This question is probably something we have all asked at one point or another. Whether you are new to coffee or have become a full-blown coffee fanatic, we will go through some different brewers and techniques to help determine what the best coffee maker is for you.
First of all, there are many different ways to brew coffee. Some require more time and experience to master, but result in a fantastic cup of coffee. Other techniques are just quick and to the point. Perhaps the final result is not as good, but it is relatively easy to make. It's really all up to the user and their comfort level. And, of course, if you are in a hurry.
There are so many ways to brew coffee that it's a little intimidating. How can it be possible that making a simple cup of coffee has become so complicated? We've come such a long way in discovering methods and makers, however some of the original old-school ways still make the list.
Brewing Using Pressure
Does the word espresso come to mind when thinking about pressure brewed coffee? There are more ways to brew with pressure than with the standard espresso machine.
Pressure brewed coffee just describes coffee that is extracted using...pressure. Pressure brewing results in faster extraction times and with a more intense brew flavor. At least compared to other methods. Three most common ways to brew with pressure are the espresso machine, the Moka pot and the AeroPress.
The Espresso Machine
I'm sure you all know or have heard of an espresso machine. They've been around for a very long time. Since 1901 to be exact. Today, they come in all shapes and sizes and with loads of options. Some are very expensive, while others can be quite affordable. You will have to sacrifice some counter space, tho, as they are all on the larger side. Some also require more skills to use than others.
Basically, espresso machine made coffee is pressurized water pushed through a chamber of finely ground coffee beans, through a filter, and resulting in what we call a shot of espresso.
Time from bean to brew varies depending on the machine. Some commercial machines take almost a half hour just to warm up. Most home-based espresso machines only take about 3 minutes, however. After the initial warm-up you can expect your coffee in about 20-30 seconds.
You'll also need to invest in a grinder to grind your whole beans to a fine consistency. The resulting coffee shot should be strong, sharp, and full of flavor. Not bitter. An espresso machine is best suited for those that enjoy a milky brew or a strong shot of caffeine. They may not be for you if you don't have the space or don't like regularly and meticulously cleaning your machine.
The Moka Pot
Want something cheaper than an espresso machine that will deliver the espresso-like kick of caffeine? The stovetop espresso maker (the Moka pot) is the next best thing. It looks pretty cool, too.
The wonderment of the Moka pot is the 3 chamber brew process. Water in the bottom chamber boils, then steam creates pressure that causes the water to push up through the coffee grinds into the top chamber.
The espresso-like coffee will be a bittersweet and super-strong concoction that will get you the caffeine you so desire. Just keep in mind that the better the Moka pot, the better quality you will have. It might be worth shopping around a little.
Time from bean to brew is super fast. Once the water boils, it should only take about 5 minutes. Good for those caffeine-deprived folks in a rush in the morning. You'll still need to grind your own beans to a medium-fine grind, and is perfect for those that want something portable and quick without a lot of cleaning.
Another good portable coffee maker is the AeroPress. Even though it looks more like a science project, it will make an excellent cup of coffee.
This contraption is by far the fastest coffee-making technique on the planet. It's basically a three piece tool that together with the right water temperature, right bean grind, and the right level of air pressure, will result in an excellent tasting brew in a matter of seconds. Minimal effort required. Seriously.
This science project requires you to make the call on the grind level of beans. Each grind level will result in a different tasting coffee. It's all up to the user. You'll get a clean, smooth, rich and pure tasting coffee. And. It's. Fast. Did we mention that? If you are a camper or traveler that likes great coffee, then you should really get an AeroPress.
Brewing via Steeping
Steeping is really a fancy name for immersion. You are basically mixing coffee grounds directly with hot water, allowing the two to work their magic, and then separating them, keeping the coffee, and dumping the wet coffee grinds.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It can be. It takes a little practice to get it right, but when you do you’re left with a uniquely flavored brew as you uncover flavors of the coffee bean you never knew existed.
The most common ways to steep coffee is with the French press and the vacuum pot.
The French Press
Not a newspaper, but a great home-brewing method of making some really tasty coffee. The French press has been around an even longer time than the espresso machine. Probably before your grandparents were even born.
The French press is super easy to use, can be picked up for a minimal investment and produces a brew with a distinct taste and feel like no other method. Look for a good quality press and you'll soon be feeling like a little mustached French barista, no? Ouí.
The time from bean to brew is not quick. It will take about 10 minutes from just under-boiling the water, to steeping and plunging the coarsely ground coffee beans. The resulting brew is worth it. You'll get a unique, non-harsh aromatic coffee that’s full of flavor, particular to your beans. It will, however, be a little sediment-y, so avoid drinking the last few sips of each cup.
The French press is perfect for those that love the unique brew that you get with this method, but isn't good for the frequent travelers. They are usually made of glass, although stainless steel options are around.
The Vacuum Pot
This is also known as the siphon pot. It's looks are a little intimidating and it can be tricky to use one. Not something to use everyday, but will make a good tasting cup of coffee.
The vacuum pot is basically two brewing methods in one. A full immersion brew with siphon action is involved to create your extremely fascinating java. It's really a showy method of brewing coffee that is great to bring out when friends are over. You'll impress them for sure.
The time from bean to brew is also about 10 minutes. The skill level is quite involved and you’ll need to follow steps carefully. If you’re a scientist you'll have no trouble. A medium-coarse grind is optimum for this method. This is for you if you want something showy, and enjoy interesting coffee gadgets. If you don't like the time-consuming aspects of this brewer (cleaning it is not fun) then this wouldn't be the one for you.
Filtration or Drip Brewing
This method of brewing is by far the most popular and covers a wide range of brewers in the market today.
Brewing is pretty straightforward: Pour your water over your freshly ground beans that sit in a filter of some sort. Gravity aids the water as it passes through the grounds (and enters your vessel below) and the result is a clean, clear and light bodied tasting brew.
Less is more with drip style coffee brewing. Most of them are small, portable, cheap and result in some good tasting coffee. The most common brewers of this type are the Hario V60, the Chemex, and the cold-drip method of brewing. Your basic drip brew maker and percolator are the other most common, but pretty much everyone knows about those.
Even though the Chemex looks more like a vase to the untrained eye, it makes some excellent coffee. Looks fancy doing it, too.
The Chemex also has the capacity to make 3-4 cups at a time which saves you the effort when trying to please a crowd. Like other drippers it's not as simple as throwing grounds in and then dousing with water; you’ll need to practice mastering the finer details regarding grind size (medium-coarse), water temperature, and coffee volume, but once you do, prepare to fall in love.
Time from bean to brew is about 3 and a half minutes after setting it up. Not too shabby. Chemex filters are roughly 30% thicker than the filters used by other drippers, meaning you’ll get a richer tasting cup of coffee. Think French press, without the sediments.
The Chemex is best for those that are enjoying the pour-over coffee movement, and enjoy looking at something pretty on your counter. Not for you if you like to travel with your brewer.
The Hario V60 Dripper
So simple. So brilliant. In fact, we use this here in our lobby for our daily coffee tastings. We have that much faith in it. Its small and light, meaning you can take it just about anywhere, and it makes a darn good cup of joe. It's simple, portable, and it works - what else do you need?
Yes, it looks simple, but the innovation of this little dripper is in its unique designed cone dripping system – it has a large hole at the bottom funneled by spiral ribs on the side. Just throw in your paper filter, your medium-fine grounds and away you go. Like most pour over methods there is a technique to getting the perfect brew, but after a few runs, you’ll have it nailed. In fact, we've written another blog article all about it.
The time from bean to brew is 30 seconds to bloom and 3 minutes to pour. Expect a rich flavored brew (taste those coffee beans) with no signs of bitterness. A refreshing cup of coffee. Not much skill level required and is perfect for those folks that want something very portable. If you just want to push a button to get your coffee, then walk away from this one.
Cold Drip Brewing
Cold coffee you say? Cold brew is one of the most popular caffeine infused innovations of our time – and no, we are not talking about iced coffee.
It's basically made by slowly dripping cold filtered water through your fresh coarse grinds for a long period – often 10 hours or more! It's not just like hot coffee. No way. In the end, your patience will be rewarded with a strong, intense, unique tasting coffee with a super smooth finish - no acidity or bitterness. There’s no need to ‘enhance’ the flavor with milk or sweeteners, meaning you can taste the real origins of the coffee bean and where it comes from.
Another good thing about it is this stuff can stay fresh for up to 2 weeks! Just put some in a couple jars in your fridge and you'll happily stay caffeinated for days.
Time from bean to brew is 10-24 hours. Patience is key here. The full flavors of the coffee bean will be on display. Best of all, its got a super smooth aftertaste. This brewing method is perfect for those living someplace hot. Not perfect for someone without any patience whatsoever. If you're that person, you probably never finished reading this paragraph.
Boiling Your Coffee the Old-Fashioned Way
Ever watch an old western movie with all the cowboys sitting in a circle around a campfire cooking their food and drinking their coffee out of tin cans? Well, it can really be done. Not just in the movies.
You boil your coffee with water. If you find yourself without any form of coffee maker, you can put your mind at rest knowing that you can make a decent cup with the simplest of items. The most known ways of brewing this way are the cowboy and the Turkish coffee method.
The Cowboy Method
The oldest known method of making coffee. It's old-fashioned, but it works, and you don't need much to make it happen. Commonly used around campsites where nobody has bothered to pack any coffee making gear, all you’ll need is a flame and a pot. Oh, and some coffee.
You pretty much just fill your pot with water, bring it to a boil, throw in your ground coffee, remove it from the heat and let it brew for a few minutes. Once the grounds settle to the bottom of the pot, you can pour your coffee into your mug, slowly and gently. Nothing fancy required.
Time from bean to brew: Once your water has boiled, you’ll need 4-5 minutes to brew your coffee, a few more to let the medium-coarse grinds settle, and a few more to pour with a steady hand. You’re looking at 10 minutes plus, but what else you going to be doing around a campfire?
It's not wonderful coffee, but still better than instant. Best for those that don't plan ahead.
The Turkish Coffee Method
This method has been around since about 1299. It's very similar to the cowboy method, but requires a little more finesse.
The most common way involves a Turkish coffee pot, water and very finely ground coffee beans (you'll need a special grinder to get it this way). You’ll simmer the brew a number of times (2-3 times) and end up with a brew that you’ll love or hate: strong but exceptionally tasting with a thick foam on top.
The time from bean to brew is quick. About 3-4 minutes for one cup. It's a fairly straightforward method of brewing coffee and is great for those that love black and strong tasting coffee. It’s a great way to get a brisk morning pick me up. Not so great if you like a clean and clear tasting drip coffee.
There you have it. So many more options to choose from than you probably thought possible. Hopefully, you'll have a few more ideas of how to try brewing your coffee in the future. There's always new machines and methods on the horizon, so keep your eyes open. Just remember, it all starts with the right coffee.