By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee
If you are just starting to get into different coffee brewing methods you may be trying to decide whether to invest in an Aeropress or a Kalita wave. We sell both on our website as they are great and relatively simple brewing methods. So how do you choose which to try first? James, our guest blogger shares his thoughts after experimenting with both brewing methods.
I started my coffee brewing journey knowing very little about how to make a cup of coffee. I bought an Aeropress and to accompany the device I bought a bag of pre-ground beans from the supermarket. This was my beginning. I cannot remember my first cups to be especially remarkable. I do remember a sense of accomplishment, one that you can only get by making something you are proud of. Slowly, I descended into learning more about speciality coffee.
I bought an Aeropress because the device seemed more approachable than other brewing devices on the market. Everything you needed to brew a cup of coffee, aside from the water and coffee itself, came in the box. There was a set of instructions to get me going but I ended up looking for other recipes online. I never thought that there was a "right way" to brew with the Aeropress. I do not to this day. I'm still discovering tasty recipes for brewing coffee.
At the start of this year, I decided to purchase a Kalita Wave, my first pour-over or "drip" coffee device. I wanted to see how I could make a good cup of coffee with a device that was not the Aeropress. It seemed like pour-over brewing was the next step forward. Rather than just reading about the cups you could make with a pour-over, I wanted to dive right in. Since I've had both devices, I have noticed a few things about their use and their cup profile.
When I first got started with pour-over brewing, I had to think about all the new equipment I would need. This was something I avoided when I started brewing coffee because I told myself not to buy equipment until I was sure that I really wanted to make coffee at home. Pour-over brewing is unlike the Aeropress in that you need multiple pieces of separate equipment. I bought a Kalita Wave, filters for the device, and the gooseneck kettle.
The Aeropress comes out of the box with filters, a stirring paddle, and a scoop for measuring beans. I do not use the scoop for measuring because scales are more accurate but every piece of equipment that came with the Aeropress has come in handy at some point down the line.
Both the Aeropress and the Kalita Wave require some technique to get started. While the Aeropress does come with a recipe in the box, there are so many others out there that claim to produce a better cup profile. I have experimented with a number of recipes and I have enjoyed trying each one. I'm still not sure I have a go-to recipe, even though I thought I did for a while. There are so many variables with which to experiment. The Kalita Wave, likewise, has plenty of recipes. I spent some time refining my technique for each device before I was able to be more consistent with my brews.
I found that the barrier to entry for the Aeropress was slightly lower than that of the Kalita in terms of information. I think this is because so many people talk about the Aeropress and how it works.
While there is a big community around the Kalita Wave, I felt like I needed to know more to get started. I had learned about topics like agitation beforehand. But, and I'm just realising this now, there was a lot I learned that I did not need to know to brew a cup. It's up to you how much you choose to learn. You do not need to know that much about coffee theory to brew a delicious cup. It all depends on how much experimentation you want to do and how much time you have to devote to learning about coffee.
I have noticed that the cup profiles produced by the Aeropress and the Kalita Wave differ. The Kalita Wave produces a surprisingly clean cup in terms of colour. I say "surprisingly" because I was used to muddier cups of coffee with the Aeropress. I suspected this had something to do with my using the wrong grind setting and pushing too hard so I made some changes to my recipe. But, even after making changes, I still produced cloudier brews than I did with the Wave.
If I had to choose, I would say I prefer the coffee from the Wave. It tastes cleaner and I feel like when I brew a cup well enough I'm able to get more from each of the flavours. With that said, the Aeropress can produce many delicious cups with the right recipe. The Aeropress hooked me on brewing coffee at home.
I cannot discount the clean up of each brewing method. Whereas it usually takes me a few minutes to clean up my Kalita Wave, it is incredibly easy to clean the Aeropress. I need to wait for my Kalita Wave to drain -- either into my mug or another carafe if I have stopped brewing -- before I can throw it away. I've made more messes with the Kalita Wave filters than I can remember making with the Aeropress. With the Aeropress, all I need to do is remove the cap, push the grounds into the bin, and wipe the device.
I like both brewing methods and I am still actively experimenting with each. Although I must say I like the ritual of brewing with the Kalita Wave. I get quite taken in by the flow of water from my gooseneck kettle. In terms of experiments, I'm trying a continuous pour on the Kalita Wave. I plan to try using two Aeropress filters to see if it makes a difference in the final cup. I happily use both of these brewing methods because I find they are approachable and you can produce delicious cups.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way of brewing with less clean up time and a lower equipment investment, I’d recommend the Aeropress. While the Aeropress may have a playful community, the device is capable of making excellent cups of coffee. I like how forgiving the Aeropress can be: a small mistake does not derail the brew.
The Kalita Wave requires a bit more investment in terms of equipment and it takes a while longer to clean up. I think you need to spend a bit more time practicing your technique with the Kalita, too. But, the device produces a really complex and clean cup. I have been delighted by so many brews on the Kalita and I’ve only just started playing around with the brewing device.
Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog
Read our brew guides for both methods HERE.