Make It Monday: Manual Coffee Brewing with the Bonavita Immersion Dripper

I would like to encourage you to try a manual coffee brewing method. There are many methods (and I have most of them) and they all can make a fantastic cup of coffee, but my current favorite brewer is the Immersion Dripper from Bonavita.

Why go through the process of a manual brew when you have a perfectly good automatic drip coffee machine? I know how you feel because I have the fantastic Bonavita BV-1900TS 8-cup Brewer. This makes a great pot of coffee and I am very happy with it.

But here is the thing - I am the only one who drinks coffee in the morning in my house. So making a full pot is a waste. You can make a half pot in this brewer - and it tastes as good as a full pot - but if I drink two cups then there is some left over and if I want a third cup there is not enough left in the carafe for a full cup. When I have company, and I need a pot of coffee this is the way to go, but when it is just me it is overkill.

So I brew my coffee one cup at a time. Some of the advantages of going this route are:

  1. I don't waste coffee. I use the freshly roasted Dynamite Roasting coffee that we carry in the store and it is a shame to grind and brew some of this black gold and not drink it.
  2. Manual brewing methods generally provide a superior tasting cup than automatic brewers. This is due, in large part, to the amount of control you have in the process. You control the water temperature and timing to get the taste you want.
  3. Hot coffee for every cup. Because I am brewing fresh for each cup I am guaranteed a hot cup of coffee every time.

Popular Manual Brewing Methods

There are a number of manual methods for brewing coffee, but the two most popular are Pour Over and Full Immersion.

In the Pour Over method - which includes the popular Chemex-style and Hario-style brewers - the coffee is placed in a filtered cone and you pour the hot water over the coffee. The water drips through the coffee and out the bottom of the cone immediately. You control the taste with the grind size and the rate at which you pour the water. You usually use a fine grind on the coffee and shoot for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes for the pour. This method produces a clean cup with very little acidity or bitterness.

With the Full Immersion method, the coffee steeps like tea. The coffee stays in contact with the water for the full brewing time. The most popular version of the Full Immersion method is the beloved French Press. This is a dead simple method and makes a bolder, fuller tasting coffee. Usually you use a coarse grind, put the grounds and the hot water in the pot and let it steep for 4 minutes. Then press the grounds to separate them from the coffee and pour. 

Well, let me introduce you to the Bonavita Immersion Dripper.

This clever brewer combines the simplicity of the Full Immersion method with clean taste of the Pour Over method. Some of the highlights of this brewer are:

  • Porcelain construction. The coffee never touches anything plastic. And porcelain has some good thermal characteristics that keep the coffee hot throughout the brewing process.
  • A clever valve on the bottom which when closed keeps the coffee in the brewer and when open allows the coffee to flow through.
    • When closed, the brewer is acting the same as the french press and allowing the coffee to steep.
    • When open, the brewer is acting the same as a pour over and allowing the coffee to pass through to the cup.
      • You can actually leave the valve open during the brewing process and use the brewer as a pour over brewer.
  • Easy clean up. One of the complaints about the french press brewer is that cleaning the grounds from the pot is a painful process which requires a faucet and a sink. With the Bonavita brewer you simply remove the paper filter and drop it in the trash or compost bin.
  • No coffee grinds in the cup. Another complaint about the french press method is that the metal filter does not trap the finer coffee grinds and lets them pour into the cup. The paper filter in the Bonavita process traps all the coffee grinds so that cup is drinkable to the last drop.

So, since this is Make It Monday, let me tell you how I make my coffee in this brewer.

1. I heat about twice as much water as I need for my cup to 200 degrees.

2. With the valve closed and the paper filter in the brewer I pour some hot water around the filter to pre-wet it. This serves two purposes:

  • It rinses the paper of any residue from the manufacturing process.
  • It preheats the brewer so when I am brewing the coffee there is very little heat loss due to a cool brewer.

3. I measure 20 grams of coffee and grind it at a coarse setting. I use the Baratza Encore grinder and have it set at the highest setting (40).

4. I place the brewer over the cup I will be drinking from and open the valve. This lets the hot water from the brewer flow into the cup. This serves to warm the cup while I am brewing the coffee. One of the great tricks that good baristas use when brewing coffee is to always use a warmed cup. This is the same idea.

5. With the valve closed and the brewer on a scale I add the coffee grounds. I set a timer for 3 minutes and add 40-50 grams of hot water and let the coffee bloom for 30 seconds.

  • NOTE: I have experimented with doing a bloom and not doing a bloom. The coffee tastes great either way. If you don't want to let it bloom just pour in 300 grams of water and set the timer for 2:30. The reason I tend to go with the bloom stage is that this lets the trapped CO2 gases release which keeps the coffee grinds from just floating to the surface during the brew. It may be a bit picky on my part, so ignore the bloom if you want to.

6. Add additional water to reach 300 grams. Put the cover on and wait for the timer to go off.

  • NOTE: I use a 15:1 dosing ratio. 20 grams of coffee = 300 grams of water. I like strong coffee. If you like yours not so strong try a 16:1 ratio (320 grams of water).  

7. When the time goes off pour the water out of the cup, place the brewer over the cup, and open the valve. The coffee will drop through the filter and into your cup. This will take about 1 minute.

8. Sit back and savor a great cup of coffee.

This is not as hard as it looks.

In reading over the instructions above I see how this can be intimidating. And it was for me before I decided to try manual brewing myself. But you get the hang of it really quickly. But, hey, it is Make It Monday so let's venture out a little further on the limb. It is worth the (small) effort. If you enjoy a good cup of coffee. Give it a try.

Michael Liss