The future is filter coffee

Preparing a filter coffee using the pourover method with a Chemex flask and gooseneck kettle.
Preparing a filter coffee using the pourover method with a Chemex flask and gooseneck kettle. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

For a country that has spent the past 90 years buzzing on espresso coffee, many Australians are now rising each day with a different cup of joe.

"Filter coffee is definitely the way a lot of people choose to drink their coffee," says Kaden Boekhoorn, manager of Aunty Peg's. The industrial "black coffee bar" in Melbourne's Collingwood hails from Proud Mary cafe stock, and is focused on serving black coffees only; no milk, no sugar.

If you baulk at the idea of downing a cup of American-style filter coffee, know that times, techniques and tastes have changed. Don't worry, espresso isn't going anywhere. You just have more choice.

"With espresso, it's quite an intense, short shot," says Boekhoorn. "So, when you have a [coffee] flavour profile with four or five flavours it's hard to get the distinction. With filter coffee we give you a [less intense] coffee to highlight the nuances in flavour that you wouldn't get with such clarity in espresso."

The two common ways you'll find filter coffee made in Australia are pourover and batch brewed.

Pourover involves manually pouring hot water from a gooseneck kettle (so named for its curved, narrow spout) over ground coffee beans. The beans are held in a cone with filter paper, which then filters into a cup or small jug below. The Hario V60 cone is a common pourover maker, as is the Chemex flask.

The classic Moccamaster coffee maker at Aunty Peg's in Collingwood.
The classic Moccamaster coffee maker at Aunty Peg's in Collingwood. Photo: Mark Gambino

Meanwhile, batch brew is made using a coffee machine that heats and sprinkles water over a hopper filled with ground coffee beans, where it then filters down into a jug or carafe. The vessel usually rests on a hot plate to keep the coffee at temperature.

Light and shade

The growing popularity of filter coffee has also seen a shift in the way local roasters roast their coffee beans, moving away from the darkness of common espresso beans to a lighter roast that allows the flavour profiles of the coffee to shine.

"Compare it to maybe cooking chicken," says Ken Cowan, director of Melbourne specialty roaster Padre Coffee. "You're not trying to add flavour from the cooking process; you're just trying to enhance the flavour.

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"Espresso roasting is more like cooking a steak – you want some of the char. But the whole point of filter coffee, generally speaking, is to taste the coffee, so we've (roasters) seen a clear progression going lighter and lighter to bring [out] flavours in subtle ways."

In the past six years, this trend has seen Padre go from roasting eight kilograms of filter coffee a week to more than 230 kilograms. Around 110 kilograms of this filter-roast coffee will end up going home in the hands of eager coffee fiends every week.

Padre also guides around 130 avid brew fans each month towards the appropriate equipment so they can make filter coffee at home.

On-the-go

Another appealing aspect of filter coffee is speed. Sure, an average cafe pourover coffee can take around 10 minutes from ordering to reach your lips, but with batch brew equipment, making a coffee is as instant as pour and go.

"With the appropriate machine and level of functionality, you have consistent quality, off the bat. You can prepare a batch in the morning, then as the carafes run low, you're prepping more to have this never-ending supply of high-quality coffee," Cowan says.

Order in

An increasing number of suitable machines are available to make filter coffee at home – ranging from small and functional to feature-packed – all of them capable of producing as much free-flowing coffee as you have beans and water.

"People are realising that coffee doesn't have to be milky and espresso-based," says Lars Engdahl of Moccamaster Australia filter coffee machines. "Cafes and roasters appreciate that, and they have been instrumental to push it to the general public.

"It is easy to make good coffee at home. Many people appreciate a good cup of coffee in the morning and once they get into the routine of using a machine, it becomes a dependable friend. With so many good coffees readily available, you can expect very good results."

Coffee wherever you are

If you're keen to make filter coffee at home, you'll need a few devices to get started: a filter cone, filter paper and a set of scales to monitor the ratio of ground beans to hot water as you pour. A full set-up can range from $25 to $150.

The automated alternative is a batch brewer, such as a Moccamaster ($460), a Chemex Ottomatic ($350) or the Marco Bru ($385). A good batch brew machine can range in price from $350 to several hundred.

For the traveller, a popular filter coffee maker for the road is the Aeropress ($49). A travel pack that includes a portable hand grinder can be a real lifesaver.

The daily grind

Your local roaster can grind your take-home beans appropriately. For a home grinder – the best coffee is made from beans ground only moments before being made – prepare to spend the lion's share of your funds on a grinder.

A coffee grinder could set you back a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

"If you're buying a grinder that costs $20, all your coffee will taste cheap," says Cowan. "If you buy a grinder that costs $300, all your coffee will taste $300. And if you have a spice grinder, get rid of it."

Keep it simple

Cowan's advice for beginners is simple: "If you would like to experiment, go to a roaster and talk to someone [who will] show you the difference in flavour profiles and give you [some beans] to get started with."