The Barista’s Guide to Filter Coffee

barista filter coffee

Filter coffee is not exactly a new style in the wide world of coffee. In fact, in some parts of the globe, filter coffee is far more popular than espresso.

We here in Australia have a unique coffee culture when it comes to our daily cup (or cups) of fuel. While espresso is going to be our coffee method of choice for the foreseeable future, there are some compelling reasons to consider adding filter coffee to the menu.

To jump straight to the recipe, click here

What is Filter Coffee?

The name can be a little confusing.

Virtually every type of coffee is ‘filtered’ in one way or another – including espresso. What’s more, ‘Filter Coffee’ is often used to describe a range of different devices: Pourover, Aeropress, Chemex, Batch Brewer, Syphon…and heaps of others.

Another way to describe this category of brewing is ‘low-pressure brewing’, because that’s the one difference they all have compared to an espresso machine. Using low pressure in brewing is concentration. A typical espresso has a ratio of around 1:2 parts coffee to water while filter coffee sits around 1:16 parts coffee to water.

How does that affect the flavour? compared to espresso, the mouthfeel of filter coffee is less ‘thick’ and the flavours are more subtle & detailed.

So, if espresso is like whisky, then filter is more like wine.

Why bother with Filter Coffee in a Cafe?

You might have noticed filter or batch brew advertised on a few coffee menus in some newer cafes around town. Where has it come from? Why is it becoming more popular? Is it good?

I’m sure there are several reasons for why it is starting to pop up but here are a few that we can get behind:

1) Point of difference

Having a different offering can set you apart from your competition, attracting new and different customers.

2) Speed of service

Having a couple of liters of batch brew ready can help during busy periods. Convert some of your long black drinkers or people who can’t have dairy or alternative milks and they can essentially jump the queue.

3) Get excited about coffee again

Finding and keeping good baristas is hard to do. Keeping the coffee offering fresh and interesting for staff is a vital part of why they love their job.

Choosing the right coffee

Surely there is more to it? I hear you asking. You are correct. Let’s start with the coffee.

A single-origin coffee is a great place to start. Filter brewing is the perfect way to experience all the subtle flavours of a high-quality origin coffee. The type of origin is up to you, personally I love the variety of coffees available and spectrum of flavours. Whether it is the crisp, clean sweetness of a Colombian coffee or the deep, fruit flavours of a Natural-process Ethiopian – it’s the differences that make it interesting.

With roasting, most people (me included) prefer a lighter ‘filter’ roast coffee as it emphasises the sweetness and acidity of the coffee.

Many people find that darker roasts can turn out bitter and smoky as filter. However, if you like to add milk or prefer a bit of kick then by all means, go to the dark side, I hear they have cookies.

Similar appearance, different results
Espresso Roast Medium Filter Roast (Light)
Espresso Roast (light-medium) Filter Roast (light)

Professional Equipment: the options

Automated (Batch Brewing)

(Faster / More Consistent / Less Flexible)

These look like the brewers you see in every classic American sitcom, but don’t be fooled. With quality equipment, and the right coffee you can make some seriously delicious coffee.

Batch brewers range from small, domestic units that only have one setting up to large, more advanced units that have more options and capacity. These can be far more consistent that the manual filter coffees while still providing great quality. They also hold ‘batch’ quantities that you can keep temperature stable and have ready to go when the rush is on.

For most cafes, we recommend they start with a small batch brewer like the Technivorm Moccamaster:

Moccamaster Classic Batch Brewer
mmm…Dutch

Manual Brewing

(Slower / Less Consistent / More Flexible)

Manual filter methods can work in a busy cafe environment although it’s not easy.

Getting a pour over order in the middle of a morning rush can throw a spanner in the works, so considering workflow and staffing is important. Another thing to think about is customer expectations. Some people are happy to wait for a filter coffee, others might not.

Bear in mind, with any of these manual methods, you will also need a kettle with an adjustable temperature control – like the brewista smartpour

Some recommendations:

Starting out Next Step Next Step
Clever Coffee Brewer Aeropress Hario V60 brewer
Clever Dripper Aeropress Hario V60

Grinders

No, I’m afraid your espresso grinder is not going to give you good results for Filter Coffee.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a deli grinder already, you will need to get hold of something that can provide a wider range of grind sizes than a typical espresso grinder.

For home use, hand grinders can work well too and cost a fraction of the price.

Some recommendations:

Starting out Next Step
Baratza Forte Grinder Mahlkonig EK43 Grinder
Baratza Forte Mahlkonig EK43

_

Let’s Get Brewing

Click the link below for our printable guide to brewing using the Moccamaster brewer. For most cafes, we think the most practical place to start is with a small batch brewer like this.

The ratios for coffee and water in this guide will work for most devices, however the method here is specifically written for this brewer.

Recipe Sheet: Moccamaster brewer

See our post on the V60 pourover

Filter coffee is a great way to experience coffee and to try new and interesting origins. At first, customers don’t usually ask for filter coffee. However, if you’re willing to offer them a sample, many are very open-minded about giving it a go. Some have even converted from milk to batch completely.


If you’re interested in learning more, we regularly hold brewing foundations classes here at Seven Miles, as well as SCA certified brewing courses that will teach you everything from temperature to water quality and beyond.


 

Josh Bowen
Josh is a coffee master, pulling shots, perfecting brews, and troubleshooting like a pro. Motivated by the buzz of the industry Josh traded a lucrative career in psychology to follow his love of all things coffee. As part of the Coffee Science & Education Centre (CSEC), Josh spends his time educating baristas & testing new equipment. Not only that, he still finds the time to use his skills in our Manly Vale espresso bar.