Brewing Methods: Comparing Specialty Coffee Techniques

A coffee machine extracting an espresso shot into a white mug

The world of specialty coffee is an enticing realm of vibrant flavours, intriguing origins, and meticulous care for a quality product. Unlike mass-produced coffee, specialty beans are praised for their premium flavours and distinct taste profiles that reflect specific growing regions and processing methods. However, to truly unlock the delicious potential within these beans, the brewing method plays a crucial role. Whether you want a full-bodied, intense brew or a delicate cup with clean acidity, getting the brewing technique right can make all the difference.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast eager to explore the diverse world of specialty coffee, this guide is for you. We’re going to dive into popular brewing methods, revealing how each brings out unique nuances from your favourite beans.

But before we begin, we stock a range of fantastic specialty coffee that we think you’re going to love. Just click here and take a look.


The AeroPress, with its slightly scientific look, may seem confusing at first but this unique coffee maker is incredibly straightforward and beloved by beginners and seasoned coffee enthusiasts alike. Once you’ve got the method down, it makes an incredibly effective cup of coffee while being a simple and compact bit of kit.

What is the AeroPress?

The AeroPress is a cylindrical device consisting of two chambers and a plunger with a rubber seal. To brew coffee, you place ground coffee and hot water in the chamber, then use the plunger to force the brew through a paper filter and directly into your mug. It’s a combination of immersion brewing (like a French press) and pressure brewing (similar to espresso, though much gentler), resulting in a great coffee experience.

Pros of AeroPress

  • Fast and Easy: Brewing with an AeroPress is incredibly quick. The whole process usually takes under 2 minutes. With minimal cleanup needed, it’s a fantastic option for those rushed mornings.
  • Versatile: One of AeroPress’ greatest strengths is its versatility. It works with a wide range of grind sizes, allowing you to experiment. You can even tweak water temperature, brewing time, and stirring techniques to fine-tune your cup, exploring both traditional and “inverted” AeroPress methods.
  • Flavorful Results: The AeroPress produces a full-bodied cup with rich flavour that often surprises people expecting a weaker brew due to its speed. The paper filter creates a clean cup of coffee without the sediment you might find in a French press.
  • Portable and Durable: The compact, plastic construction makes the AeroPress ideal for travel. Whether camping, hiking or simply brewing at your work desk, it delivers delicious coffee in any setting.

Cons of AeroPress

  • Small Capacity: Most AeroPress recipes are for a single serving. If brewing for multiple people, you’ll need to repeat the process.
  • Learning Curve: While fundamentally simple, there is some room for experimentation with an AeroPress. Don’t be discouraged if your first few cups aren’t perfect; it’s all part of discovering your ideal brewing method. Some people even prefer the inverted method for the AeroPress.

The AeroPress bridges quick convenience with customisable coffee exploration. Its forgiving nature makes it an excellent choice for beginners, while its potential to extract complex flavours will keep seasoned coffee lovers experimenting for years to come.

Espresso Machine

The espresso machine, in all its variations, holds a special place in the world of coffee. It symbolises traditional coffee culture and the potential for rich, multi-layered coffee experiences. While a true espresso machine (not a pod-based espresso machine) is arguably the pinnacle of quality coffee, it can also have a higher price tag to get started.

What is an Espresso Machine?

An espresso machine works by forcing hot water, under high pressure, through finely ground and densely packed coffee. This process extracts a small amount of intensely concentrated coffee, resulting in an espresso. Espresso shots form the base for countless classic drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more. A good espresso is the start of a great coffee.

Pros of an Espresso Machine

  • Classic Coffee Drinks: If you dream of making barista-style lattes or cappuccinos at home, a quality espresso machine is essential. Nothing replicates that creamy espresso base.
  • Intense Flavour: Espresso delivers a bold, concentrated coffee experience, highlighting complex flavour notes in your specialty beans. There’s a delightful sweetness and depth you won’t achieve with other brewing methods.
  • Customisable: Higher-end espresso machines offer extensive control over brewing parameters like water temperature, pressure, and extraction time. This allows for serious fine-tuning to achieve your perfect espresso shot.

Cons of an Espresso Machine

  • Cost: A quality espresso machine can be a significant investment. Costs vary widely based on features and whether you choose a manual, semi-automatic, or fully automatic model.
  • Steep Learning Curve: Using an espresso machine well takes practice. Mastering variables like grind size, tamping pressure, and extraction time is essential for quality espresso.
  • Specialised Grind: Espresso requires a finer grind setting – not something you can usually achieve with a standard coffee grinder with just one setting. A dedicated espresso grinder is often a necessary additional expense.

Espresso machines cater to the coffee lover who enjoys the ritual and challenge of perfecting a craft. While the initial investment in equipment and skill might be higher, espresso opens up exciting possibilities for traditional and creative coffee experiences.

Different Types of Espresso Machines

To further understand the espresso landscape, here’s a quick mention of common machine types:

  • Manual/Lever Machines: Provide total control but require the most skill
  • Semi-automatic Machines: A popular choice for home baristas, offering a balance of control and ease of use.
  • Super-automatic Machines: Essentially do everything for you, perfect for absolute convenience.

If the entire espresso journey seems a bit intense at first, using a stovetop Moka pot can give you a small taste of that espresso-like concentration at a more affordable entry point.

Cafetiere (French Press)

The Cafetiere, also known as the French press, is a timeless coffee brewing icon. Its simple design and straightforward process have made it a beloved method for generations of coffee drinkers.

What is a Cafetiere?

A Cafetiere is a cylindrical glass carafe with a metal mesh filter attached to a plunger. You add coarsely ground coffee to the carafe, pour over hot water, and let the grounds steep for several minutes. Once the brewing time is up, you press the plunger down, separating the grounds from your finished coffee.

Pros of a Cafetiere

  • Simplicity: The Cafetiere is a beautifully uncomplicated brewer. The technique is intuitive and requires minimal specialised equipment.
  • Full-Immersion Flavor: Since coffee grounds are fully “steep” in the hot water, the Cafetiere delivers a bold, full-bodied coffee. The metal filter allows oils and fine particles into the cup, contributing to a richer mouthfeel compared to paper-filtered brews.
  • Larger Batches: Cafetieres often come in multiple sizes, making them ideal for brewing enough coffee for a small group or a few top-ups.

Cons of a Cafetiere

  • Sediment: The metal filter means some coffee sediment can end up in your finished cup. While some enjoy the extra textural element, others find it unpleasant.
  • Less Control: With a Cafetiere, altering brewing variables like water temperature or grind size can affect your results, but the control you have isn’t as precise as with some other methods.

The Cafetiere embodies a slower, relaxed coffee ritual. It’s associated with cosy weekend mornings and lingering conversations. If you love a strong, flavorful cup with minimal fuss, a French press might be your perfect companion.

Tips for Optimal Cafetiere Results

  • Fresh, Coarse Grind: Always use freshly ground coffee beans aimed specifically for a cafetiere. A coarse grind is essential to avoid over-extraction and to lessen the amount of sediment in your cup.
  • Water Temperature: Don’t pour boiling water directly over the grounds. Aim for water just off the boil, around 90-96°C.
  • Don’t Over-Steep: Leaving the coffee brewing for too long will lead to a bitter, unpleasant cup. A brewing time of around 4 minutes is usually ideal.
  • Plunge Gently: Press the plunger down slowly and evenly to minimise stirring up the coffee grounds.


The Hario V60 is a simple brewing device with a devoted following among specialty coffee enthusiasts. Its iconic cone shape and unique design might raise questions for the uninitiated, but its potential to unlock the nuanced flavours of specialty beans has earned it a place of true respect.

What is a V60?

The V60 is a cone-shaped coffee dripper, usually made of ceramic, glass, or plastic. It uses paper filters and sits on top of your mug or carafe. The cone’s 60-degree angle, spiral ridges on the interior, and a single large hole at the bottom work together to influence how water flows through your coffee grounds. This setup encourages even extraction and a clean-tasting cup.

Pros of V60

  • Flavour Clarity: The V60 is known for producing coffee with exceptional brightness and clarity. It allows the delicate flavour notes and unique acidity of specialty beans to shine through.
  • Control: With a V60, you have significant control over your brew. Altering your pouring technique, water temperature, and grind size can change the flavours in your cup, making it fantastic for experimentation.
  • Affordability: Compared to espresso equipment, the V60 setup is relatively inexpensive. You’ll need the dripper, filters, and a good kettle for precision pouring.

Cons of V60

  • Technique Matters: Mastering the V60 pour takes practice. It requires attention to detail and consistency to achieve the best results.
  • Single Cups: Brewing large batches is difficult with a V60. It’s ideal for brewing one (or maybe two) delicious cups at a time.

The V60 rewards focus and invites a more mindful approach to coffee brewing. The ritual of carefully pouring hot water and watching your coffee bloom becomes part of the experience. For those who enjoy exploring the nuances of different specialty coffees, the V60 becomes an essential tool.

Along with the equipment itself, here are a few additional things that make V60 brewing easier:

  • Gooseneck Kettle: Allows for precise control of your water flow, a key element of success with the V60.
  • Scale: Weighing your coffee grounds and water ensures consistent brewing ratios.
  • Quality Grinder: A good burr grinder provides an even grind size, crucial for balanced extraction with any brewing method but particularly with the V60.

Don’t be discouraged if your first V60 brews are less than perfect! There are countless brewing recipes and techniques online, so find one to start with, and then adjust and experiment to find your perfect V60 method.

Coffee Bags

Coffee bags are redefining the world of convenient coffee. Similar to tea bags but filled with freshly ground specialty coffee, they offer a surprisingly nuanced and delicious experience for those who want quality flavour without the hassle.

What are Coffee Bags?

Coffee bags are small pouches that contain pre-measured, high-quality ground coffee. To brew a cup, you simply steep the bag in hot water for a few minutes, much like you would a tea bag. Once brewed, you remove the bag and enjoy your coffee; simple!

Pros of Coffee Bags

  • Extreme Convenience: Coffee bags are arguably the most convenient way to get a decent cup of coffee. You need hot water and a mug – perfect for travel, the office, or when you simply don’t want to fuss with brewing equipment.
  • Specialty Coffee on Demand: Many coffee bag brands focus on using high-quality, specialty-grade coffee. This means even with the simplicity of the method, you can still enjoy the complex flavours of thoughtfully sourced beans.
  • Minimal Cleanup: No grounds to dispose of, no equipment to clean – toss the bag and you’re done.

Cons of Coffee Bags

  • Limited Control: With coffee bags, you sacrifice control over brewing variables like grind size and water temperature. This might bother coffee purists accustomed to precision brewing, but the convenience is well worth it.

Coffee bags provide a valuable solution for specialty coffee lovers who prioritise both flavour and convenience. They might not completely replace traditional brewing methods, but they’re a fantastic choice for those moments when you want an excellent cup of coffee with minimal effort.

Tips for the Best Coffee Bag Experience

  • Quality Matters: Choose quality brands that use fresh, specialty-grade coffee. A great coffee company beginning with H comes to mind…
  • Follow Instructions: Pay attention to the recommended water temperature and brewing time on the packaging for the best results.

Some coffee lovers like to squeeze their coffee bags against the side of their mug after brewing and before removing them. This aims to extract those last bits of flavour, though it can slightly increase the strength of the brew.

Pick up your coffee bags here. 

Finding Your Perfect Specialty Coffee Experience

As you’ve discovered, the world of specialty coffee brewing is wonderfully diverse. Each method we’ve explored – from the versatile AeroPress to the classic espresso machine, the bold Cafetiere, the nuanced V60, and the ultra-convenient coffee bag – offers a unique way to unlock the hidden potential within your favourite beans.

There’s no single “best” method. Whether you value speed and ease, intense coffee experiences, flavour exploration, or on-the-go deliciousness, there’s a brewing method that fits your needs and preferences. The most important thing is not to limit yourself!

Specialty coffee’s real joy lies in experimentation. Try new techniques, play with different beans, and discover the vast spectrum of flavours that can emerge from your mug. Don’t be afraid if it takes time to find your perfect brewing rhythm – the journey itself is part of the pleasure.

Now, we’d love to hear from you! Tell us in the comments below – what’s your current go-to method for brewing specialty coffee? And if you’re feeling adventurous, which method on this list are you eager to try next?

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