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The gooseneck kettle is perhaps the most iconic symbol of contemporary manual coffee brewing. Their elegant swan necks, ergonomic handles and tapered spouts make them ideal for precision brewing. Their eye-catching and modern designs make them the perfect representatives for the third wave manual coffee movement. They are stylish and highly functional, a deadly combination in today’s coffee culture.
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes watching YouTube videos or reading about manual brewing will invariably ask the same question. “Do I need a gooseneck kettle to brew coffee manually?”
A Gooseneck Kettle is a Luxury Item
The short answer is “No.”
Please do not let the fact that your do not have a gooseneck kettle keep you from brewing coffee manually or trying a brewing method that you are curious about. A gooseneck kettle is a specialized tool that helps with consistency and ease in the manual brewing process. It is not essential to manual brewing. It is a luxury item.
You can make a great cup of coffee without a gooseneck kettle.
What does a Gooseneck Kettle Do?
On the other hand, a gooseneck kettle isn’t just a hip accessory for baristas wearing cool leather aprons, it serves a specific purpose.
For coffee brewing, the holy grail is even extraction. That is why we pursue uniform particle sizes when grinding and why, when doing a pour over, we don’t just haphazardly dump the entire volume of water onto the bed of grounds. Water should be added gently and strategically.
Whether you are using a gooseneck or not, excessive agitation due to careless pouring can lead to an unevenly extracted cup of coffee. A gooseneck kettle, when used correctly*, gives you greater control of flow rate and lets you be more precise with where you are pouring the water on the bed of grounds.
It also makes brewing easier. You can control your flow rate by gently tilting your wrist forward or backwards. A regular kettle may take a little more forearm strength, stamina and concentration to control the flow of water and even then you will probably have the occasional wave of water slosh out.
When to use a Gooseneck
The gooseneck kettle does not offer an advantage in all brewing methods. Before you decide a gooseneck will solve all your brewing woes, you need to think about what type of brewing methods you typically use.
There is no significant advantage to using a gooseneck kettle for immersion brewing, with the possible exception of the Aeropress.
People can get a little crazy with their Aeropress recipes. For some of the more advanced Aeropress recipes, agitation of the coffee grounds is a large concern and the recipe author can go to some lengths to describe the vigor and amount of stirs you should give your slurry.
If you are brewing in a French Press or Clever, there is really no need to upgrade to a gooseneck at this point. Unless, of course, you want to.
Pour Over Brewing
The advantage of a gooseneck kettle is gained when using it for pour over brew methods. While you can brew a good pour over without a gooseneck, there are some techniques and recipes that are nearly impossible without the control a gooseneck offers.
A great example of this is Blue Bottle’s Nel Drip recipe. The recipe has very specific times and flow rates for pouring. You will see things in the recipe like “This first pour is almost excruciatingly slow – 45 grams over 45 seconds.” A slow trickle like that takes some practice with a gooseneck and expecting to achieve the same control with a regular kettle will be frustrating.
As I previously discussed, please don’t let this list keep you from trying ANY brewing method or technique.
What Gooseneck Kettle Should I Buy?
When you are ready to purchase a gooseneck kettle, there are several quality choices. There are also many less known brands that could be worth looking into.
What you are looking for is something that is comfortable to hold and gives you control over the water flow rate with minimal manipulation of the kettle.
Here are a few of the more popular models:
- Hario V60 Buono 1.2 liter Kettle- This is the most popular of the gooseneck kettles. It has a large capacity and is also available as an electric kettle. It is prized for it widespread use, low price point and it does a nice job as well.
- Bonavita 1 Liter Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle- This is also a quite popular model. A lot of people do not want to have an electric kettle and a gooseneck kettle and are pleased to find this great option for combining the two. The Bonavita also boasts an option for holding temperature for an extended period of time as well as the ability to choose any temperature you would like.
- Takahiro Gooseneck Kettle- The Takahiro comes in a variety of sizes and is said to have a little better flow control than the Buono kettle. There is not insulation on the handle so the pourer has the option of either developing a callus on the pinky knuckle or figuring out a three fingered pouring technique. This is the kettle that I own and I find the handle to be just a bit on the small side as well.
- Kalita Wave Gooseneck Kettle- This kettle was designed to accompany the Wave dripper and is a solid option. Kalita also makes an all stainless option that somewhat resembles the Takahiro in aesthetics.
Did I Mention a Gooseneck Kettle is a Non-Essential?
I want to reiterate one more time that a gooseneck kettle is a nice-to-have not a need-to-have piece of coffee brewing equipment. A good grinder is more important to making a good cup of coffee, and for that matter good coffee, good water and a scale all trump the gooseneck.
Start with the basics: Fresh roasted, good quality coffee that you grind at home. Increase the quality of your grinder when you can and add a scale for consistency.
When you are ready to add a kettle, consider your brewing methods and what you actually need.
Oh and one more thing, it is perfectly okay to pick one that your think looks cool if it’s in the budget. That is part of the fun of buying one, because they are cool.
Do you have a kettle you love or an opinion on gooseneck kettles and their utility for creating great coffee? I’d love to hear your opinion. Jump in and discuss in the comments below.
*There is really little to add to the basic kettle technique discussion that is not common sense. Since the advantages of a gooseneck kettle are control and precision, exercise that advantage when using the kettle. Most brewing recipes should mention a specific pour technique ( mainly down-the-middle pour or a swirl) as well as the rate you should be adding water.