how does a drip coffee maker work

We all love our first cup of coffee for the day. In fact, many of us rely on our first cup of coffee of the day! Shortly before going to bed, I head down to the kitchen, pour water into my coffee maker’s reservoir, grind my beans and add them to the filter basket, set the timer, and head off to bed.

When I wake up the next morning, the house is filled with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. This is a miracle, right? One we take for granted. But then I asked myself, how does this seemingly simple task really happen? How does a drip coffee maker work?

This article will walk you through how a drip coffee maker works. It will show you what happens in that miraculous stainless steel (or black plastic) box that sits so prominently on your kitchen counter!

So as we discussed, the drip coffee maker is a miracle device. But it isn’t exactly rocket science! It’s pretty straightforward, actually.

When you look inside your coffee maker, you will find three things…

  • A water reservoir – this is where you put the fresh tap (or bottled) water that will be heated to ultimately become your cup of coffee.
  • A white tube, beginning below the water reservoir and leading up to the top of the machine. This tube will carry the heated water from the heating element to the coffee grounds.
  • A shower head – This will disperse the heated water evenly over the coffee grounds.
latte in a plastic cup with a brown straw

Under the water reservoir is the heating element and some tubing. There is a hole in the base of the water reservoir. Water is drawn in through this hole (by gravity), and runs through the heating element.

Once the water is hot, it rises through the tube to the showerhead. No pumps needed. This is the same action as in a percolator, by the way. The hot water rises through the post in the centre of the pot – it is actually forced upward by the bubbles of steam created when water boils. The tube is sufficiently slender that a bubble takes up the whole diameter of the tube and can support a column of water.

And the flow of water from the reservoir to the showerhead is controlled by a one-way valve. This way, the boiling water has nowhere to go but up!

a lady enjoying a nice cup of coffee

The heating element serves a dual function. The aluminum in the heating element gets hot when electricity runs through it. When the cold water runs through the aluminum tube, it gets hot. Once the coffee is brewed, the heating element (located directly beneath the warming plate on which the pot sits) keeps the warming plate hot!

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