In light of the most recent news about the devastation of the Asobagri cooperative in Guatemala, it’s hard not to look at brewing a cup of coffee as a small and inconsequential matter. Fussing over the “correctness” of your chosen method as if you’re curing cancer is somewhat comical and it’s tempting to <gasp> do it the wrong way just for the reminder that should you brew a less than perfect cup, with less than cutting edge equipment-well that would be ok. Thankfully life would continue.
Nonetheless, we shall soldier on with added humility as we bring into focus the latest coffee brewing muse that’s “big in Japan,” the vaunted Hario V60.
An ocean away Hario, as glass specialists, has existed since 1921. The Japanese have a distinctive culture around coffee brewing and serving. It is more carefully practiced, more considered, more patient. Have they known something all this time that we don’t? Is the V60 a clue? Perhaps.
Ok, so new is relative but within the last 1-2 years the Specialty Coffee crowd has found, fallen in love with and proliferated the Hario V60 and its equally important companion, the Buono kettle, as a most beautiful method of brewing.
To be honest, we’re late to this party (story of my life-maybe you can relate). The V60 burned brightly for a short while but has since fallen somewhat out of favour. Not forgotten but rather joined by a number of other equally capable and comparable, if altogether different brew methods.
It’s hard not to initially look at this as a warmed over, more stylized, more Japanese version of the Melitta cone filter. Whoop de do. However, that didn’t stop the massive adoption of the V60 by the vocal minority in Specialty Coffee. “RIP French Press, we’re going for clean, by the cup, filtered coffee from here on out. I can’t believe we ever tolerated your murky, sediment laced brews.”
To add to the allure of the V60 was the Buono kettle that allowed for the very careful application of hot water to the coffee. You no longer pour the water per se-rather you gently layer it on. Slowly, patiently, dancing with the rise and fall of the coffee as it blooms and settles. Patience is an essential ingredient when waiting for coffee made this way in a café, as is now increasingly common. Obviously its target market is the unemployed coffee drinker who has 10 minutes to wait for their drip coffee. Mothers and Fathers with children in tow should give this brew method a pass.
Admittedly I haven’t had many coffees off a V60 and those I have had have ranged from taste once and toss, to one of the finest cups of coffee ever. The potential of this brew method is infinite but with great power comes great responsibility and the dark side of this infinite potential is a damning inconsistency. When it’s good, it’s really good and when you miss it’s pretty poor.
We need to take a moment here to just comment on one of the many things the Japanese do and do well. They make beautiful things. Their distinctive aesthetic sense is beautiful and the Hario products are an example among many. There is a balance of form, a tactile lightness and a consideration of small details…almost to the point of the bizarre. And I love it. Coffee be damned. It’s hard not to have your day enriched by the beehive like form of such visually pleasing, functional tools.
Once again, we face down the hard reality that there are a million approaches to brewing with a V60 that range from the quaint to the crazy. A little digging online will yield much fruit. For my purposes, I like to:
– Rinse that paper filter before brewing. Always.
– Use 14.5g of coffee per 250ml of water.
– Grind the coffee slightly finer than you normally would for cone.
– Pour 100ml of water onto the center of the coffee with a slight circular motion (counter clockwise if you’re living the Northern Hemisphere) and then pause for 30 seconds to let the coffee bloom.
– Pour the balance of the hot water onto the coffee bed with a slow circular motion.
A couple of cool things about the V60.
1. The aperture is much larger than any other cone filter. Makes for a lovely free flowing experience and none of the stalled pours that can happen with other filters.
2. The rifling around the inside of the cone looks awesome and functions much like the larger hole in that it keeps the flow going, in this case by keeping the paper filter from sticking to the sides.
3. The paper filters are magic. They impart very little, if any papery flavour once rinsed. Magic.
4. Now it feels like I say this all the time but try your coffee black. Maybe not all the time but on occasion and especially when you’re going to the extra effort of a precise cup. The results from taking extra care using a method like the V60 can be dazzling and really aren’t fully appreciated in with a cream and sugar regimen. That said enjoy your coffee any damn way you please but if you ever want to glimpse the details and special things that make folks like myself excited-go black. To say nothing of your reputation when it gets out that you are a take no prisoners, dangerous type who doesn’t need to be coddled with niceties.
Question in the back?
No you cannot use a regular kettle.
Yes, really. The fine control afforded by the Buono kettle brings you closer to coffee brewing nirvana and isn’t that what we all want?