Pressure, drip, steeping, boiling—oh my! There’s so many different coffee brewing methods that it’s hard to keep track of them all. And it’s even harder to figure out which one to use!
Today we thought we’d simplify everything for you and take a look at four of the most popular coffee brewing methods. We’ll give you the break down on how these methods work and the quality of the coffee they produce so you can choose the best one for you.
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Drip Filtration for Coffee
When the National Coffee Association asked Americans which coffee maker they’d used the day before, 45% of the respondents said drip coffee machines. Drip filtration is a super popular coffee brewing method because it’s so easy to do and produces a pretty decent cup.
To make drip coffee, you’ll have to get an automatic drip coffee maker. Your machine will do most of the work for you—all you need to do in the morning is fill the filter up with coffee grounds, make sure the water reservoir is full, and push to start.
Your coffee machine will take over and pour hot water all over the grounds. The water will run or “drip” through the coffee grounds and filter and into your cup. In just a few short minutes, you’ll have a piping hot pot of coffee in your favorite mug. How easy was that?
There’s only one problem—drip coffee makers don’t produce the best cup of coffee! They’re automatic and don’t give you a lot of control over how your coffee tastes. You can’t adjust the water to coffee ratio or temperature of the water like you can with other brewing methods. This means that you can’t tailor the extraction and taste of the coffee to your preferences quite as much. Bummer!
So this method is best for people who value convenience the most. If you just want a decent cup of coffee in the morning without too much hassle, then drip filtration is for you!
Did you know that you need a huge amount of pressure to make espresso? It requires 9 bars of pressure, which is equal to 9 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level! Using that much pressure extracts tons of flavor from the coffee beans and gives espresso a much stronger flavor than other types of coffee.
Because you need so much pressure to make a good shot of espresso, you need a high quality espresso machine. It pushes hot water through your coffee grounds at a consistently high pressure, giving you the perfect shot for your daily latte.
If you love to have complete control over how your coffee tastes, this is the perfect brewing method for you! You can change the flavor and quality of your espresso just by changing the way you do things slightly. You can make your coffee grounds just a little smaller or larger and drastically change the flavor of your espresso shot. Smaller grounds lead to a shot with a heavier body and sweeter taste, while larger grounds yield one with a lighter body and tangier flavor.
Some other factors that you can alter are the ratio of water to coffee grounds and the temperature of the water. You’ll be able to customize the flavor and mouthfeel of your shot to perfectly match your preferences. You can’t do that with an automatic coffee machine!
But that also means that making a good shot of espresso takes time and skill. You’ll have to grind your coffee beans measure them out on a coffee scale, wait for the espresso machine to heat up, and pull the shot yourself. Pulling a shot takes a lot of patience and skill to get right… we’re speaking from experience when we say that you’ll pull at least a few dozen bad shots when you get started! So if you don’t have the patience to learn a new skill, skip this brewing method and try the next one: steeping.
Steeping is another great coffee brewing method for people who love really strong coffee. Coffee makers utilize the steeping method to deliver a cup of coffee so bold that some people complain it’s bitter!
Making coffee in the French press is simple—much simpler than making espresso. All you have to do is combine coarsely ground coffee with water and steep them for around four minutes. Brewing the coffee for this long extracts tons of rich, delicious flavor from the grounds. Totally immersing the grounds in hot water also helps pull lots of flavor from them.
After the four minutes are up, you can depress the plunger on top of the French press. This pushes the filter down and separates the water from the coffee grounds so they don’t land in your cup. We shudder just thinking about drinking grainy, sludgy coffee, so don’t forget this step!
Don’t forget to decant the coffee in your French press, either! It’s one of the biggest mistakes people make with this brewing method, and it’s why their coffee turns out bitter. The flavor from the coffee grounds can still seep into the water through the metal filter because it has holes in it. So if you leave your coffee in there, it will continue to brew and become much more bitter.
We love making coffee in the French press because it produces a rich cup of coffee without all the hassle of making espresso! You still have to grind your coffee beans, but you don’t have to be quite as precise about your measurements or techniques. It’s one of those recipes that you really can’t screw up, so it’s great for tired mornings when you’re too groggy to fiddle around with the espresso machine!
Boiling is the oldest way of making coffee. Cowboys used to make their coffee by boiling their coffee grounds in a pot over a campfire. Today, some people still make coffee this way and call it “cowboy coffee.”
Cowboy coffee can turn out a little grainy, though, so it’s not our favorite coffee drink! You don’t run the coffee through any kind of filter, so the grounds don’t get completely separated out from the liquid. If you let the coffee cool before pouring it, most of the grounds will sink to the bottom of the pot. But you’ll probably get a more grainy cup of coffee with this method than with any of the others on this list.
You can also boil your coffee by putting it in a percolator. Percolators have a perforated basket where the coffee grounds go, a tube, and a main chamber that holds the water. The percolator gets placed on the stove at a high heat. Once the water starts to boil, some of it shoots up through the tube and wets the coffee grounds. Then this coffee falls back down to the bottom of the pot and gets reboiled. This process repeats over and over again until the whole pot of coffee is strong enough to take off the stove.
This method was mainly used before automatic drip coffee makers were invented. Now, it’s kind of fallen out of favor. The coffee that returns down to the bottom of the pot gets recirculated back up to the grounds over and over, becoming stronger and stronger each time. This makes the coffee taste kind of bitter. If you want to boil your coffee, we think you should probably stick to cowboy coffee instead!