Coffee bags (or coffee tea bags as they are sometimes, confusingly referred to) are a topic of fierce, divided debate in the coffee world. Do they work or don’t they? The answer is … yes and no, depending on who you ask and what you expect from your coffee.
Coffee bags are an immersion brewing method, which includes French press and cold brew, without the character of an immersion coffee. Generally, delicious immersion brews are created by four elements: grounds-to-water ratio, water temperature, steep time, and (while not required, this largely defines how we view immersion coffees) oils. Grounds-to-water ratio and steep time are important because they impact extraction. Water temperature is important because coffee’s upper notes and acidity extract between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. While these first three elements can be controlled and mirrored by coffee bags, the fourth — and arguably the one that characterizes immersion brews for most coffee drinkers, cannot. That’s oils. Typically during an immersion brew coffees’ oils release into the cup, creating a rich, creamy coffee. This thick, velvety, oil texture cannot be mirrored or even closely mimicked with a coffee bag as the bag filters out the most of the oils.
To circle back now to our original question, do coffee bags work or don’t they? Yes, they work if you follow the instructions exactly and prefer a weaker, waterier, lighter cup of coffee, or if you enjoy a light-mouthfeel cold brew, which naturally lacks extraction of upper notes. No, they do not work if you seek to brew a complex cup of coffee with bright upper notes and lovely, smooth base notes. The Queen Bean Coffee Company’s stance on coffee immersion bags: we consider the bags a step up from instant coffee and / or good bridge for someone switching from tea to coffee but we do not recommend them for anyone who loves to experience complexity, texture, and the innate character of a beautiful bean.