6 Ways to brew Coffee - A Guide
Good quality coffee is something that is becoming more important to people all over the world and with the increased availability of barista quality beans and a wide range of professional grade machines on the market, it’s now possible for anyone to enjoy a really sensational cup of coffee at home.
Many of us grew up drinking terrible coffee. Low-quality beans, basic machines, and dreaded instant coffee were the norm until quite recently but thankfully, things have progressed and we have so many fantastic options available to us these days.
There’s no easy answer to that question and the best method for you will depend on a number of factors including how much time you have, whether you’re at home or at work, how much money you want to spend and your own personal tastes. But to help you in your quest for the perfect cup of joe, I’ve put together this handy guide to brewing coffee and included my favorite ways to get the best-tasting caffeine kick.
1. French Press or Cafetière
The French Press is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in recent years and for good reason. Using a plunge filter in a glass jug, this inexpensive, portable and efficient little tool makes it super-easy to brew up a great cup of coffee in just five minutes.
Cafetières have been around since the 19th century and work by infusing ground coffee in water in a similar way to loose tea leaves in a pot and you can use your own home-ground beans or store-bought coffee. A coarse ground blend is ideal for this method.
Before making coffee in your French press, you should always rinse out your pot with recently boiled hot water. This step removes any remnants of previous brews and warms up the pot, aiding the infusion process.
Pour hot water over ground coffee beans, wait for 3 – 5 minutes and gently depress the plunger through the jug to push the coffee grounds to the bottom of the vessel. The longer you leave the coffee before plunging, the more intense the flavor will be. The result is a smooth and aromatic brew that is quite different from coffee that has had water forced through it under pressure.
One of the great advantages of a French Press is that you can take it with you wherever you go. In the past, these tools were usually made of glass which can be fragile but there are now lots of manufacturers making much tougher and more resilient cafetières from stainless steel and other materials. They also come in a variety of sizes so whether you want to make one cup or eight, there’s a French Press that will accommodate your needs.
You can now also buy a thermal cafetière which will keep your coffee warm for several hours – a really smart redesign which has solved one of the only negatives points about these great little appliances.
Cafetières are pretty easy to clean and some can even go in the dishwasher although personally, I prefer to wash mine by hand. You can now find French Presses in a wide range of colors and materials.
Pros & Cons
- Minimal investment for maximum flavor
- Take it with you wherever you go
- Just add coffee grounds – no need for paper filters or other extras
- You will need to make sure you have the right coffee bean grind
2. Filter Coffee Machine
Brewing up your cup of coffee in a filter machine is the world’s most popular way of making coffee. This method originated in Europe and soon made its way across the Atlantic where it quickly took off and no wonder!
Filter machines are quick, inexpensive and they couldn’t be easier to use. They are a popular choice for diners, cafeterias, and workplaces because you can make relatively large quantities and as well as brewing the coffee, they keep it hot (although we don’t recommend drinking coffee that’s been sitting around for too long).
On top of all that these machines are super-easy to clean and using paper filters makes it simple and clean to dispose of used coffee grounds.
A filter machine directs boiling water over medium to coarse ground coffee and into a jug on a thermal plate where the drink is stored and kept warm. Most machines will brew up to 12 cups which means you can fill it up once, switch it on and refill your cup repeatedly until you drink it all or it goes cold.
Most filter machines can be pre-programmed so if you need a caffeine hit to get going first thing, you can wake up to freshly brewed java every morning!
The standard of your brew will largely depend on the quality of the coffee grounds you use. You could use a filter machine with home ground beans. If this is your MO, use a medium-coarse ground setting for the perfect cup!
Pros & Cons
- Machines require minimal investment
- Quick – you’ll have your cup of joe in five minutes flat
- Super-easy to clean – just rinse the pot and filter after every use
- Great for when you need to make several cups of coffee at once
- Machine will require de-scaling in hard water areas
- Requires paper filters
- It’s a one-trick pony. You can only make plain filter coffee.
3. Espresso Machine
Almost every barista-quality coffee drink is based on the simple espresso, an intense shot of coffee brewed by forcing hot water at high pressure through ground coffee. Whether you are a fan of the macchiato or your coffee of choice is an Americano, Cappuccino or Mocha, the first step is always going to be an espresso.
Previously only seen at restaurants and cafes, espresso machines have gradually been finding their way into the homes of coffee connoisseurs and nowadays, these are a regular feature in kitchens everywhere.
Espresso machines are designed to be used with fine ground coffee which you can grind yourself at home or purchase ready-ground.
If you haven’t used an espresso machine before, you might be intimidated by what seems like a lot of small parts with odd names and confusing purposes. In fact, once you’ve brewed your first shot, it will all make perfect sense.
There are lots of different parts in an espresso machine but to get started, the main ones you’ll need to get to know are;
Read our Best espresso machines under $500
This part of the machine is made up of a brew basket, handle, and spigot which can be attached for brewing coffee and taken apart for cleaning. It’s the place where you’ll put in the coffee grounds.
Depending on the size of your espresso machine you may have one or more groupheads. When you’ve put the coffee grounds into your portafilter, you screw it into the grouphead.
When you’ve filled up your portafilter and screwed it into the grouphead, you use your shot buttons to direct water through the coffee grounds and make your espresso. Large commercial machines will have lots of options while smaller machines may just give you one or two.
You use this part of the machine to steam milk for lattes, cappuccinos and other milky drinks.
An espresso machine is an absolute must for a lot of people and there are few other machines that will give you such a broad range of options. Once you have one of these in your home or workplace, there’s really no looking back. You’ll figure out your own way of doing things and soon, making espressos will become second nature to you.
As anyone will tell you, the downside of an espresso machine is the cleaning and it’s very important to keep it clean both for hygiene reasons and to keep your machine running smoothly.
Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your home espresso machine at least once a week by backflushing it with water. Commercial machines should be cleaned daily due to a higher volume of use. Whether your machine is at home or in the office, roughly every 200 shots, you should use a specialized cleaner to clear, unblock and sterilize all the machine parts.
The first time you clean your machine it can seem like a real chore but you’ll find that you quickly get into a routine and just like your coffee brewing, you’ll soon be a pro at cleaning the machine.
- For versatility, you just can’t beat an espresso machine
- Barista quality coffee whenever you want it
- Looks great on your countertop!
- Requires a significant investment
- A pain in the butt to clean
4. Stovetop Espresso Pot
I love the simplicity of this kind of coffee. The Moka pot is a household essential in homes across Italy where people tend to drink short shots of intense coffee rather than the longer more diluted coffee drinks more common on this side of the Atlantic.
Italians are well-known for their high standards in coffee and other culinary areas so it’s no surprise that these handy stove-top pots have made it onto this list. They were first developed in Italy in the 1930s where they are known as a macchinetta and although there are now several manufacturers, the design hasn’t really changed since then.
Moka pots are made of three individual parts, two chambers and a central filter section which screw together. You fill the bottom section with water, screw in the filter and attach the jug before placing the pot on a stove top. As the water boils, it forces steam at high pressure through the coffee and into the top chamber of the pot.
It takes about six minutes for the top chamber to start filing with coffee. As soon as it does, remove the pot from the heat source. The coffee will continue to flow from the residual heat in the bottom chamber.
The result is an intense, strong-flavored java which some people compare to an espresso shot (This is a contentious argument!). A top tip is to stir the coffee with a spoon before you pour it to blend together the different layers and give you a smoother experience.
For the perfect macchinetta coffee choose a medium ground coffee, somewhere in between fine ground espresso ground and coarse filter blend. When filling up the filter chamber, don’t pack in the coffee. It’s important that there is space and air between the grounds to allow the steam to thoroughly penetrate the coffee on its way through to the top chamber.
Moka pot coffee tends to be sharp in flavor and some people find it a little acidic when compared to machine brewed espresso. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most popular ways to make coffee and millions of dedicated Moka-pot fans swear by it.
Stove-top espresso pots are usually cheap to buy but it’s always worth investing in a good quality model as if you do, it’s likely to last a lifetime. These are available in a variety of sizes so whether you need to make coffee for one or for ten, you’re sure to find the perfect pot for your requirements.
You will need a suitable stove top to operate these pots so before you buy, take a look at your stove and compare it with the measurements of the bottom of the pot to make sure that it will balance on your heat source in a stable manner. You can use a macchinetta with both gas and electric stovetops.
Read our best Moka pots guide
- Minimal investment
- The Moka pot is super easy to clean
- High-intensity caffeine kick
- The sharp flavor of macchinetta coffee isn’t to everybody’s taste
- You need a stove to use this gadget
- Can only make one type of coffee.
Chemex has become a bit of a cult classic both for its performance and its hipster-like appearance. Looking like a cross between a prop from a Tim Burton movie and something you’d find in a chemistry lab, Chemex uses a unique patented filter made of densely woven paper over a glass flask. The Chemex filter is 20% – 30% heavier than most other brands and this extra density filters out even the tiniest particles of sediment along with undesirable fats and oils that can contaminate the flavor and quality of the coffee.
As a result, what you get is a smooth and pure aromatic coffee without any bitterness. The manufacturers recommend that you grind your own beans for the optimum coffee experience but you can, of course, use store-bought coffee if you wish. A medium coarse ground is ideal for this method.
For all it’s coolness, Chemex couldn’t really be any more straightforward. Take a filter and open it out into a cone shape. Place it in the mouth of the jug and measure in your coffee grounds. For a medium strength brew, use one tablespoon of coffee per 5 oz cup.
Boil your water in a kettle or on the stove top. Once the water is boiled remove it from the heat source and wait for any bubbling to stop. You are now ready to start brewing.
Pour a small amount of water over the coffee grounds – just enough to soak them and now wait for approximately 30 seconds. This process is called ‘blooming’ and it helps to develop the best flavors of the coffee.
Now pour the remaining water over the grounds and fill the chamber no more than 1/4 “ from the top of the vessel. As the water drips through the filter, you can slowly add more until you have the desired quantity of coffee.
Pour and enjoy your smooth and aromatic Chemex coffee whilst congratulating yourself on how devastatingly hip you’ve become since investing in this piece of coffee kit.
Chemex coffee makers come in a wide variety of sizes making anything from three to thirteen cups. The filters come in packs of 100 and can be ordered online. They are also available for purchase at some specialist coffee stores.
- Ideal for people who enjoy a really smooth coffee
- Simple to use and easy to clean
- Looks exceptionally cool and is guaranteed to impress all your friends
- Chemex filters aren’t available at the supermarket!
- If you drop that glass jug, it will probably break
The AeroPress has been around since 2005 when it was patented by Alan Adler. Since then it has gained a growing consumer base who swear by its simplicity and effectiveness. It’s a small and portable tool made of BPA-free plastic which uses a plunger to force brewed coffee at pressure through a filter.
This tool is quick, brewing coffee in sixty seconds and it’s easy to clean and super-portable. It also offers more versatility than many other machines allowing you to use any ground coffee from espresso blend through to coarse grind. These will deliver slightly different flavors which you can select depending on your personal taste.
The AeroPress does not look cool. It’s kind of like a giant medical syringe but ignore the aesthetics because the coffee it produces is really outstanding. It is also pretty cheap and tough enough to be carried around in a backpack which is why it’s a popular choice for campers.
For the perfect cup of coffee, you’ll first need to heat water in a kettle or on the stovetop. Allow the water to cool for about one minute before you pour it. While you are waiting, push a filter into the cap of the AeroPress and twist it onto the chamber.
Stand your chamber on top of the cup or mug you plan to drink from and add a scoop (Your AeroPress comes with its own measuring scoop) of ground coffee. Shake the chamber gently so that the coffee lies in an even layer.
Now add hot water up to the point marked Level 2 on the chamber. Stir carefully for a few seconds and insert the plunger. Press down gently, releasing the coffee from the chamber into your cup.
That’s it! It just couldn’t be simpler. What’s really surprising is just how good the coffee is. The AeroPress is also very easy to clean. All you need to do is unscrew the cap and tap out the used coffee and filter into the trash and rinse, leaving it ready for the next use.
The only real downside to this tool is the size of the unit. You can only make a maximum of 2 small cups of coffee at a time so it’s not going to work at parties or for large groups of people. Nevertheless, it works so quickly that it would be pretty easy to make several cups one after the other using the same unit.
The AeroPress does require the use of filters so there’s some element of waste involved but these are biodegradable, compostable and easily available online and at some supermarkets. The manufacturer also makes a handy tote bag for carrying it around – ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, campers and travelers.
- Incredibly fast and easy to use
- Hardwearing, durable and portable
- Extremely good coffee
This is not an exhaustive list of every coffee making method available and although I’ve included my favorite methods, there are plenty of other ways of making a very respectable cup of coffee that we just didn’t get to.
Two that didn’t make it to this list but which deserve an honorable mention are the vacuum/siphon pot and the Cold Drip Coffee maker, both of which are growing significantly in popularity. It’s inspiring that so many people are continuing to come up with new and unique ways of brewing coffee and I’m excited about what the future holds!