Coffee Brewing Methods: Is Your Coffee Brewer Just a Drip?

For most of us, brewing up our morning cup of coffee is more than just a necessity, it is a matter of convenience. Each night, millions of us coffee lovers pile heaping tablespoons of our favorite gourmet coffees into those paper filters, fill the tank of our coffee makers with water and set the timer so that our coffee is ready and waiting first thing in the morning.

So if you are like me and you enjoy the finest gourmet and specialty coffees available, then you must also believe that they deserve the best and most reliable coffee brewing equipment available.

Here is a quick list of the most popular coffee brewing methods & equipment starting from the best:

French Press
The French press coffee maker (or press pot) is universally recognized as the best brewing method, allowing for the truest coffee taste and aroma. This method actually brews the coffee in the hot water (as opposed to drip machines which only pass the water through the coffee and a filter). After a few minutes of brewing, a metal filter is pressed through the brew catching the coffee grinds and then trapping them at the bottom of the carafe. What is left over is full-bodied coffee with all its aroma and essences.

One of the main advantages to using a French press, other than great coffee taste, is the amount of control you have. You can control the water temperature (which incidentally should be around 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that drip makers do not achieve), you can control the amount of coffee you want to add, and you can control the brew time. Four minutes of brew time and 30 seconds of “plunging” time is considered best.

Another great feature about the French press is that it is extremely portable and only requires hot water. You can take it camping or use it in places with limited kitchen space, like a boat or an RV. Some press pots can also be used to brew loose leaf teas in the same manner.

As an aside, you shouldn’t leave your brewed coffee in the press-pot with the grounds after you brew it! Either consume it or transfer it to a carafe, preferably a thermal carafe.

Vacuum Brewer
Vacuum brewers aren’t very common, but they make coffee just about as well as a French press since the coffee and water are brewing together. A vacuum brewer has an upper and a lower chamber connected by a tube with a small filter inside. Coffee grounds are placed in the upper chamber, and water is placed in the lower chamber. As the lower chamber is heated, the water rises up to meet the coffee in the upper chamber where the brewing begins. After brewing, the water (now coffee) cools and seeps back down into the lower chamber leaving the used coffee grinds behind in the upper chamber. Ideally, the upper chamber is removed and the lower chamber is used as a decanter for the finished coffee.

Vacuum brewers can be electric, stovetop, or even used over a sterno can for dramatic tabletop brewing!

The Toddy Maker
The toddy maker or Cold-Brew Coffee Maker uses an unusual cold-brewing method that creates a coffee concentrate. This concentrate is then mixed with hot water to make coffee. The concentrate can be stored in a refrigerator and used to make one cup at a time if you so desire. This method produces a low-acid coffee, which is doctor recommended for coffee drinkers with stomach conditions.

Although this method of coffee brewing is sounds a bit odd, the result in taste is pleasantly surprising. One drawback is the amount of time it takes to brew. A good idea is to brew the coffee overnight. Once brewed, the concentrate can produce more than just one pot of coffee, so it’s not a nightly event for a great cup of morning coffee!

Drip Grind Coffee Makers
Drip Grind coffee makers are the most common and usual coffee brewing method that we are familiar with.

In this method, water is dripped over and passes through the coffee grinds and a filter and is caught by the coffee pot below. Despite being the most common brew method it also happens to be the one which produces a coffee brew with the least amount of flavor and aroma.

There are generally 2 filter options for the drip grind coffee makers.

Permanent filters: are just what they say, permanent. They are usually gold-plated so they don’t add any unwanted metallic taste to your coffee, resistant to corrosion so they are dishwasher safe and economical because they don’t need replacing. Permanent filters are preferred because they allow for better coffee taste as opposed to the second filter option, paper filters.< are the most common filter choice for the drip grind coffee makers. Unfortunately, paper filters can filter out more than just coffee grinds. Flavorful oils can be left behind in the filter and not make it to the finished coffee brew resulting in less coffee flavor and aroma. Since permanent filters allow for more liquid to pass through, the end result is a more flavorful cup.

As you can see, the most common brew method happens to be the one which produces the least amount of coffee flavor and aroma. Since, mornings usually need to be made quick and simple, most people have never had their coffee brewed any other way. If you are one of these people, don’t just splurge on gourmet coffee’s, get a small French press maker, start experimenting and experience the truest coffee flavor & aroma in each cup.

Brew the Best Coffee With a French Press

If you want to taste coffee in a whole new way, try making it with a French Press coffee pot. Most people are used to their coffee being brewed in an electric, drip coffee maker a la Mr. Coffee. This method has one flaw in the brewing process that takes away from the true essence of coffee: the paper filter. The paper retains some of the coffee essence, and deprives you of coffee’s true potential. Granted, we cannot simply dump ground coffee into a cup, pour in hot water and start drinking; the grounds must be separated from the liquid that is consumed. Coffee grounds are bitter, gritty, and stick to your teeth. The French Press method removes the grounds, but lets all of the flavor of the coffee come to life.

Although French Presses come in various shapes, sizes, materials and manufacturers, the Chambord model by Bodum is a good example of a ubiquitous style found throughout the industry . The handle attaches to the holder for the glass carafe. The carafe holds the coffee and hot water. The carafe looks like a beaker from a chemistry lab, with a spout for easy pouring. The “pressing” apparatus of the French Press sits atop the beaker. It consists of a dome which covers the coffee as it brews. The plunger is a skinny metal post with a plastic ball at the top that slides through a small hole in the middle of the dome. At the bottom of the post is the filter, a wire mesh disk.

A quick note about ingredients. A cup of coffee is made of coffee beans and water. Therefore, start with freshly roasted whole beans ground just before brewing. Whole beans maintain their freshness twice as long as ground coffee. The water is just as critical: make sure it is cold, fresh, and filtered.

Let’s assume a 12 oz. cup is being prepared. Using 1-1 ½ tablespoons of whole beans, set your grinder to coarse. This produces the largest grounds possible, and allows water to extract the maximum flavor from the coffee. It also reduces the amount of smaller grounds that will end up in the bottom of the cup.

Dump the ground coffee into the carafe. Before adding hot water, take a moment to inhale the aroma of the dry coffee. The aroma of freshly ground coffee will take you to a better place.

Next, heat your water (12 ounces). The optimal brewing temperature is 195-205 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, simply bring your water to a boil and wait thirty seconds.

Pour the water into the beaker and stir for a couple of seconds. This will agitate the mixture and allow the coffee to brew more completely. Place the plunger apparatus on the carafe, but do not depress. Set a timer for four minutes. This amount of time allows all of the flavor and oils to be extracted perfectly from the coffee.

At four minutes press down the plunger completely, then pour the freshly brewed coffee into your mug.
Look at the coffee before adding any condiments. The coffee will appear more complex (richer) than if it were brewed in a drip coffee maker. There will even be a thin layer of crema (light brown froth) resting on top of the liquid. Put your nose close to the cup and breathe in the aroma. The smell is stronger, more pure than if the coffee passed through a paper filter. Taste the coffee before adding sugar etc. When you reach the end of the cup you will notice some residue. These are simply micro-grounds that made it through the mesh filter.

You can purchase French Presses that double as travel mugs. There are also double-walled glass, and stainless steel thermal units as well. Some are beautifully crafted and look like museum pieces. The reason for this is that coffee made in this manner is the height of the coffee brewing experience. So, if you love coffee, you owe it to yourself to purchase a French Press and make the best-tasting coffee in the easiest possible way. Prices start at around 13 dollars for a two cup (12 oz.) unit.

How to Choose the Best Coffee Maker for You

Research has shown that just over half of all Americans drink coffee on a regular basis. This equates to coffee being consumed by over 100 million people everyday. It’s important to consider though that America’s population is made of people from all over the world. So, opinions on what constitutes a good cup of coffee vary greatly across the country. Fortunately for consumers there are a number of different styles of coffee maker on the market today.

Coffee drinkers are able to choose a brewing machine according to their own individual preferences. Popular styles of coffee maker include Automatic Espresso, Percolator, Automatic Drip, Stovetop Espresso, French Press and Vacuum type. Each type has advantages and disadvantages and the user’s control over the end product will vary from machine to machine.

Automatic Espresso

These types come in three versions, being, semi-automatic, fully automatic and super automatic. The semi automatic types will tamp the coffee grounds, brew the coffee and then fill the cup. Fully automatic models will also be able to grind the coffee. The super types come with extra features such as built in water filters.

Percolator

These come in the electric variety and the stove top style. The latest models are electric and are programmable. Some of these models can produce up to twelve cups of coffee in one time. Many companies use large coffee urns which will operate on the percolation principle and can brew upwards of 100 cups of coffee in one go.

Percolator coffee machines are not as popular as they used to be. These makers will often run the boiled water over the grounds and coffee connoisseurs say this has a detrimental effect on the taste of the coffee.

Sometimes coffee made using this method can be too strong and quite bitter tasting when compared to other brewing methods.

Automatic Drip

These are probably the most popular choice amongst American consumers. They are reasonably priced and are not complicated to use. The different brand types will work based on the same principal. A filter basket will contain a paper filter and this holds the coffee grounds. Cold water enters into the reservoir where it is heated up and then poured over the grounds. The coffee that is produced travels into a carafe and it is kept warm by the hot surface below the carafe.

Some people do not like this type of machine and the type of coffee it produces. You can get a tastier cup keeping the coffee maker and the carafe clean, using throw-away paper filters and good quality coffee.

Stovetop Espresso

These can be used anywhere where heats exists, be it a stove top or over a camp fire. Water is put into the bottom boiler and the funnel filter is put inside the boiler and filled with coffee. The top of the device is screwed on lightly and then it is placed over the source of the heat.

When the top of the boiler has filled up with coffee the device is taken away from the heat source and the coffee can be served.

French Press

These are also known as plunger or press pots. The pot is a porcelain or glass cylinder and this contains a mesh plunger that operates as a filter.

The user of the machine will measure out coffee grounds into the pot and then nearly boiling water will be added. The plunger is ready to go but will not be pushed down until the coffee has been steeped for a few minutes. After the plunger has been pushed the coffee is ready to drink.

The coffee needs to be drunk nearly straight away as there is no hot surface to maintain the temperature of the coffee.

Vacuum

This type of maker looks more like something out of a chemistry set. There are two containers connected by a syphon tube. There is a filter in the base of the top container.

Water is placed in the lower container and coffee grounds in the upper. The maker should then be placed on top of a stove and the heated water is vaporized and then passes through the tube and into the upper container.

The whole brewing process will last about three minutes. When the machine is taken away from the heat the vapor will transform back to water and will go through the filter and back into the lower container. The first automatic vacuum coffee maker was designed by Farberware while the first real modern machine was created by Sunbeam.

Not many companies manufacture these types of coffee makers in modern times. They have become something of a collector’s item and can be found in antique stores and on online auction sites.

There are many coffee makers available for coffee lovers these days. Coffee drinkers can be very particular about the type of coffee they drink but with so many styles available every taste and budget can be catered for.