the cupboard each morning to make coffee. Obviously I don’t brew manually because it’s convenient. There’s lots of bits and pieces and nothing is automated. Some folks would look at all this gear and write it off as being too complicated.
I love all the various bits and pieces. I continue to expand my collection of manual coffee brewing equipment. I’ll admit, that I have a job which makes accumulating gear very easy and inexpensive. For someone who doesn’t have a job like mine, for under a hundred bucks, you can get a manual coffee kit including: Aeropress coffee maker, Porlex coffee grinder and a bag of fresh beans. The kit in my photo above probably costs closer to $450. That might sound like a lot, but if you compared the cost of decent electric espresso makers and grinders, plus accessories, $450 is a bargain. The obvious advantage to manual gear is that you can take it anywhere, so there’s no compromise when you’re making coffee while camping.
I’d be lying if I said my morning coffee routine is a fast process. Between boiling water, getting the Bellman steamer up to pressure, and grinding beans, it’s probably 15 minutes before I have the first cup of coffee in my hand. While that happens, I’m generally putting together breakfast for my little boy so I don’t really notice the wait. After the first coffee, while everything is still pretty hot and steamy, it’s only about 5 minutes between coffees. Admittedly, even 5 minutes is too long for some people. It’s hard to contend with fully-automated, push-button convenience, even if the price for convenience is crappier coffee. I once had a potential customer email me asking me to convince them to buy a manual coffee grinder rather than an electric one – I told them to buy an electric grinder. You either get it or you don’t and that’s totally cool. Each to their own.
I love the tactile nature of the manual brewing process and that I’m in control of every step. I know what roughly 8 bars of pressure feels like. I can feel the lack of pressure if I have ground my beans too coarsely. I know how different it feels to hand grind dark and light roasted coffee or low and high density beans. Regardless of whether you’re using a $50 Porlex or a $300 LIDO grinder, you’re going to get a little workout. Hand grinding is the most physical part of the whole process.
I love that manual brewing can be a little inconsistent as it means I learn something new every time I brew. Naturally there’s more variation than with an automatic machine. Wrestling with variables makes me a better barista and gives me a greater appreciation of how much goes into a great cup of coffee.
It’s easy to get up and running making good coffee manually, but like anything, it can take time to learn to make truly great coffee. It is absolutely worth the effort. I’ll wager that once someone switches to manual brewing they’re unlikely to go back to lazy, crappy coffee. For me the ritual is as addictive as the caffeine.