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In the pursuit of excellent coffee, we should consider the finer details; such as the coffee filter.
The History of The Cotton Filter
The origins of the cotton filter date back more than 200 years, and although historians are uncertain of the specifics, it is believed that the very first coffee filter was a sock. People would quite simply fill a sock with coffee grounds and pour hot water through it. Today, the method is similar, though slightly more refined.
How a Cotton Filter Works
Modern-day cotton filters largely make use of the pour over method (although the coffee sock is still very much in use). Pour over coffee is a straightforward way to make smaller quantities of coffee and involves pouring simmering water over a bed of coffee grounds, which brews the coffee as the hot water passes through. This method is manual, allowing you maximum control over the process as you can ensure there is an even saturation and a controlled drip rate.
Cotton works especially well for this method. Since it is 90% cellulose, an odourless and tasteless compound that is insoluble in water, it will impart no flavour of its own to the coffee. The slightly more relaxed weaving also provides less resistance than paper filters, so the brewing time is quicker without compensating on the efficiency of the extraction.
If you are familiar with home brewing with metal filters and paper filters, you may be aware of what they each have to offer: a robustly flavoured, full-bodied coffee accompanied by sediment versus a bright, clean cup of coffee free of residue.
The cotton filter is delightfully situated between these two ends of the spectrum, producing a coffee with the perfect balance of mouthfeel and clarity. It is able to achieve these results as the weaving of the cloth is fine enough to expertly catch the micro-grounds during the brewing process while allowing enough of the aromatic oils from the coffee beans to pass through to enhance the flavour without obscuring the clarity resulting in a cup that is aromatic and bright with robust flavours and refined acidity.
Though it may not last forever, cotton filters are reusable and will thus have a minimal impact on the environment. They are also flexible, meaning you can use the same cotton filter in different sized brewers without having to purchase a separate filter. When the time for a replacement does eventually come, you can always compost the cotton portion of your used filter.
While a cotton filter is very easy to work with, some may find it difficult to keep clean. It is important to maintain the filter by thoroughly washing it between brews and allowing it to fully dry to avoid the fabric retaining any residual flavour. With this in mind, if you are willing to devote time to maintaining your cotton filter, you will be repaid with coffee that has a deliciously smooth body and much more lively and vibrant flavours.
Should You Use a Cotton Filter?
The cotton filter is a superb choice for anyone who enjoys the meditative act of making coffee. It is both effective at the very thing it promises, filtering grounds from coffee, while still allowing the natural essence of the coffee to shine through.
How to Use a Cotton Filter:
Step 1: Bring at least 400ml of water to a boil (~95°C).
Step 2: Grind your coffee beans to a coarse grind, similar to the size of peppercorns.
Step 3: Pour hot water in your cotton filter till it is completely wet and then pour out the excess water.
Step 4: Add the ground coffee (we recommend 12g per cup) to your filter and gently tap it to level the coffee.
Step 5: Begin pouring water slowly over the coffee, starting at the centre and moving in a steady spiral towards the outer edge of the grounds.
Step 6: Once all the coffee is properly saturated and the water has dripped through, repeat this step an additional two times, or until you have 180ml of coffee.
Step 7: Remove the filter and remember to thoroughly wash your cotton filter!
Step 8: Enjoy a great cup of coffee.
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