How Does Agitation Make Filter Coffee Better?

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If I had to choose just one brew method over all others, it would be the pour-over process. Nothing beats filter drip brew in my opinion, and the Hario V60 is my go-to every morning. But like most things, as simple as it looks, that isn’t the case.

From choosing the best beans and grinding them to the correct size in combination with optimum water temperature, and not forgetting to bloom are just a few variables to master. Then Agitation enters the mix to confuse things even more.

However, many coffee enthusiasts do say that for a consistent cup, your coffee requires agitation. But is there any truth to this?

What is agitation? What are the coffee experts recommending when agitating your coffee? And does it actually produce a better-tasting cup of coffee?

What Is Agitation?

Even if you’re a beginner, new to the whole coffee brewing world, you probably already know that the filter process has two necessary steps.

  1. You wet your freshly ground coffee with a small amount of water so that it can bloom for roughly 30 to 40 seconds.
  2. Then you continue pouring water over the grounds slowly so that the coffee starts to drip into your carafe.

Sure there’s more to it than that, but broken down into its fundamentals that’s all it takes to get coffee into your cup after your whole beans have been ground.

However, there’s also a technique called agitation (sometimes known as turbulence). To keep things simple, agitating can be described as a mild disturbance to the coffee grounds during the brewing process.

Nothing is set in stone as to how this can be achieved, with many baristas using their own techniques to agitate their coffee. But before we dive into how to agitate, it’s probably a good idea to talk about whether you should it in the first place – what’s the point?

What Does Agitation Do To Your Coffee?

Every time we grind and brew, our main objective is the squeeze out as much flavor as we can from the coffee grounds. One of the primary ways of doing this is by ensuring we have a consistent extraction.

For example, if your coffee grounds do not have the same rate of extraction, you won’t be able to fully control the flavor profile – or even replicate it for future brews.

If you can’t master an even extraction, then your coffee is going to be a mixture of over-extracted (bitter) and under-extracted (sour) compounds that will be mixed with the perfectly extracted compounds (sweet, balanced notes) — giving you a mediocre cup of coffee at best.

One issue that is typically present in filter drip-brewed coffee is channeling. This is where the water tries to find the path of least resistance.

If your ground coffee is unevenly soaked or has an uneven bed, the poured water will create channels through the ground coffee. If this happens, your coffee will become much more extracted closer to the channels where the water is passing through, and coffee further away from the channels will have less extraction. Still with me? Is it making sense so far?

coffee channeling example

The channeling phenomenon is exacerbated if you pour water too quickly or if you pour unevenly or with an irregular motion. Have you ever noticed your coffee grounds are stuck high at the top around your filter? Obviously, they aren’t going to be fully extracted and stuck all the way up there, and this is due to the water pouring points mentioned above.

If this is a common problem for you, try pulse-pouring your water (half a dozen small pours rather than one long continuous pour) over your coffee grounds.

However, if you really want to ensure that your coffee gets an even and uniform extraction, you should try to implement agitation. Agitating will help to disperse your coffee grounds and in doing so will help to ensure that you have an even extraction every time.

Agitating your coffee is just another part of the brewing process that can be used to your advantage. Especially, If you want to make the same great-tasting coffee.

What’s the Best way to Agitate Pour Over/Filter Coffee

It’s possible to agitate your coffee using a few methods, with one of the more common methods using a stirring technique. Agitating your coffee this way has been recommended by a handful of experts such as Scott Rao, a writer of respected coffee books including The Professional Barista’s Handbook and Everything But Espresso.

When do you stir? There’s no real right or wrong answer here, but as a rule of thumb it’s best to stir your coffee just after pre-wetting your grounds, just before they’ve started to fully bloom, and also you can stir after your final pour.

The stirring agitation method is one of the more popular ways to ensure your grounds are evenly extracted. But, there are other techniques too, such as the “flush.” This is basically when you use your very last milliliters of water and pour along the top edges where the coffee grounds have stuck to the filter. This will send any stuck grounds back into your filter bed.

Should you try Agitating Your Coffee?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a home coffee brewing novice or you’re a full-fledged barista you definitely should give agitating your coffee grounds a go. Still not convinced?

Try brewing your coffee in a Hario V60 or a Chemex and use agitation, and then without – see if you can notice a difference, as subtle as those differences are, you should be able to tell with brew is better in the taste department.

Personally, I can’t use a coffee siphon or my Clever Dripper, or even the French Press, for that matter, without agitating my coffee grounds – it’s a must!

The great thing about third-wave coffee is having the ability to experiment to your heart’s content. So. Go on, jump straight in and experiment with agitation, and see how it works for you.

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