To Filter Coffee or Not To Filter?

Melitta Elegance Therm Deluxe

There is something about the traditional filter coffee machine, with a big, hot pot of coffee sitting there ready to be drunk, that really appeals to me. It may just be the sheer quantity: I’m definitely one for a free refill, but I love the look, and there is something unique about a shared batch of coffee for everyone that gets missed with other methods. 

Espresso and Bean to Cup machines get a lot of well deserved attention, but they have come to dominate ideas of quality coffee in a way that ignores the fantastic, distinct drink you can get with filter coffee. At the other end of the spectrum, hand pourover brewing – V60, clever dripper, Melitta or Bodum Cones – gets a lot of the attention when it comes to ideas of how to make quality coffee.

Sadly, machines which brew BATCHES of coffee, which once dominated the home, the office, and even coffee shops, have developed something of a bad reputation. There are unfair expectations of coffee being burnt, stewed, or old and flat, and I think this is a shame. While it’s easy to make truly terrible coffee with batch brew filter, it’s also possible to make a brilliant one.

Done with just a bit of care you can get loads of really great coffee in a single batch that will feed a family or keep you going for a few hours.

We have a great range of very sophisticated Melitta Aroma Elegances at the roastery, but recently we took possession of the compact, entry level Melitta Look IV Therm. It’s a great looking little thing, with a stylish glass jug, that takes up a sliver of space,  and with a bit of playing around I was getting some amazing pots of coffee, with very little effort.

As with all coffee brewing you have a few key things to work with. 

  • Grind
  • Brewing time
  • Amount of Coffee

With some machines you can even control the water temperature. On many machines, including the Look IV Therm , this is not an option, but that still leaves you plenty to control.

For batch brew, six to six and a half minutes from the point water first starts dripping into the pot is the ideal. A brewing ratio of about 1 litre of water to every 60 grams of coffee is a great starting point.

I have to admit, the first full batch I brewed of Ethiopian Sidamo I was not super happy with. It was nice, but it was a bit heavy, slightly too chocolatey, and not terribly sweet. It took about 8 and a half minutes

But then I did a half batch: 30 grams of coffee and 500 ml of water, and everyone could not get enough of it. Granted there was only half as much, but it was still genuinely popular.  It was light, bright, rich, citrusy, and sweet. It took just under 6 minutes to brew.

What changed? The size of the coffee bed. With double the amount of coffee, the water took a lot longer to pass through and filter out. The result was a much longer brew and much more extraction, and thus an unbalanced cup.

Next step? I tried the full batch again, but this time coarsened the grind. With a less fine grind the full litre batch of coffee brewed in 6 minutes 15 seconds, and tasted just as good as the half batch. But lasted more than a few gulps!