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What I Discovered From a Month of Manual Coffee Brewing

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The 31 days of my Brewing Coffee Manually Challenge have come and gone without incident or significant excitement on the coffee front. There were a few introspective early morning brew sessions and times when I thoroughly enjoyed (and abused) my .5 square feet of extra counter space. Many cups of outstanding coffee were had and, overall, I’d say the exercise was a smashing success.

When the smoke had cleared a bit and my filters were restocked, I sat down and tried to dissect what I could take away from it all. Here are a few things I learned by giving up my automatic coffee maker for a month:

I don’t need an automatic coffee maker for day-to-day operations

I will go even further and say, “At this point, I don’t want an automatic coffee maker for my day-to-day operations.” I found that I look forward to brewing my coffee manually in the morning (even really early) and realized how much I dreaded prepping my coffee the night before.

Picking your brew method and coffee from a number of choices is a nice way to start a day. It starts your day on an intentional note and gives you a five minute pause where you can focus on something you enjoy.

My college wrestling coach used to tell us to wake up in the morning, look yourself square in the face in the mirror and say to yourself “It’s a great day to get up and go get ‘um!” My new morning manual brewing ritual kind of does that for me.

I like starting my day on this positive note. All great days should start with a great cup of coffee.

Automatic coffee makers have their merits

I will not be getting rid of my automatic coffee maker. Let’s face it, automation is handy. I may consider upgrading at some point to a Bonavita (you can use it with a Chemex too).

I will primarily use my auto drip for times when we have company. Manually brewing coffee for a large amount of people, while very satisfying, can take a lot of time and effort. Sometimes it is better to stay off of the brew bar and spend time with people that are there to see you.

Manual brewing does use more coffee. If you have budgetary constraints on your coffee consumption, using a coffee maker in the mornings or during the week might be a compromise you will want to consider. An automatic drip (I’m not talking about those single serving pod coffeemakers) is more economical to run than a typical manual brewing set up. This is especially true if you drink a lot of coffee or brew for multiple people.

It is all about the tradeoffs.

There is a lot I don’t know about coffee

A month of consistent manual brewing for two people raised more questions than answers for me. I came to the realization that there is a lot more I want to know about coffee.

This is a good thing. As I have shared before, I am a tinkerer. I have quite a few things I would like to try in the months ahead. I can not solely credit this exercise for this, but changing things up always seems to spark some additional creativity and curiosity.

Next time I will have a new challenge to discuss.

What about you? Did anyone try a new brew method or technique this month? Is there anyone who tried manual brewing and decided it was too much of a hassle to do on a consistent basis?


  1. Jeff Borack

    What questions did a month of manual brewing raise?

    • John

      Hey Jeff,
      This is definitely the very abbreviated version of my recent musings on manual brewing. I have a notebook full of stuff. I’m going to be digging in a little deeper next week and then hopefully springboard into some of those questions. Thanks for reading!

  2. Tirso

    Inspiring post. A zen like process in the morning. I might pick up on this as well. Currently I use a Bialetti espresso can to make my morning coffee. I have a grinder, but have not used it yet. Any bean blending tips for a beginner?

    • John

      I don’t have much experience with a Moka Pot but I definitely would include it as a manual brewing method. Getting a manual drip brewer like the Melitta Ready Set Joe, is an inexpensive way to try something new.

      Grinding your coffee right before you use it is a great way to improve your brewed coffee cup quality. Depending on the type of grinder, it make be hard to get a consistent fine grind you are happy with for your Moka Pot but it is worth a shot.

      Blending beans at home is something I could and hopefully will write an entire post on. There is a classic blend like Mocha Java that is half Yemen (Mocha) and half Java. Since it can be hard to find coffee from these regions, you can do a play on it with a Natural Ethiopian and almost any of the coffee from the Malay Archipelago (most people will do Sumatra).

      If blending coffee at home is something that interests you, I encourage you to just try some combinations of various coffees you think would taste good together and see what happens. Let me know what you learn.

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