Vietnamese Phin Filter vs French Press vs Pour Over

The world of coffee is simply spectacular. There is just so much to discover, so many options. One of these options is the choice between a French press, the pour-over method, and a Vietnamese Phin filter.

In this post, we’ll take a look at all three of these coffee brewing methods. Then, we will compare them.

Contents

What is a Phin Filter?
What is the Pour-Over Method?
What is a French Press?
Differences between a Phin filter, French press, and the Pour-Over method

What is a Phin Filter?

A Phin filter, also known as a Vietnamese coffee filter, is a traditional coffee brewing tool commonly used in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. It is a simple, portable, and inexpensive device that allows individuals to brew a single cup of coffee.

A Phin coffee filter has four parts:

  1. Metal Filter: This is the part that goes on top of your cup.
  2. Brewing Chamber: In this part, you put the coffee grounds and hot water.
  3. Gravity Press: This part has to go on top of the coffee in the brewing chamber before you add the water.
  4. Cap: The cap goes on top of the brewing chamber.

Origin of the Phin Filter

The phin filter, or Vietnamese coffee filter, originated in Vietnam. It is an integral part of Vietnamese coffee culture and has been used for many decades. Coffee was introduced to Vietnam during the French colonial period in the late 19th century, and over time, the unique brewing method using the phin filter developed.

Vietnam has a strong coffee culture. They use Vietnamese coffee beans, which in most cases, are robusta beans. The Vietnamese usually use the phin filter to brew traditional Vietnamese coffee. This coffee is often enjoyed with condensed milk or over ice.

The Phin filter’s design and functionality allow for a slow extraction process. The result is a flavorful and smooth cup of coffee. This filter has become a symbol of Vietnamese coffee culture.

The coffee made with a phin filter is quite popular among Vietnamese coffee drinkers. However, this popularity has grown and now stretches beyond the borders of Vietnam. Vietnamese iced coffee, in particular, is quite beloved.

How to Brew Coffee With a Phin Filter

To brew coffee using a phin filter, the following steps are typically followed:

  1. Place the desired amount of medium to coarse-ground coffee into the brewing chamber. The amount of coffee can be adjusted based on personal preference and the desired strength of the brew.
  2. Next, use the built-in press or a separate filter press to lightly compress the coffee grounds in the brewing chamber. This step helps ensure proper extraction and even water distribution.
  3. Set the phin filter on top of a cup or mug, making sure the metal chamber sits securely on the rim of the cup.
  4. Pour hot water (usually just below boiling temperature) into the brewing chamber, filling it to the top. The water will gradually drip through the small holes in the metal chamber.
  5. Allow the coffee to steep and drip through the filter into the cup below. The brewing time can vary but typically ranges from 4 to 6 minutes.
  6. Serve and Enjoy: Once the coffee has finished dripping, remove the phin filter from the cup, and you’re ready to enjoy your freshly brewed cup of Vietnamese coffee.

What is the Pour-Over Method of Coffee Brewing?

The pour-over method of coffee brewing is a manual technique. It involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds that are in a filter. This allows the water to extract the flavors by dripping through into a cup.

Origin of the Pour-Over Method

The exact origin of the pour-over method is difficult to pinpoint. Various cultures and regions have had their own versions of manual coffee brewing for centuries. However, the pour-over method, as we know it today, gained popularity in the early 20th century.

One significant influence on the pour-over method came from Melitta Bentz, a German housewife. In 1908, she invented the first paper coffee filter and a pour-over brewing device. Her design involved placing filter paper inside a cup with a hole at the bottom, allowing water to drip through the coffee grounds. This invention revolutionized coffee brewing at the time and contributed to the widespread adoption of the pour-over technique.

In Japan, the pour-over method evolved into an art form known as “pour-over” or “drip” coffee. The Japanese pour-over devices, such as the Hario V60, have gained international recognition for their elegant design and ability to highlight the nuances of coffee flavors.

Additionally, other countries and regions have their own traditional pour-over methods. For example, the Clever Dripper, a popular pour-over device, is said to have origins in Taiwan.

Overall, while the pour-over method draws inspiration from various sources, it has become a widely practiced brewing technique embraced by coffee enthusiasts around the world.

How to Make Coffee With the Pour-Over Method

Equipment Needed

  1. Pour-over device (such as a Hario V60, Chemex, or Kalita Wave)
  2. A paper or reusable filter that fits the device
  3. Ground coffee
  4. Kettle for boiling water
  5. A cup to catch the brewed coffee

Steps

  1. Place the pour-over device on top of your carafe or cup and rinse the paper filter with hot water to remove any paper taste. This also preheats the brewing vessel and helps maintain the temperature of the coffee.
  2. Grind your coffee beans to a medium-fine consistency. The grind size should be slightly coarser than what you would use for espresso but finer than what you would use for a French press.
  3. Place the filter inside the pour-over device and add the ground coffee. Gently tap the device to level the coffee bed. Start a timer and pour a small amount of hot water (twice the weight of coffee) in a circular motion, saturating the coffee grounds evenly. This is called the “bloom” and allows the coffee to degas and release carbon dioxide.
  4.  After the bloom, start pouring water in a slow and controlled manner, using a circular or spiral motion, starting from the center and moving outward. Pour the water evenly over the coffee, maintaining a steady flow rate. Avoid pouring directly onto the filter to prevent channeling (uneven extraction).
  5. Once you’ve added enough water to saturate all the grounds, continue pouring in stages, adding more water as the level in the pour-over device decreases. Keep the water level consistent, maintaining a gentle flow over the coffee grounds.
  6. The total brew time will depend on factors like coffee dose, grind size, and pour rate. Typically, a pour-over brew takes around 2 to 4 minutes. Aim for a total extraction time that produces a well-balanced cup, adjusting variables as needed.
  7. Once the water has dripped through the coffee grounds, remove the pour-over device and discard the used filter. Give the brewed coffee a gentle stir, if desired, to ensure even distribution of flavors. Pour the coffee into your favorite mug or serving vessel and savor the aromatic and flavorful cup of pour-over coffee.

Remember, the pour-over method allows for experimentation and customization. You can adjust variables like coffee-to-water ratio, grind size, pouring technique, and extraction time to find your preferred flavor profile.

What is a French Press?

A French press, also known as a press pot, plunger pot, or cafetière, is a popular coffee brewing device. It consists of a cylindrical glass or metal container, a plunger with a mesh filter, and a lid. The French press is known for its ability to produce a full-bodied and rich cup of coffee.

They come in many different sizes, anything from 1 to 12 cups. Which, is quite convenient when you are hosting a few people.

French presses are also very convenient when it comes to cleaning. After using it you basically just remove the grounds and rinse everything.

This brewing method is favored by coffee enthusiasts who appreciate the robust flavors and the ability to control the brewing process.

Making Coffee With a French Press

There are many ways that people use a French press. I do not recommend the normal way that most people use to brew their coffee.

I prefer the way that James Hoffmann’s method for French press coffee brewing.

Origin of the French Press

The French press, also known as a press pot or cafetière, has its origins in France. It was patented by an Italian designer named Attilio Calimani in 1929, although the device itself had been used in various forms prior to that.

The design of the French press evolved from earlier coffee brewing methods that involved steeping coffee grounds in hot water and using a plunger to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds. The concept of a coffee brewing device using a plunger and a mesh filter can be traced back to the 19th century in France.

However, it was the patent and commercialization of the French press by Calimani in the late 1920s that brought it into widespread use and popularized the brewing method. The French press quickly gained popularity in France and eventually spread to other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Over time, the French press has become one of the most popular and recognizable coffee brewing methods globally. Its simplicity, ability to produce a full-bodied cup of coffee, and the absence of the need for disposable filters or electricity have contributed to its enduring appeal among coffee enthusiasts.

Differences Between a Phin Filter, French Press, and the Pour Over Method

The three coffee brewing methods in this article are quite different from each other. They each have some unique characteristics that influence the coffee that you end up with.

Let’s compare the Phin filter, French press, and pour-over coffee methods. This way you can decide which of them is best for you:

Taste

Coffee made with a phin filter has a strong and intense flavor. On the other hand, French press coffee has a full-bodied and rich taste. If you use the pour-over method, you’ll get a cup with clean and crisp flavors.

Grind Size

When making coffee with a phin filter, you should opt for coffee with a medium-fine grind size.

For the pour-over method, the grind size is not set in stone. While some recommend that you use a slightly coarser grind, others lean towards a fine grind.

However, if you are using a French press, you can go for a coarse grind. Yet, with a French press, the grind size is actually not that important according to James Hoffmann. This is especially true if you make your French press coffee like James Hoffmann.

Your Involvement

Using a Phin filter is probably the least effort of the three. You add the ingredients and wait.

The method that you use to make French press coffee determines how involved you will be in the process. With the traditional method, you are not that involved. You just have to make sure that you don’t over-extract the coffee by leaving it for too long. However, James Hoffmann’s method is a bit more hands-on.

Of the three, the pour-over method requires the greatest amount of involvement.

Control Over the Final Product

The pour-over method gives you the most control and room for experimentation. The phin filter, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. About the only thing that you can change there is how fine you grind your coffee beans.

When it comes to the French press the answer is less straightforward. With the normal method you have slightly more control than with a phin filter because apart from the grind size, you can also adjust the brewing time.

However, using James Hoffmann’s method gives you a bit more control. (By the way, if you haven’t realized it by now, I am quite the fan of James Hoffmann’s French press method.)

Capacity

The phin filter can sadly only yield one cup of coffee. Which, is quite irritating when you have to make more than one cup. However, both of the other methods lean themselves to brewing more coffee at a time. However, how much coffee each of those makes is dependent on the size of the coffee maker.

Brewing Time

The phin filter takes about 4 – 6 minutes to brew you a great cup of coffee.

The process of the pour-over method will probably take you about 3 – 4 minutes.

On the other hand, using the traditional method of French press brewing will take about 4 minutes. However, the James Hoffmann method will take you the time that it takes your kettle to boil plus another 10 minutes. Yet, his opinion, and I agree, is that you would, either way, wait for the coffee to cool down. So, you might as well let it brew in that time. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Coffee Beans

For all three of these, you can technically use any coffee beans that your heart desires. However, usually, Vietnamese coffee is made with robusta coffee beans. In contrast, the other two methods usually use arabica beans.

Sediment

Phin filter coffee can sometimes end up with some sediment at the bottom of your cup. The same goes for French press coffee. However, James Hoffmann’s method actually helps with that.

On the other hand, using the pour-over method you can prevent this.

The Need For Filters

Neither a French press nor a phin filter needs extra filters. A Phin filter has a stainless steel filter built-in and a French press has a mesh filter.

However, with the pour-over method, you will, unfortunately, need either paper filters or reusable ones.

Final Thoughts: Phin Filter vs French Press vs Pour-Over Method

Ultimately, the choice between a Phin filter and a French press depends on personal preference for brewing method, flavor profile, and convenience. As a coffee lover, I think it is a good idea to try all the options that the coffee world has to offer and then decide what is best for you.

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