My coffee makers

L-R: Aeropress (2), Moka pot (1), French press (3)

L-R: Aeropress (2), Moka pot (1), French press (3)

If you think I have one of those familiar automatic electric drip-type coffee makers you see everywhere, in homes and in offices (and a LOT of them in department stores), which have become the most popular equipment for making brewed coffee, you’re wrong. I threw away mine long ago. Well, not literally, but I wonder where it went, coz I can’t find it now, now that I wanted to take a picture of it.

Why so? Coz the coffee these automatic drip-type brewing machines make sucks. Ops, sorry if I offended many coffee lovers who rely on this brewing machine every morning. But I’m just telling the truth. Didn’t I say this is a no holds barred type of blog? I found it out myself the moment I first tried the French press, coz suddenly, the same coffee tasted significantly better. I was just glad when I began reading tons and tons of information materials on coffee because none among the coffeegeeks use the automatic drip-type coffee maker. Simply because most of these coffee makers don’t heat the water to high enough temperature for good coffee extraction.

Well, okay, maybe that was an exaggeration, because there is one of such coffee makers that is good — the Technivorn, made in The Netherlands. But it comes with a price, in the $250 range. (Wow! That’s the price of a computer CPU, or one of those “netbooks.”) Sweet Marias says the Technivorns “are good enough to be certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA),” the reason they’re selling only this brand of automatic drip-type coffee makers. Other well-respected coffee gear vendors, the likes of Terroir Coffee, are doing the same.

So, what coffee makers do I use?

French press (aka plunger, press pot)

This is a very simple device, yet produces great, rich coffee. You just put the grinds into the bottom of the glass carafe, pour in hot water (not boiling, but slightly lower temperature), stir, place cover on top, wait a few minutes, plunge all the way down, then pour coffee into cups immediately. Don’t let the brewed coffee stay in the pot, along with the grinds, any longer, coz it’ll continue to extract and you’ll get bitter tasting coffee. This guide from Coffeegeek explains the process in detail, complete with pictures.

The most popular brand is Bodum, a Swiss company (now, I’m beginning to doubt if it’s the French who invented this gadget). Here in the Philippines, Starbucks sells rebranded Bodums. The small ones, good for two small cups or maybe a mug, sells for about P500. The big ones sells for a little over P1,500.

But Chinese-made press pots are showing up in department stores all over! (So, which items aren’t made in China these days?)

In Cagayan de Oro, I found the 88-peso store at Lim Ket Kai selling the small plungers for, well, 88 pesos! At the second floor, at Robinsons department store, they also have plungers of various sizes, ranging from 130 to maybe 350 pesos, depending on size. I was also able to buy French presses at Gaisano-Cagayan de Oro at a bargain. They have the expensive Japanese-made Hairo brand, too. The problem is, supply of coffee plungers in all these shops is unpredictable. Now you see them now you don’t. So if you see some, buy 2 or 3, or more, coz you’ll never know when they’ll show up in the shops’ shelves again.

Why you need to buy extra? Because, the problem with press pots, they break easily. They’re glass, so they’re prone to breakage. Especially when they’re slippery when you’re washing them in your kitchen sink.

I have a few issues with the French press, though. One is the fine grinds that settle in the bottom of your cup. Because the steel filter isn’t fine enough, quite a lot of the coffee grinds get past through it. And while they’re there, with hot water, coffee extraction continues, which could lead to bitter-tasting coffee. Aside from the fact that it might not be healthy to swallow those particles.

To minimize sludge in your cup, you need a good grinder. No, not the usual blade grinder we see in department stores, or that accessory that came with your blender. You need to grind COARSE if you use a press pot. Unfortunately, to be able to grind coarse, you need a burr grinder so you can control grind size. And burr grinders are expensive, and soooo difficult to find in this country, even in Metro Manila. Blade grinders can’t give you uniformly coarse grinds; it’ll give you boulders and powders.

Aerobie Aeropress

Those few but important issues with the French press, are absent in the Aeropress, now my coffee maker of choice.

The Aeropress was invented only a few years ago, but is now very popular among coffee fanatics. If you log in at Coffeegeek’s forums, it is the most discussed coffee maker. The Aeropress was invented by a man who knows his coffee and his science. Alan Adler is with Aerobie, of the Frisbee fame.

The Aeropress looks ugly, which appears like a device that belongs to the hospital or the chemistry lab with its plastic look, unlike the glass and steel and the romance of the French press. But my French press is now more of a display item in my coffee rack, while my Aerobie is hidden somewhere, ready to be pulled out when brewing time comes.

If used as desired by the inventor, the Aeropress produces a good, clean cup. Too clean, in fact, because of its paper filter. That’s why many coffee fanatics hack the Aeropress. A guy named Scott, who’s frequent in the forums of both Coffeegeek and GCBC, invented the “inverted method,” which he described in detail in his blog. This is how I brew my coffee, too. It produces rich coffee similar to the French press, but without the grinds. It just requires more coffee, though, because of the much shorter steep time. I pour water into the grinds, stir 15 seconds, then press into a cup, dilute by adding more hot water.

The inverted method does not use the stock paper filter. Scott uses some kind of polyester material, a filter medium, readily available in online shops in the US. But I don’t know how to source them out in this Third World country. In my search for a filter alternative, I came across a textile material they use to stiffen collars and the like. I don’t know how it’s called; I just point it to the salesgirl when I visit the textile shops. Then I cut them into circles the size of the stock paper filter, wash them with soap and water, then dry them on a fresh clean towel. I do this filter-making ritual once a month. One doctor who once had coffee at home commented if the material I’m using for filter is safe for food use. Well, my answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s carcinogenic, or if it’ll mutate you into some kind of Ninja Turtle. If you’ll die at 99 instead of 100 years, don’t blame me. I warned you beforehand.

Cutting filters for the Aeropress

Cutting filters for the Aeropress

The beauty with the Aeropress, because it uses a filter, you can live with a cheap blade grinder. It’s so easy to clean, too. Just hold it under the faucet with running water, and wipe off the grinds. You don’t even have to use soap, although every now and then I do.

As you can see in the picture at the start of this post, I have two of the Aerobie — one for travel, and one for the home. I bring my coffee kit in a small bag when I travel, so the wife still has an Aerobie at home.

The Aeropress shows up every now and then on Ebay Philippines. But it’s not there when I was writing this. It’s also available at a shop named Eyo on the third floor of Vira Mall in Greenhills, San Juan. Don’t be surprised if you find the shop and see nothing but video games on its shelves. Just ask for the Aeropress. I learned the owner is a good friend of the Aeorpress distributor, Blue Sierra Enterprises, an I.T. company. (Hmmm, I can smell coffee in their office.)

Moka Pot (aka Moka Express, Espresso Pot)

This is Italian made, by Bialetti. Not really an espresso maker, but the Moka Express is referred to as the stovetop espresso maker. This is so common in Italy, maybe even more common than our usual coffee maker here in the Philippines. I tried brewing coffee with this a few times, but I didn’t like the resulting coffee. But the coffee I roasted, brewed by the maid of my friend Pressia when I visited Cotabato City once, was good. They say it takes a little bit of practice to make a good brew out of the Bialetti. But I like the ease of use of the Aeorpress such that, like the French press, my Moka Express is now a decorative piece in my coffee rack.

Moka pots and other used kitchen utensils at Brockenhaus in Ozamiz

Moka pots and other used kitchen items at Brockenhaus in Ozamiz

If you’re somewhere near Cagayan de Oro or Ozamiz, there’s a surplus shop called Brockenhaus owned by a Swiss with a Filipina wife. (The Ozamiz branch is spelled Brokenhouse!) It has a lot of used Bialettis. Got mine for maybe 200 pesos.

So, Bob, why didn’t you include other great coffee makers like the Ibrik and the Yama and the Chemex? I don’t have them and I haven’t tried them. So I couldn’t write about them. Should I acquire any of them later, I’ll add them in my list.

Comments

19 Responses to “My coffee makers”

  1. Benson on January 31st, 2009 8:07 pm

    Bob, James Hoffman has a video (http://www.jimseven.com/2008/11/13/french-press-technique/) on reducing sludge in french press. The technique was developed by Scandanavian barista Tim Wendelboe. Check out Hoffman’s videos on Moka Pot and Chemex.

  2. john paul on February 5th, 2009 2:08 pm

    hi sir, i like to know what is the name of your wordpress theme ? and may i ask contacts of bean suppliers here in philippines ? like kidney beans , green split peas ?

    i like your topic and your wordpress theme is really clean

  3. Bobby on February 5th, 2009 2:44 pm

    @ Benson, thanks for the info! I should experiment with my French presses once more. I have all sizes. :-)

    @ John Paul, WordPress theme is right there at the bottom of every page. I only tweaked the background image of the banner. My coffee supplier here, right there in the blog roll, on the right column upper part, Serenity Coffee. I haven’t heard of the coffees varieties you mentioned, though, coz I only know of arabica, robusta, liberica and excelsa.

  4. Rick O on March 11th, 2009 11:32 am

    Hi Bobby! Know anybody selling moka pot or aeorpress in Davao City?

  5. Rick O on March 11th, 2009 11:41 am

    Would you have the contact info and address for Brockenhaus in CDO?

  6. Bobby on March 11th, 2009 11:53 am

    Moka Pot, don’t know in Davao. I only have old contact number of Brockenhauz in Ozamiz (0921-7779267). Aeropress, the Philippine distributor is http://www.blue-sierra.com. Yes, an I.T. company. You can guess they are caffeinated computer programmers. :-) Drop them an email. Eyo Sales in Vira Mall, Greenhills also sells the AP. Check this out — http://www.greenhills.com.ph/details.asp?storeid=1831.

    If none works, I heard there are French presses at DCLA there in Davao.

    Good luck searching for your coffeemaker!

  7. Mindanao Bob on March 11th, 2009 3:50 pm

    I can’t be sure, but I think I saw some of the Moka pot in Gaisano Mall basement, in the appliance section. I want to get ahold of an aeropress or two, though, but I don’t think there are any in Davao.

  8. andrew on March 12th, 2009 3:43 pm

    good for you , unfortunately here in manila you can buy french press only at starbucks and gourdo’s. I have been trying to look for one in the department stores but up to now still no luck

  9. Bobby on March 12th, 2009 11:18 pm

    Andrew, i’m sure you can find china-made french presses in Manila, not just the super duper expensive bodum brands in starbucks and gourdo’s. maybe, just maybe they have some at SM or Robinson’s? Considering Robinson’s in Cagayan de Oro is selling some French presses.

  10. Cha on March 17th, 2009 12:11 pm

    ‘Lang hiya! Here I was, searching for local green beans and I realized all of a sudden that it’s YOUR blog! LOL! Good job, Bob!

    I have all three of what you mentioned. I rarely used the french press after my SO gave me the aeropress for my birthday two years ago. Last year it was a Krups burr grinder. He got tired of seeing me grind my beans with a hand crank grinder I bought in Landmark. The hand crank is still here, used to grind spices as needed. :D

    The moka does take some practice to get the perfect brew. But even then, it’s still a hit and miss. What I do to speed up the brewing process is to put hot water into the chamber. Keep the lid up while boiling because you need to see if the coffee is coming out. Take the moka off the stovetop well before you hear the gurgling sound (this is the practice part). Then wrap the bottom with a cold wet towel to stop further steaming of the water. Brews a decent cup except when I forget to watch it.

    @Andrew: I bought my french press at SM. Lots there actually if you know where to look. Robinsons has them too. I bought my (China-made) stovetop moka at South Supermarket (Pasig) for 500 pesos. If you go to Quiapo, head for the area where industrial and kitchen appliances are abundantly sold. They also sell french presses and moka pots there too. When buying China-made, it pays to take a close look at the parts. Like for french press, the important part is the filter. If it’s bent or has stray wires, don’t get it. For the moka, make sure it doesn’t have any dents. The seal should be intact. Plus you should be able to screw the parts evenly.

  11. Cha on March 17th, 2009 12:15 pm

    Forgot to mention. About the homemade aeropress filter, the one you’re using right now is chemically treated and not safe for human consumption. Have you tried making the filters out of real coffee filters and just do double layers? I don’t know how it would affect the taste though.

  12. Bobby on March 17th, 2009 12:31 pm

    Hey, Charo! Welcome!!! Whoa, green beans for you? Means you’re roasting already? You should join the Manila Maphia next time I’m there, and cup all night with Dante P. and the rest of the members of the Maphia (Pinoy members of greencoffeebuyingclub.com).

  13. Cha on March 17th, 2009 2:23 pm

    I haven’t roasted anything yet. I’m just toying with the idea of roasting my own after a dismal can of Maxwell Columbian landed in my pantry. I can’t use the thing with either my press or the moka. Could hardly stand in the traditional aeropress way. Got a tolerable cup the inverted way. More tolerable when it’s shaken with condensed milk, chocolate syrup and ice. But is great as a body scrub!

    I’m just after a pound or even half a pound of green beans. Most likely just do the “stir in kaldero” method. Purely experimental. If I botch it up… well… more body scrub for me! :D

  14. Bobby on March 17th, 2009 3:13 pm

    Tita, there’s no other way to coffee nirvana — access to FRESHLY ROASTED HIGH QUALITY BEANS. Everything starts from there. No machine, no toppings, no cream, could ever make your coffee great if you started wrong in the first place. If your coffee came in a can, it belongs to another can, the trash.

    So buy that kaldero, put a handle in it, and start roasting. Check my post on the most basic things you need to start roasting. I started with the kaldero, too. Your kaldero-roasted beans will always be better than $tarbuck$’s, or your canned Maxell. That I promise.

  15. Bobby on March 23rd, 2009 9:22 pm

    @Cha, my Aero filters, must be why I’m mutating into something different from a human being now! Maybe I’m becoming a civet cat, too in love with coffee! Juks lang … at least I have a disclaimer right there, so no one can blame me, or sue me, whatever happens to them if they follow my advice. :-) But yeah, I should find something that’s FDA or BFAD approved. But the usual paper coffee filter won’t work in the inverted Aero. No point really, coz none of the oils you’re after will get past any paper filter. Check out the link for the “inverted method” in my post why.

  16. Rick O on May 14th, 2009 1:28 pm
  17. Michelle on August 9th, 2010 12:10 pm

    Hi, where can i purchase french press here in Manila?

  18. jun on August 2nd, 2012 6:42 am

    hi bob,
    just wondering where to buy bodum coffee makers other than starbucks. can you suggest one in manila?
    thank you so much

  19. Bobby on September 10th, 2012 2:11 pm

    I heard a lot about Craft Coffee Worskhop along Broadway in Quezon City. Haven’t visited the place, but I heard a lot of good news. http://www.craftcoffeeworkshop.com/

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