Lost Arts

How to Brew a Cup of Coffee No Matter Where You Are

Six tips from James Freeman, coffee drinker extraordinaire and founder of Blue Bottle

According to Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, all you need to brew a good cup of coffee are quality beans, dialed proportions, and a pure filter. (Courtesy of Blue Bottle)

Brewing great coffee doesn’t have to be complicated. The key? Go with a pour-over. While the term may evoke images of mustachioed baristas, this highly portable, completely analog tool is easy to learn how to use and just at home on the trail as it is at your local cafĂ©. We asked James Freeman, founder of the globe-spanning coffee roaster Blue Bottle, to help us dial in our pour-over technique.

#1. Pick Your Beans

This step is really all about personal taste, of course. Not surprisingly, Freeman recommends Blue Bottle’s Three Africas blend, because it’s the company’s most forgiving blend to brew under difficult circumstances—like your backcountry campsite.

#2. Dial in the Proportions

Don’t think you can just dump some grounds into the pour-over cone and call it a day. Aim for a ratio of ten parts water to one part grounds and you can’t go wrong. That said, when in doubt, add more grounds. “Coffee is like butter,” Freeman says. “More is almost always better than less.”

#3. Grind Your Own

Skip the preground beans. Thanks to small, portable hand grinders like the Porlex Mini, you can have freshly ground coffee pretty much anywhere, no electricity required. For a pour-over, stop grinding when the grounds reach the consistency of coarse sea salt.

#4. …Or Don’t

If you’re really trying to shave weight in your pack, check out Perfectly Ground, Blue Bottle’s line of single-portion preground beans wrapped in proprietary, oxygen-free packaging to guarantee the grounds stay fresh for six months. We dig this stuff.

#5. Filter Right

A good filter shouldn’t taste like anything, so forget the brown ones you find at your local grocery store unless you prefer your roast with a hint of cardboard. Freeman recommends #2 filters from Bonmac. Be sure to wet the filter with hot water and dump the excess liquid before adding the grounds.

#6. Master the Four-Part Pour

A good pour-over requires four additions of hot water. The first, an outward spiral starting at the center, should saturate all the grounds and take about 15 seconds, followed by 30 seconds to let the coffee drip. The second, which should last about 20 seconds, starts at the filter and spirals inward to stir the grounds. When the water level in the filter drops to the top of the grounds, repeat this pour and wait until the filter is almost completely drained before repeating it one last time.

Enjoy.

Filed To: Food and Drink / Culture / Gear
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