Immersion Brewing Techniques for the Home Barista

There are plenty of ways to make coffee, but immersion brewing is a favorite for many folks in the coffee industry.

Why?

Because it's consistent. It's reliable. Immersion brewing offers the least amount of stress for the tastiest results. Many believe immersion brewing is the absolute best way to make coffee. 

KOHIPRESS pouring coffee over glass cup

Let's take a few steps back for a moment. Maybe right now you're asking "what’s immersion brewing? Why does it matter?”

These are definitely valid questions, and we will address them shortly. Sometimes it seems like people make things complicated for no reason.

Is this one of those cases? Do we really need different ways to brew coffee?

Well… yes. We do!

Holding freshly ground coffee in hand

Coffee is similar to food. Different preparation methods lead to different results. Different recipes in cuisine call for different ingredients. Coffee is the same!

Different coffee recipes require different types of coffee, different grind size, different water temperature…

That’s why there are so many different coffee brewers on the market.

In this article, we cover how to make good coffee at home with our portable coffee maker: the KOHIPRESS.

If you don’t have a KOHIPRESS, that’s okay too. You’ll still get something out of this. Our goal here is to make the best coffee possible. If you’re hoping to learn how to make coffee taste better, reading this guide is a good start.

Holding up KOHIPRESS next to a light

Before We Start…

Here are some terms we use throughout this article:

Extraction - the removal of flavor solubles from coffee. This happens when water touches coffee grounds.

Over Extraction - if coffee is over-extracted, it starts to taste bitter and burnt.

Under Extraction - when coffee isn’t extracted enough, the result is a sour, watery tasting brew.

What is Immersion Brewing?

There are several different methods for brewing coffee.

Just like there are different ways to cook vegetables (braising, boiling, sauteing, baking, etc.), coffee can also be extracted in different ways.

Let’s separate coffee brewing methods into two groups for now:

  • Pour over brewing
  • Immersion brewing

The pour over brew method is when the barista continuously pours water over a bed of coffee grounds. The water briefly travels through the grounds, and then it drips from the brewing apparatus into a decanter.

The water is only in contact with the coffee grounds for a short period of time.

Demonstrating pour over brewing method

Examples of pour over methods:

  • V60
  • Beehouse
  • Kalita Wave

The immersion brewing method takes place when coffee grounds are completely submerged in water and left to steep. Once the desired steeping time has been reached, the coffee is filtered out and is ready to drink.

Examples of immersion brewing methods:

  • KOHIPRESS
  • Traditional french press
  • Clever Dripper

Hand pushing down KOHIPRESS an immersion brewing method

How are These Brewing Methods Really Different?

There are many factors that make up the differences between pour over and immersion brewing methods. The most important is flavor clarity vs. body (mouthfeel).

Pour overs typically exhibit coffee that abounds in flavor clarity. It’s easier to perceive high-profile flavors (acidity, sourness) in pour over coffee.

Immersion brewing capitalizes on the body of the coffee being brewed. Some coffees have the mouthfeel of red wine, or syrup, or cream. It’s easier to perceive the body of these coffees with an immersion brewing method.

Why Immersion Brewing is Advantageous

Immersion brewing tends to produce high-quality, uniform coffee extractions. The coffee that it produces is balanced.

This means that off flavors like grass, burned toast, or chemical tastes, ARE NOT present as often as coffee made with a pour over brewer.

Pour over methods can definitely yield an awesome cup of coffee, but the room for user error is much higher.

KOHIPRESS with spoon in over scale

Think about it:

With a pour over, one must continuously pour water onto the coffee. If you pour too fast, you’ll cause excess agitation, making the coffee extract more. If you aren’t careful, you could even miss pouring on some of the coffee grounds! This would make for an unbalanced extraction.

With an immersion brewing method, all you have to do is pour and steep. You can even stir if you want to increase the extraction rate. There is much less room for human error here.

This is why we built the KOHIPRESS.

It’s a portable french press and travel mug that can be mastered by anyone. You don’t need to be a pro barista to operate the KOHIPRESS.

All you need to do is pour, steep, and plunge.

KOHI+’s Immersion Brewing Tips

[If you brew with a french press, Eva Solo, or Clever, these tips can be applied to you as well]

1. Agitation Makes for a Balanced Brew

If you stir while brewing, extraction is accelerated. This means that if you stir too much, your coffee could end up over-extracted.

But don’t let this scare you.

Stirring improves the uniformity of extraction. This means that stirring ensures that the coffee grounds are extracting at an even rate.

Try stirring at the beginning and toward the middle of your brewing process.

Experiment with how many stirs and when you stir while brewing. Start with 2 stirs at 1:00 minute, and 2 stirs at 2:30.

If you feel that your coffee needs to be extracted more (tastes sour and grassy), add more agitation!

2. Dunk the Bloom

You’ll notice that a bunch of coffee grounds float to the surface after you pour in your water. This is called the bloom.

The bloom (a mixture of grounds and gases) is created when hot water touches the coffee. Usually, the more active the bloom, the fresher the coffee.

Coffee bloom example

There’s nothing wrong with the coffee bloom. It’s only natural.

What’s problematic is that the bloom tends to float on the surface for a long period of time. This means that the grounds exposed to the air ARE NOT touching the water. They aren’t extracting as rapidly as the grounds submerged in the water.

The solution here? Just dunk the bloom.

After about 45 seconds, pat the bloom down with a spoon. This will ensure that ALL grounds are extracting at a somewhat even rate.

3. Coffee to Water Ratio

The coffee to water ratio is important to understand if you wish to be successful as a home brewer. Basically, we are examining how much coffee we’re using compared to our water.

The ratio should be anywhere from 1:15 - 1:18.

Measuring coffee beans on scale

In other words, this means that for every gram of coffee, you need 15 - 18 grams of water.

Let’s say you want a 12-ounce cup of coffee. This comes out to around 340ml. Divide this by 17.

340ml / 17 = 20 grams of coffee.

This is a 1:17 coffee to water ratio.

So, why is this important?

Years of studies show that the best tasting coffee extractions happen within the 1:15 - 1:18 ratio range. The more we stick to these ratios, the more success we will have with our KOHIPRESS.

Tips:

  • If you want more flavor clarity in your coffee, brew at a 1:18 ratio.
  • If you want more mouthfeel in your coffee, try brewing at a 1:15 ratio.

To Conclude...

Incorporating these techniques into your brewing habits will make you more aware as a barista.

If you don’t start tasting results right away, there’s no need to despair. Keep trying new coffees. Keep experimenting with different stirring routines and brew ratios. Eventually, you’ll start seeing results.

Practice makes perfect… and good coffee!