Hand brewing tips and tricks

Hand brewing tips and tricks

Written by Daniel Carlsson on

Here we thought we would start writing about hand brewing, give some tips and what equipment is required to succeed.

Compared to a classic electric coffee maker, with manual brewing you will get many more variables to play with and thus get more flavors out of the coffee and the ones you really want. By adjusting the temperature and how you pour the water over the coffee, you can adjust and optimize your brewing according to your preferences and which beans you use.

However, it requires a little patience to succeed and some equipment needs to be purchased. But the reward is great - we promise! Below we will describe how we do it and give some tips. But first we start with what equipment might be good to have.


-Kettle with a "gooseneck", this will give you high precision when you pour your water over the coffee and make it easier to be consistent. It also works with a regular tea kettle, however it will feel very clumsy and a bit difficult to be precise in how and where you pour.

- Thermometer, so you can heat your water to the desired level. Some kettles have a built-in thermometer like the one pictured, otherwise a grill thermometer works well.

- Scale, to measure water and coffee (works fine with an ordinary kitchen scale). But very convenient to have a timer built into the scale, which most coffee scales have. Plus, these are generally fast and very accurate in their measurement.

- Timer, very good for measuring the time of the brewing phases and in a way to be consistent when you brew. Works with the help of the mobile phone if you do not have a built-in timer in the scale.

- Coffee grinder, grinding your coffee just before brewing makes a very big difference to the result, the coffee loses about 60% of its aromas already after 15 minutes after it has been ground. A grinder also gives you great leeway by being able to adjust the grinding, you can get more or less of certain flavors. However, there is a big difference between different grinders, i.e. how evenly they grind. If you are going to invest in your first grinder, we recommend that you put a little extra so that you don't (like us) buy a new one when you notice that the first ones didn't keep up. Look for conical grinding discs when you are looking and as a rule you get better grinding quality with a hand grinder vs an electric one for the same money, as it costs a lot more to produce an electric device than a manual one. However, it may be worth using an electric if you need to grind a lot of coffee at time and think it seems awkward to grind by hand.

Filter holder / Dripper, here there are a multitude of different variants and designs. What they all have in common is that they help extract the coffee with the water you pour in and distribute it evenly through a filter.

However, the design is more important than you might think, and you extract the coffee in different ways with a dripper that, for example, has a flat bottom versus one that is V-shaped. We feel that a flat bottom, for example, a Kalita is more forgiving and makes it less dependent on one's technique and how constantly you pour the water over the ground coffee compared to a V-shaped brewer. Here you can instead focus on pulses. The result in comparison is usually a sweeter coffee with more body.

A V-shaped is not as forgiving, but here we get a coffee with a more distinct character, cleaner and more easily defined flavors, even a longer aftertaste can be felt to be suitable for high-quality coffee.

If you instead want a bit of both, i.e. a hybrid, we can warmly recommend Origami, where you can use both flat filters and V-shaped filters.

Worth adding, there are also different materials to take into account, we mainly like ceramics and glass when we brew at home, which have a material that retains the heat well during brewing (if they are heated beforehand) and they feels a bit luxurious. However, if we are going to take them on adventures, we prefer one in plastic or metal, which are more robust.

Filter, choose a filter that is adapted to the particular dripper you decide to go with. When it comes to V-shaped filters, there is a lot to choose from for those who want to experiment. It is mainly what material the filter is made of and how it is structured that makes the difference, this difference contributes to the water you pour over the coffee flowing through at different speeds depending on which filter you use. In other words, a faster filter gives you the freedom to use a finer grind and thus extract more coffee without extending the brewing time.

Jug, we use a glass jug with an opening that is adapted to the diameter of the dripper we use and which then makes it easy for us to pour the freshly brewed coffee into a cup afterwards. If you only brew for yourself, it is of course fine to brew directly into the cup.


Too much talk and too little coffee - lets go over the brewing side!

When we start to brew a new coffee, we use as a standard recipe: 1 part coffee to 16 parts water (this can of course be adjusted according to one's own taste preferences, but a good start).

30 grams of coffee to 480 grams of water gives a suitable amount for 2 people.

As a rule: if you want to brew, more coffee - grind coarser, less coffee - grind finer.

This recipe below is a mix of different brewing techniques, own theories and tests. This does not mean that this is the best method for you. So feel free to experiment and maybe you can find something we do that you can then adapt to your own brewing ritual.

Don't focus too much on the times below, it varies a lot depending on the equipment used, grind level, your choice of coffee and filter. Instead focus on your technique and how you pour, the important thing is to be consistent and try to improve one thing at a time.

1, Start by measuring the right amount of water so that it is enough for both the brewing and to rinse the filter (for this recipe approx. 800 grams of water), then heat the water to the desired temperature, our basic rule is to test a new coffee with 94 °c.

It is a fine balance with brewing temperature, the hotter the water, the more the coffee will be extracted, but there is a risk that the coffee will be over-extracted at too high temperatures with bitter flavors as a consequence. A lighter roasted coffee has a higher density than a dark roasted coffee and therefore requires a higher temperature to be extracted optimally. A too low water temperature can instead result in an under-extracted coffee, i.e. flat and far too acidic. But good when you brew a dark-roasted coffee because it usually has a lower density and with that a lower temperature is required for the water to bond with the coffee's soluble compounds. Another part to take into account is which brewing device you use, some materials release heat faster than then others, therefore it can be a good idea to measure the brewing temperature (when water is poured into the dripper) with a thermometer to adjust the temperature according to these values. The step below (#2) helps maintain a more stable temperature of your brew.

Bottom line, staying within a spectrum between 90 - 98°c gives you a good and reasonable leeway depending on which beans you use. Also keep in mind that an increase of the altitude at which the coffee grows usually increases the density of the beans, which in turn leads that you need to use a higher brewing temperature and vice versa.

2, Rinse the coffee filter thoroughly with the almost boiling water, this way you rinse the filter from unwanted paper tastes. We usually pour at least 250 grams of water to ensure this. Feel free to test the water after it has run through the filter to get an understanding of how much a paper flavors a filter release. Then pour out the rest of the paper-tasting water and feel free to rinse your glass jug with clean water. The good thing here is that you also heat up your dripper and pitcher at the same time to help maintain the temperature during the actual brewing.


3, Measure out 30 grams of your favorite beans and grind them medium fine (i.e. slightly coarser than a normal pre-ground coffee you buy in the store). If you are going to make less coffee, grind slightly finer and if you brew more, grind slightly coarser.


4, Pour your freshly ground coffee into the soaked filter. Shake the filter holder a little to even out the coffee bed. Remember to brew as quickly as possible, as already after 15 minutes after grinding, 60% of the coffee's aromas have already left.

 5, Let the brewing begin, just check first that the temperature is still at 94°c in your kettle/kettle.

For this recipe, we will divide the brewing process into three phases. The first phase is called Bloom and here we "wake up" the coffee. When hot water hits the freshly ground coffee, CO2 is released, also known as carbon dioxide, which creates air bubbles at the beginning of brewing. These air pockets contribute to a reduced water flow through the coffee and also make it difficult for the water to reach all the coffee particles. Therefore, we give these air bubbles the chance to leave during these 30 seconds. A coffee contains the most carbon dioxide when it is completely freshly roasted, therefore it can taste at its best 1-2 weeks after roasting when some of the carbon dioxide has left, which gives the water and coffee particles a greater chance to meet.


Phase 1 "Bloom" for 30 seconds, pour 90 grams of water in a circular pattern from the center outwards, we generally start by tripling the amount of water to coffee in the first phase. Then grab the dripper and give it a little spin to help get all the coffee in contact with the water from the start, this also evens out the coffee bed for the next phase.

Phase 2, after 30 seconds - add another 90 grams of water in a circular pattern from the center outwards at a fast pace, we usually aim to reach 180 grams on the scale before the timer hits 45 seconds. In this phase we want to ensure that all the water and coffee particles come into contact.


Phase 3, after 1 minute - pour on the remaining 300 grams of water in a circular motion at a calm and even speed from the center out and back in to the center again. Repeat this frequency until you reach 480 grams, which for us usually lands in about 1 minute.


During this phase we want as little movement/agitation as possible as most of the actual brewing has already taken place and this can only create unnecessary bitter flavors. So try to pour as close and gently to the surface as possible. We have not noticed that it affects the brewing if you happen to pour a little on the filter wall, we sometimes do it to take down some of the coffee grounds that sometimes gets stuck there.

Finish with a small spin again on the dripper as soon as you have reached 480 grams to even out the coffee bed, so that the remaining water flows evenly through the coffee.

Don't hang up with the end time because it could varied a lot. We aim for a brewing that takes between 3 - 4 minutes, depending how much coffee we brewing.

 The coffee bed should be flat as in the picture below when the brewing is done, then you know that all the water you have poured has flowed through the entire coffee bed and hopefully achieved an even extraction.


Our recipe in a more easily comprehensible picture:
- Water temp: 94°c
- 30 grams of coffee to 480 grams of water (1/16 ratio)
Phase: 1 2 3
Start pouring at:
seconds 30 seconds 1 minute
Water amount: 90 g 90 g 300 g
- Total brew time: 3 - 4 min.

The fun thing about this recipe is that you can play with tartness and sweetness by increasing and decreasing the amount of water in the first two phases. If you want a sweeter and rounder coffee, try reducing the amount of water in the first phase to 60 grams and increasing the second phase to 120 grams. If you instead want your coffee slightly more acidic, increase the first phase to 120 grams and reduce the second phase to 60 grams. This sounds a bit like magic, but it works. If you want to read more about this theory, we got the idea from 2016 Brewers Cup champion Tetsu Kasuya's recipe.


6, Now enjoy your coffee, but also take the opportunity to evaluate what you have in your cup.

The absolute fastest way to master this technique is to brew, taste, note and adjust one parameter at a time.

- If the coffee is too strong and bitter, try pouring some water directly into your cup. Did it get better? Next time, brew with a little more water. Does it still taste bitter? Instead, try grinding something coarser next time or try lowering the temperature.

- Does it not taste much and is too sour? First try grinding something finer next time or reducing the coffee/water ratio. Another parameter is temperature, which you can also increase to extract more flavors.

An older coffee can sometimes be perceived as a bit flat and should be ground slightly finer as it has lost a lot of carbon dioxide and thus flows through faster. While a freshly roasted coffee can also feel flat and you better let it rest for a few days or a week for best result, as it contains too much carbon dioxide which makes it difficult for the water to reach each individual coffee particle. If you, like us, have a hard time waiting, you can grind the freshly roasted beans and wait a few minutes before brewing for some of the carbon dioxide to subside.

That said, don't forget that you should only change one parameter at a time when making a change to the next brew to know what it was that made a difference to the end result. We recommend always starting by changing the grind ratio.

Paper and pen, as a fun thing, it can be good to write down how you brewed, i.e. what degree of grinding, water to coffee ratio, how was the result and what flavors you felt. Something you missed? This makes it easier to change your parameters for the next time while developing your brewing technique and improving your flavor repertoire.

As you see, it's possible to be as technical as you like when it comes to coffee brewing, and of course you can make this much simpler if you like. In the end, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy your coffee.

Happy brewing!