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WHY USE PAPER FILTERS AND FILTER OUT ALL THOSE WONDERFUL FLAVORS?
on March 19, 2013
Paper filters, #4 in this case, do one thing well for drip and pour-over coffee brewing methods: They keep the grounds separate from the brewed coffee very well. The downside is that the absorbency and density of the paper also filters out coffee oils and collagens that deliver prime flavors. A reduced amount of the true coffee bean flavor survives the filtering process.
How much is lost? I do notice it, but I have no verifiable data to support my reduced flavor claim other than my taste buds. Not only that, but everyone's tastes are different. Some people like the thinner, more delicate flavors produced by paper filters. Others say that an undesirable paper taste is detectable when using paper filters. To make things more complex, some brands of paper filter are much better at eliminating paper taste, or even almost entirely eliminating paper tastes. Moreover, it must be admitted that the ingestion of a small amount of paper fibers will not kill you. Nothing seems to be simple in life, does it? Unless things are unexamined.
For many coffee lovers, that loss of flavor caused by paper filters is unacceptable. A good solution is a metal mesh, or Screen Filter. Some are even electroplated gold such as the Frieling model under discussion, in order to prevent rust and off flavors from contaminating coffee flavor (a stainless steel model might be much more expensive to make). Such a device must have an extremely fine screen to reduce the amount of fine particles ("fines") from passing through the screen and into the cup. Avoiding the point of near solidity, regardless of mesh fineness, some ultra fine coffee grind particulates, "fines," inevitably and invariably WILL pass through any wire mesh screen if you finely grind your coffee beans. Setting your grinder to medium grind helps to drastically reduce the amount of fines passing through the filter.
There is a trade off similar to what occurs when brewing French press with its metal mesh filter screen on the plunger assembly: If the screen is too fine it can be difficult or even impossible for the coffee/water solution to pass through the filter, and if too porous then the amount of "fines" passing through the filter will increase, and end up in your cup. So all you can hope for is a good balance and grind to suit your brewing method and to your taste.
I chose the the Frieling Gold Filter #4 for my Technivorm Moccamaster drip brewer, as the quality of this filter matches that of my brewer (The costly Technivorm Moccamaster, BonaVita BV, and one or two others, are the ONLY drip-brewers accredited by the Specialty Coffee Association of America to brew at the correct 195-205 degree temperature during the entire brew cycle producing the best flavor available! See the SCAA website).
The mesh of the Frieling's screen works well, balancing the variables of coffee particle filtration versus flavor development. My experience is that only a few fines make it through to become silt in the cup, and they do ALWAYS appear when you grind finely for drip coffee. I usethe excellent Baratza Virtuoso burr grinder (The less expensive Encore model is also excellent for drip or pour-over brewing). The flavor allowed is remarkably good. A bit of silt at the bottom of your cup is the price you pay for grinding finely for a remarkable increase in drip coffee maker flavor intensity. Never take that last sip, grit haters, or grind on medium.
Summary: A metal mesh filter is very green compared to the destruction of the number of trees needed to produce the amount of paper coffee filters one would consume over a lifetime, times the number of people using them. As a conscionable alternative, and on its own merits, The Frieling Gold Filter #4 is highly recommended, not perfect, but as good as it gets based on my incomplete experience. It is very, very good at achieving excellent results in a game where it is almost impossible to win, not 100% anyway...just as in French press brewing. This is the best filter of its type I have used, as my first one was a cheap off-brand. The product is top rack dishwasher-safe...a big plus.
I have NOT tested the one or two other competing respectable brands of metal mesh filter so this review is flawed in that respect. A controlled, empirical test of such filters would establish which filter brand is better, and would do so better than this comparatively subjective review. Here is hoping that someone actually does so. Until then, for me, one can pay less for such a filter, yet the Frieling name and its performance are just superb. In my estimation, you will not go wrong with this Frieling Gold Filter #4.
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