V60 coffee: to swirl or to stir?

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Brewing coffee through alternative brewing methods such as V60 can be pretty easy after a bit of practice. But at the same time, the more you learn the trickier it becomes. 

We already covered in the past some articles about V60, what is all about, how to be consistent from the very beginning and the difference in taste vs other brewing methods such as the Kalita or the Gina coffee maker.

Today it’s time to lift your V60 technique by understanding what means to swirl and stir while you’re brewing your coffee and what impact they get in the cup.

So, why should we start swirling and/or stirring? What are the positives consequences when these techniques are done correctly? And what are the negatives ones when they are poorly executed?

ALL THINGS V60 

When making a V60 coffee it’s all about what we want to achieve which is basically a consistent brew over time. I was pretty sceptical about swirling and stirring for ages as I thought it was better to let the water does the job (it took me 3 years to give it a go). Also, thinking of a way too risky to get a consistent brew as chances of channelling and so, ending up under extracting, were major.

In fact, after a while in experiencing these two techniques, I realised how much tastier my brews came up: since the first brew I instantly tasted a coffee with more body (more TDS) and overall, more flavours coming out.

Damn, I could have enjoyed this even before but in my mind, these techniques didn’t sound good at all.

I started to add the swirl and stir technique to my V60 arsenal after experiencing them along with a National Barista Champion and since then, they became part of my daily V60 coffee both at home and at the coffee shop.

While swirling and stirring we realised that:

  • our V60 brews were much tastier;
  • we accelerated the brewing process;
  • we achieved consistency brew after brew.

We divided the V60 brew into three phases:

1 – the blooming phase: here we were looking to saturate the coffee as much as possible by evenly wet all the grounds. We used a 2:1 ratio for blooming which means that we pour 2 grams of water per gram of coffee. Also, a 2,5:1 ratio was fine and delivered pretty the same result at the end of the brew.

During this phase, we realized that the swirl technique performs better than the stir one: after pouring the water we gave a nice swirl to make sure to wet all the coffee grounds and to create an even coffee bed. We let then the water did the rest for about 30 seconds: in this phase, we strongly pour as we aim to release as much carbon dioxide as possible (so we didn’t mind too much about the flow rate and at what height to pour).

2 – From the second phase we were looking to gently pour circularly to again wet all the coffee: we prefer to pour as closest as possible to the coffee bed to minimize the agitation process. Remember this: the highest you pour, the highest your agitation, and the highest the chances are that you’re going to create channels within the puck and so, under extracting your brew.

3 – We stopped pouring at 150g which is 50% of our total brew. We give it another swirl to bring all the coffee particles that stuck on the filter papers down into the bed. We then waited 10 seconds and started the last phase by pouring the rest of the water up to 300g.

We then stirred the V60 brew with a spoon as James Hoffmann suggests (1x clockwise and 1x anticlockwise) and we gave one last swirl for the same reason as the previous phases.

Just before the end of the brew, we tapped twice into the server below and removed the dripper before the drying process occurred.

During the last phase, we realised that stirring with the spoon reduced the total brew time by 10-15 seconds. This was to us a great result as both big fans of faster brew.

 

We both agreed that stirring is not very useful during the blooming phase as there’s not enough water to wet all the coffee unlike when swirling. Also, stirring is much riskier: you’re not sure to create an even bed and so you increase the chances to create channels (water find an easier way to penetrate by wetting only on those “channels”).

Swirling, on the other hand, “make things easier and consistent” but just do not go too far; swirling can clog the filter by settling down to the bottom fine coffee grounds thereby slowing the drawdown.

The recipe we came up with was: 18 grams in and 300 grams out aiming for a TDS of 1.25-1.30. We opted for light roast coffee beans.

We used the Niche Zero grinder for all the recipes made and a medium to fine grind size.

For this reason, we aimed to brew at 93 degrees Celsius throughout the brewing process.

We used a Fellow Stagg EKG electric kettle for all the brews.

CONCLUSION

We are pretty happy with this V60 recipe but we know there’s still room to improve. We don’t think there’s only one single recipe to follow mostly because coffee changes as well as the roast profile.

Our suggestion is to keep as much as possible the same variables: find soft water that you’re happy with and stick with it, play with a good electric grinder and keep the same brewing temperature during the entire extraction process.

By doing this, you should be able to find a recipe that you like as we did.

And last one thing: don’t think that swirling and stirring increase the overall agitation that much as I did in the past. We need agitation and if it’s done properly, it will deliver consistency to your V60 brew with a richer, flavorful taste.



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