Coffee Brewing Methods
Coffee has been around forever, yet the options for how you can drink yours seem to change with each passing year. A mere ten years ago the convenient coffee maker seemed like the perfect way to start your day. It was quick and easy, portable, and made a good enough cup of coffee.
Then along came such names as Keurig, Tassimo, and Nespresso and up-ended everything you thought you knew and loved about brewing coffee. Suddenly, you no longer had to brew a whole pot of coffee; the little coffee pods gave you any flavor and bean you could possibly think of, by the cup.
It seems that once the big question was what kind of coffee did you prefer; breakfast blend, light roast, dark roast, etc. – now the question is exactly how do you want your coffee brewed.
Coffee has evolved into more than just the beans you make it with; there are now sophisticated machines and a variety of mix-ins to use that have turned coffee-making into a fine art. Every coffee brewing method is different in that you are eliciting distinctive calorie counts, flavor, and caffeine levels.
There are any number of options to getting your coffee made: French press, Chemex, espresso, pour-over, and more. With all of these new methods, getting a cup of coffee might seem a little confusing.
How you brew your coffee is now a personal art form. Some coffee drinkers will waver from one brewing method to another and never seem satisfied, while others will stick to one tried-and-true method. Have a look below at eight coffee brewing methods. Which one is right for you?
If you’re looking for something to really jolt you awake in the morning, then the French Press method is the way to go. To brew your coffee, just put some coffee grounds in the pitcher, add water that’s been heated and let steep for approximately five minutes. When you’re ready for a cup of coffee simply push the strainer down, and you will get a freshly brewed cup. The longer your grounds are steeped, the stronger your coffee will be, making this the perfect morning eye-opener. Stronger coffee like what you find in the French Press brew, may cause higher cholesterol spikes.
- Best ground type / grind level for the French Press: Coarse ground (like kosher sea salt)
- Read more: Best Coffees for the French Press
If you like only one cup of coffee at a time, and done in a hurry, this method is great for you. All you do is boil water and let it sit for 60 seconds. Place a filter inside the AeroPress cap and rinse with hot water for 5 seconds. Discard the rinse water. If using whole-bean coffee, grind it, otherwise pour your ground coffee into the ‘inverted’ position and gently shake it to settle the grounds. Set your timer for 45 seconds, and pour half the water over grounds. Let it sit for the 45 seconds. Then fill the AeroPress to the top. Stir gently for 5 seconds, then attach the cap securely. Flip the AeroPress over, place on top of your mug and push the plunger down.
- Best ground type / grind level for AeroPress: Medium to fine (table salt to sand)
- Read more: Best Coffees for AeroPress
This method is very popular, because it allows you completely control every variable in the brewing process. Pour-over coffee starts with freshly ground coffee, a filter, and a filter holder, which some call a ‘pour-over dripper’. All you do is pour the water over and through the grounds to extract the coffee flavors right into your cup. You can experiment with how you like your pour-over coffee. Ground size (from coarser to finer) and the recipe (ratio of coffee to water) will give you a different taste altogether. Getting the best brew for you takes some experimentation.
- Best ground type / grind level for Pour Over: Medium to fine (table salt to sand)
- Read more: Best Coffees for the Pour-Over Method
With this method of brewing coffee, you are making coffee using a single shot of coffee. Where once you had to visit your local coffee barista, now you can brew your espresso at home. You’ll want to find the perfect roast for you; use an espresso grinder to grind your own beans. Use purified water heated to 200F. Never use boiling water. Use just the right amount of ground coffee. Pack the grounds into the handle of the espresso machine. Again, you’ll find yourself experimenting to find just the perfect shot of coffee for you. If everything is done right you will see a hazel-brown cream appear when your coffee is finished brewing.
- Best ground type / grind level for Espresso: Fine (like powdered sugar)
- Read more: Best Coffees For Espresso Machines
This used to be the one and only way to make coffee. They are very simple to put together and use and are a very low-cost way to enjoy your coffee every day. All you do is add water to the pot itself, add the chamber and tube assembly, put in your desired amount of ground coffee into the chamber. Use one tablespoon of coffee for each cup of coffee you are brewing. Set the percolator on the stove and heat over medium heat. Just before boiling, lower the heat and let the percolator do its thing. Allow your coffee to percolate for about ten minutes. When it’s finished, remove from the stove and enjoy.
- Best ground type / grind level for the Percolator: Coarse ground (like kosher sea salt)
- Read more: Best Coffees for the Percolator
These coffee makers have been around long enough for you to know whether or not they are what you’re looking for in that perfect cup of coffee. You simply pour the desired amount of grounds into the coffee filter on top, fill the reserve with however many cups of water you want and it will brew you up a pot of steaming coffee in no time. These are great if you’re looking for all of the same type of coffee. Drip coffee-makers are classically simple and easy to use. You can brew as many or as few cups as you like. These machines are programmable; which means they can have your coffee waiting for you when you get up in the morning.
- Best ground type / grind level for Drip Coffee Makers: Medium grind (like table salt)
- Read more: Best Organic Coffees for Coffee Makers
This coffee brewing method has been around awhile. Originally created in the 1940s, this method involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds. But the Chemex filter is thicker than those used in traditional drip coffee-makers. Because of this, the finished coffee is smoother with a purer flavor. The Chemex brew is designed to remove all of the fatty oils that process through when your coffee is brewing. Coffee made the Chemex way is guaranteed to be a full-flavor event. That is due to the fact that the coffeemaker itself is designed to deliver only the elements essential to rich coffee flavor. Using medium-coarse beans ground through a burr grinder, the Chemex method will give you the perfect cup of coffee every time.
- Best ground type / grind level for Chemex: Medium grind (like table salt)
- Read more: Best Organic Coffees for Chemex
Clever-Dripper Full-Immersion Method
This method steeps very similarly to the French press, except instead of pressing the screen down to separate the coffee grounds, there is a little trigger on the bottom of the brewer which drains it through a paper filter. The result is a much cleaner, brighter tasting cup of coffee. Because the ground coffee is fully immersed in hot water for most if not all of the brew and then filtered at the end, it’s known as the full-immersion method. This is a very easy and do-able coffee making method to use at home. Using the Clever Dripper, you will always get a very distinct cup of coffee each time.
- Best ground type / grind level for the Clever-Dripper: Medium to fine (table salt to sand)
- Read more: The Clever Coffee Dripper – Full Immersion Method
Coffee is so much more than just something to make in the morning or to enjoy all day long. It starts with buying fresh beans and grinding them yourself. Coffee also always needs to be stored properly so as not to lose its fragrance.
From there, all bets are off. Coffee is very personal; that’s why so many brewing methods and equipment are now available. You no longer have to get your best cup of coffee at your local coffee shop. All of the freshness and aroma is yours, just as you like it, whenever you like it.
(image at top: croquis aquarellé: terrasse d’un café à Paris by Guy Moll / CC 2.0)