It seems like there are dozens of ways to brew coffee today and more come out all the time. Keeping up with all the techniques and new pieces of equipment can be a full-time job and most people aren’t interested in delving that far into the world of coffee. Rather than spending ages researching on the Internet, we’re going to go over all your brewing options so you can choose the right option for yourself.
We aren’t going to cover every single option out there since that would take ages. What we are going to do is look at the top brewing options and explain what sets them apart from each other. We’ll talk about what methods are easiest, which pieces of equipment are the least expensive, and which techniques are the friendliest for beginners to the art of coffee brewing.
This article is going to offer options for every brewer from beginner to expert and coffee lovers who are new to the hobby as well as those who have been consuming the brown bean juice for many years now. By the time we’re done, you’ll know what methods fit your needs and then you can try them out to find the top option to make your go-to brewing method.
The French Press Brewing Method
The French press, also known as the plunger, cafetière, or press pot, is one of the most popular options for brewing coffee. It is also one of the oldest options for brewing coffee in the history of the world. The essential idea behind the French press is that you take a pot of some sort, add in water and ground coffee, and let it brew. Sounds pretty simple, right?
After the coffee and water are mixed up together in the container, a mesh filter made of metal is used to strain the mixture and remove all the dibs and dabs of coffee grounds. This is what creates the full-bodied taste and richness that French press coffee is known for. However, be aware that some sediment often ends up passing through so this coffee may not be as clean as some people would like it to be.
What sets a French press apart is that it’s easy to make and simple to learn to use. There is no need for great skill to get started. This is just one of the reasons that those who are new to coffee tend to choose this brewing method for exceptional coffee.
The biggest issue you can run into when brewing French press coffee is that you have to be very wary of what the grind size is. Those who are using a blade grinder or even a cheap burr grinder will find the grounds are of an inconsistent size and this can result in something called “fines.”
The problem with fines is that they can over-extract due to the long brew time. This may lead to a coffee that is more bitter than you would prefer. As such, this method is best used by those who already have a good grinder or are open to buying preground coffee instead.
The taste of French press is popular for both coffee veterans and those who are beginners, which is surprising since the technique is so simple. The French press’ mesh filter doesn’t block out the micro-particulates of the thick coffee oils in the same way as a typical paper filter would do so. This leads to a full-bodied flavor that many love.
Keep in mind that the process of filtering means some of the particles and coffee grounds can end up at the bottom of your cup. However, using a great French press in tandem with a good grinder will largely prevent this issue. It won’t completely eliminate the sediment, however. The method simply creates it.
The rich body of French press pairs well with nutty, smoky, and earthy flavors, which means Asian coffee beans work well. The French press is also often used with super dark roasts for those who want that extra strong flavor. However, the darker roasts are not going to bring out the flavor of the beans quite as much. Instead, they offer a powerful taste that many appreciate.
Creating Coffee with a Pour-Over Device
Before we go further into the world of pour-over coffee, you should be aware that there are tons of devices out there for this method. While most of them have differences, we’re going to focus on the simple right now. If you decide this is the right method for you, you may want to look into the different devices on the market and how they differ from each other.
Pour over is extremely popular at the moment and is known from the third wave coffee movement. With the introduction of ethically sourced coffee beans, spiral pours, and gooseneck kettles, companies across the board are offering pour-over devices to handle the influx of consumers who are interested in this technique.
There is the Chemex which offers elegant glass curves, the Hario V60 with ridged engineering, the Kalita Wave with a Japanese style, and the Clever Coffee Dripper which is more forgiving than other options. While there are tons of options on the market, they are all tasked with the same thing: making great coffee.
Where French press coffee is known for being rich, pour-over is intended to create a bright mug of java. What does that actually mean? Your coffee from a pour-over device is going to have a larger number of acidic notes and will be lighter than average. As an example, bright brewed coffee accents citrus notes from coffee like the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.
This method is also known for offering great clarity of flavor. The filters used can trap a lot of the micro-particulates and coffee oils that add a muddy and richer flavor to the cup. This means the actual taste of the beans can be enjoyed, which you will hear referred to as coffee complexity or clarity. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. The Able Kone filter will make the cup richer while the Chemex makes the brightest cup possible.
Deciding if the Espresso Maker is Right for You
Most people aren’t going to need a quick primer to espresso. It has been around since the second wave of coffee and popular since the 1960s. This was a time when coffee shops had a focus on all sorts of Italian inspired beverages. Everyone has their favorite espresso beverage, whether that’s a shot, a simple latte, cappuccino, macchiato, or something totally different.
The thing about espresso is that learning to use a machine takes time and mastering it is even more difficult. It might seem different when you watch a local barista press a single button, but that really isn’t the case. There are people who spend years of their lives becoming skilled with espresso who are still not at the top of their game. Only the super-automatic machines are as simple to use as the baristas make it seem.
This is also a brewing method that is expensive to get started with. This makes it a choice that isn’t right for most beginners. The cost and difficulty level are both rather high, which can make this an overwhelming technique.
Instead of investing in an espresso maker as a beginner, it’s best to spend that money on another method along with a high-quality grinder. You can use a more forgiving method to learn before you consider moving on to espresso. Once you have a knowledge of the factors that go into coffee, espresso is something you can start creating for a larger challenge.
As you may already know, espresso is a very strong but small shot of coffee. Many people are under the impression that it should taste strong, bitter, and even burnt, but that is not the case. As with any sort of coffee, espresso will taste like the roast and the bean that you choose. The only reason it should taste bitter or sour is if it has not been created in the proper manner.
When you drink espresso straight, the taste can be altered by hundreds of different factors. However, you can customize this brew to anything from a milky latte to a weak ristretto or the well-known and loved cappuccino. If you’ve visited a coffee shop in the last 20 years, you likely already have a favorite. However, trying a straight espresso shot is something everyone should do at least once.
It might take more effort to find a great espresso than to hit up the nearest chain coffee shop, but it can be worth it. It can be transforming to see how great an espresso shot can be without any cream or sugar when someone skilled is tasked with making it. However, keep in mind that most of the time, the beans used for espresso are balanced or dark roasts. The concentration of the drink offers acidic notes like lemon, jasmine, and blueberry, but getting things right can take a lot of practice.
Selecting the Simple Auto Drip Coffee Maker
Now that we’ve talked about one of the methods that requires the most skill, let’s back up a bit and look at a method that requires little to no skill. It’s no surprise that auto-drip coffee makers are seen throughout the country in home kitchens and hotel rooms. They are easy to use and nearly everyone has used one in the past.
While the coffee snobs out there might tell you that there is a huge difference between auto-drip coffee and pour-over coffee, that isn’t entirely true. In both of these techniques, water is going to drip over ground coffee, which then runs through a filter. The pour-over might be a more hands-on option, but it does basically the same thing as a typical coffee maker.
Auto drip is simply a more automated coffee brewing option. While pour-over offers you a higher level of customization through the choice of filter and shape of the funnel you use, an auto-drip machine handles everything for you. There is a place for both of the techniques and choosing one as your favorite doesn’t make the other any less valid or beloved by those who appreciate it.
One of the things that you might hear about coffee from an auto-drip machine is that it’s often not very tasty. This is the truth in some cases. It’s also why it’s integral for you to do some research and buy a machine that is capable of creating great coffee rather than something subpar. They are out there; it just might take awhile to find the one for you.
Look for an automatic coffee maker that is certified by the SCAA for the best results. This is the top standard for auto-drip coffee machines. As long as you choose one of these, you can expect to make coffee as good as any of the pour-over brews that are out there.
When you use auto drip, the coffee is made through percolation and most often uses a paper filter. Its method is similar to the pour-over except that it has a slow drip that is automated and will use a standard sized filter. Pour-over, on the other hand, is created by hand and there are many devices and filters that can be used. The taste of pour-over and auto-drip are very similar.
This sort of coffee is going to be bright and clean with a low body and plenty of flavor clarity. That means your coffee is going to be more acidic and lighter than the average brew. As an example, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe made bright is going to have enhanced lemon flavors associated with it.
It also offers a great dose of flavor complexity since the filters trap most of the oils and particles that make the coffee richer. Keep in mind that while paper filters are most common, plastic mesh filters are also available and can create a drink with a thicker mouthfeel. It’s up to you whether that’s something you are interested in.
AeroPress Technique for Coffee
One of the most modern techniques for coffee is the AeroPress. This device only came onto the market in 2005, but it has gained a cult following since that time. The device appears to be very modern and is made of a strong plastic. It also has its own unique brewing method. The outstanding design of the AeroPress can be seen in the fact that so many people have brought one in the last 15 years since it was released on the market.
Just how popular is the AeroPress? So popular that every year coffee enthusiasts hold an AeroPress World Championship. That’s not something every coffee technique can promise you.
The AeroPress uses a combination of pressure and immersion to create a strong concentrated coffee in small amounts. It is going to be similar to traditionally brewed coffee except that it is thicker and richer. The coffee from an AeroPress can also be used just like espresso to create beverages like lattes and cappuccinos.
However, this is not an actual espresso. Keep that in mind. The only actual espresso is made using a high-pressure nine-bar espresso machine. The AeroPress is better used for traveling and for beginners since it is a forgiving method of brewing coffee. There are also many options for brewing with it, such as the inverted method.
Since the AeroPress has a unique style of brewing, it also has a unique taste and aroma. The AeroPress using an immersion-style brewing like a French press for about 10 seconds before switching over to a pressurized espresso-like method for pushing coffee through a filter.
The coffee you get from an AeroPress is light, bright, and smooth. It is similar to that from a pour-over or another method that utilizes a paper filter. However, it is a bit less rich and has more fruity and soft notes in the coffee. The body is small because the paper filter keeps out the sediment and oils. That means it’s going to be less heavy than a coffee you might make in a French press.
The manufacturer of the AeroPress says that the acidity of this coffee is lower than average, but people argue about whether that is true or not. However, this coffee concentrate is fantastic for those who want a better idea of the tasting notes and flavors of a specific coffee. The best part? An AeroPress is super inexpensive so you can grab one up and see if you like it without breaking the bank.
Stovetop Espresso Maker or Moka Pot Created Coffee
Have you ever heard of the Moka pot and wondered exactly what in the world it is? You might find it easier to understand when it’s called a stovetop espresso maker. All you have to do is put the device on your stove and let it do its thing. The Moka pot was invented nearly 70 years ago in Italy as a way to create espresso coffee without an expensive and massive machine. In Latin America and some European countries, it is still quite popular.
The perks of the Moka pot are that it’s inexpensive, portable, and super light. Most of the time, you can get a high-quality Moka pot for no more than a twenty-dollar bill and it is small enough to slip into your suitcase easily. Since the Moka pot itself can be used to heat up the water, there’s no need for a separate kettle or pot. That’s why this is one of the most popular options for those who do a lot of traveling.
You might wonder why this device has so many perks yet is so inexpensive compared to an espresso machine or why it isn’t as popular as it could be. The truth is that while a Moka pot is called an espresso maker for the stove, what it makes is not technically espresso. Espresso is a word that means pressed in Italian. It also means that espresso machines with a huge amount of pressure are the only devices that can make it. Whereas an espresso machine can exert nine bars of pressure, a Moka pot can only exert two bars of pressure.
Instead, a Moka pot creates something between brewed coffee and espresso. It’s more of a strong coffee or a weak espresso than a duplicate or either. That’s exactly why the device is known as a “Moka” pot. Lots of people enjoy this drink for its similarities to espresso and it can be used to create hybrid lattes or Americanos that taste amazing. Beyond that, the device is attractive and looks great in your kitchen.
As far as taste goes, the faux espresso flavor of the Moka pot is similar to the AeroPress. Each of them can create a concentrate that is rich and strong, but the Moka does a better job at coming close to the taste of an actual espresso. This pot can allow you to make all sorts of milk-based espresso drinks even without an espresso machine.
When it comes to black Moka coffee, the taste is going to be concentrated on bright and fruity notes. Adding milk or water will take away some of the edge, though. That said, this method can be hard to become skilled at and over extracting can lead to a brew that is unpleasantly sour. This is another method where you need to be vigilant about your grind size and make it finer if the end result isn’t what you expected.
This coffee is going to be one of the stronger options out there. Most of the time you are going to be working with a 1:10 or 1:11 ratio if you fill up the basket completely and fill the chamber underneath to the brim. However, it won’t be quite as concentrated or strong, as an espresso shot would be. You can experiment with more or less water, depending on your own personal tastes.
Why Cold Brew Coffee Might be for You
Another of the newly popular methods for making coffee is the cold brew technique. In fact, you can barely walk into a specialty coffee shop and not see a handful of locally produced cold brew options in a grab and go form so you can start your day off right. A glass of ice filled with this coffee that was brewed for 48 hours can offer refreshment, especially on days when the sun is high in the sky.
Are you a beginner to making coffee? Do you prefer coffee that is cold rather than steaming hot? If those two questions are things you answered yes to, cold brew is a great choice for you. There is next to no chance of over-extraction happening and the coffee is lauded for the fact that it has a super low level of acidity. As far as grind size goes, it is much more forgiving than many methods, even if you’re using an inexpensive grinder for the time being.
What are the downsides with cold brew? There aren’t a ton of them, but they do exist. For one thing, the brew can have muted flavors so you can’t enjoy all of the tasting notes as you might with another brewing technique. This is especially a downfall if you use the best coffee beans to make this coffee. For some, it might also be a drawback that you need to drink the coffee cold, but some people prefer their brew that way.
Cold-brew is also not the most efficient option out there. While a pound of coffee might make 20 cups of coffee using an auto-drip coffee maker, you’re only going to get around 10 to 15 cups when making cold brew of the same strength. However, there is a secret you need to know here. You can use less expensive coffee beans. Cold-brew tastes great even with coffee that isn’t dozens of dollars for every pound.
The brewing process for cold brew is similar to the steeping or immersion method used with a French press. The process takes a long time, though. It should be brewed for at least 12 hours but can take up to 48 hours in total for the best taste. It uses a paper filter which creates a richness and full flavor that makes the earthy tones stand out.
The process of brewing cold brew creates a beverage that is very concentrated. Some people drink it straight, but most combine it at a 1:1 ratio with water, milk, or ice to make it more palatable. If you aren’t sure where to start, do half and half coffee with ice and then adapt the mixture to your own taste. There are also hundreds of different cold brew recipes out there if you want a flavor that goes beyond simple coffee.
The cold brew coffee has muted flavors that are present but dull. Some people find this a negative aspect, but it also has its positive. For one, anyone with stomach acidity issues, brewing cold brew takes out almost all of the acidic notes through the process. The coffee is very gentle on the stomach and this is the same reason using lower quality beans can work with this technique.
Deciding Whether to Try Instant Coffee
Adding instant coffee to this list is a choice as many people hold it in extremely negative regard. However, it is a choice that is out there that many people try, so it’s worth giving a few basics about what to expect if you choose to make instant coffee over using another brewing method. Is it recommended? Not really. We’ll explain why below. However, the end choice is yours, so if you want to give it a shot, that’s up to you.
Instant coffee quality ranges from average to pretty darn bad with nothing really going over that hump. Those who are coffee snobs are going to immediately explain that it’s undrinkable, but different brands and blends have unique tastes, and some are more tolerable than others. It’s just a matter of trying different options and looking at reviews. Of course, that only applies if you really really want to try a coffee that is made with basically no work on your behalf at all.
In the last few years, more and more companies are coming out with new instant coffee options. Many of them are working on perfecting the process of freeze-drying to offer a cup of coffee that tastes better than you would expect. However, there is still a long way to go and most people are better off choosing another method to get their daily caffeine buzz.
The biggest reason to delve into instant coffee? It is the best option if you are obsessed with the idea of getting your coffee in the easiest and quickest manner possible. Instant coffee offers that, but it comes at the expense of quality, so make sure you are aware of that. You can have ultimate convenience or fantastic taste, but the two don’t come in one product, at least not for now.
If you are someone who is traveling, instant coffee might be an option for times when nothing else is available. It can also be used when you wake up super late and literally have no time to use your preferred technique for brewing coffee. In all other cases, stick with something else. Instant coffee just isn’t up to snuff when compared to the other options on this list.
As far as taste goes, instant coffee is an attempt at recreating the taste of brewing coffee. Coffee is brewed as normal before the water is removed from it. This is what creates the hard, dry crystals that coffee drinkers rehydrate in others to enjoy a cup of coffee. However, this process breaks down many compounds and flavors in the coffee that would otherwise make it taste better.
Taste matters to you? You want to stay away from the idea of instant coffee. Even the best brands are not as good as any other coffee you can make. Drinkable is possible, but good really isn’t. If you want a coffee that highlights your morning, it isn’t going to be this one.
Factors That Go Into Excellent Coffee
Other than instant coffee, any of the methods above can create a great coffee. However, there are some things you can do to make sure of that. A few factors go into creating a coffee that is better than average. We want to share those so you can make the best possible coffee for yourself every time you brew.
- Quality coffee beans – Even if you go no further on this list, using quality coffee is a must. It can make a huge difference to the taste and aroma of your cup every morning. Rather than buying a random cheap brand at the grocery store, look at the many specialty coffees available. You might pay more, but it’s worth it.
- Right grind consistency – The way your coffee is ground is also crucial to getting a fantastic cup of coffee. That means investing in a decent grinder instead of using the cheapest one on the market. A bad grinder can leave lots of particles that make the coffee acidic or bitter, ruining the taste in your cup. You should also make sure to freshly grind the coffee just before brewing it.
- Proper technique – Getting a great extraction is what you are going for with a cup of coffee. That means watching everything from brew time to temperature and grind size and adapting to get the best cup. Even making small changes can have a huge effect, so you need to experiment and be open to change to create the coffee that is going to blow the socks off of guests visiting your home.
Found the coffee brewing method that best fits your lifestyle and needs? Great! Try it out and see how it fits into your life. But don’t forget that you can try multiple methods and switch things up. Many people use a combination of methods depending on their desires for the day and enjoy having options.
Think about what matters to you in terms of taste, price point, brewing method, and more before you choose the technique that works for you. Don’t be afraid to try a couple of different things to find what works for you. You never know, the perfect brewing method might be out there just waiting for you. We’d love to hear what it is when you know!
1. Which coffee brewing method is the best?
There is no one-size-fits-all brewing method for coffee that everyone is going to agree with. Some people like to use a coffee machine, others prefer an espresso machine, and some want to work with a pour-over device. Experimentation is the best way to find the right method for you.
2. Do you need a coffee maker for ground coffee?
A coffee maker can be an easy way to brew ground coffee, but it isn’t your only option. You can use a kettle or pot to heat water and pout that over coffee if you have no other options available.
3. How is coffee brewed?
In the simplest sense, coffee is brewed when hot water is poured over ground coffee beans. This allows the coffee to brew into a cup or mug. There are several ways to do this, including a French press, filter, and percolator.
4. Can you just add ice to coffee?
Sure, if you want a cold coffee beverage, this is the easiest option. All you have to do is brew a cup of coffee and then pour it over a cup of ice. This will cool the coffee off quite quickly so you can enjoy it faster than you might a steaming hot cup that needs to cool on its own.
5. Can you put coffee in the fridge for the next day?
If you care about the taste of your coffee, this is something you should likely avoid. It is better to enjoy the coffee within an hour or two of brewing and toss whatever you don’t finish. Instead of storing it, make a new pot for the next day if you want the highest quality.
6. How do you use a coffee capsule without a machine?
If you have coffee pods, but you don’t have a machine to brew them, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cup of coffee. You can put the pod into a mug and pour boiling water over the top of it. Fill until the mug is nearly full and then enjoy your coffee.
7. What can I use if I don’t have coffee filters?
If you run out of coffee filters and don’t have time to head to the store to get more, you aren’t completely out of luck. Instead of a coffee filter, a paper towel or a napkin can be used instead.
8. What can I substitute for coffee?
There are alternatives to coffee that you can try if you want something new and different. Chicory coffee, chai tea, golden milk, yerba mate, and rooibos tea are all excellent choices.
9. How do you make coffee taste good?
Not a fan of the taste of coffee? There are many things you can add to your brew to make the flavor a bit different. Try adding sugar and creamer or adding a splash of vanilla.
10. Why do people put butter in their coffee?
Many people who are dieting using the paleo or keto method drink a cup of coffee with butter and MCT oil in it instead of having breakfast. The reason for this is because the large amounts of fat slow down the metabolism of caffeine, so you get more energy over a longer period of time.