Coffee. Maybe you consider it your liquid energy, nectar from the gods, or simply your favourite time of day. Some prefer it simply brewed and mild, while others prefer it strong and bold. But either way, it’s still coffee. Beans that have been ground, pressed or otherwise liquified into a delicious drink that stimulates your olfactory senses as much as it awakens your soul. In fact, for many, getting through a morning without their favorite cup of coffee is simply sacrilegious!
There are many different ways to brew a cup of joe. In this article, we will explore the various brewing methods and all the details about them. There are a lot, so buckle up! It’s brew time!
Coffee has evolved quite a bit in the last ten years or so. Back in the day, your choices were pretty much the same everywhere. A basic coffee or maybe an espresso if you were feeling fancy. Eventually, around the time of the 1990s, the rise of the coffee house era brought many more specialty coffees to the table.
All these options had been around for decades and even centuries before this but their rise in popularity beyond their tiny villages of origin was due in part to the availability of the machines needed to make these coffees at home accessible and user-friendly to the masses.
The goal here is to give you a step by step guide of all the various ways you can brew your coffee today. The goal being for you to not simply just learn and understand the differences between these methods but to also reach out into the unknown and try out a few new ones as well.
Here’s a handy list of the different types of coffee makers. Each belongs to a diverse group. The goal here is to give you some clear, concise knowledge about them all so that you can choose the brewing method that works best for you.
Pressure Brewed Coffee
- Espresso machine
- Handheld espresso maker
- Stovetop espresso maker
Brewing and Steeped Methods
- French Press
- Coffee Bag
- Vacuum/Siphon Pot
Filtration or Drip Method
- Manual Pour Over Coffee Makers
- Machine Pour Over Coffee Makers
Each has its pros and cons, and each brew a very different style of coffee. Let’s take a deeper dive in and see how all these brewing methods work!
Starting with the Pressure Brewed Coffee methods first:
This method is all about mastering the perfect espresso. That tiny little cup packed with so much punch, it jolts you up and gives you that get up and go feeling.
Traditional Espresso Machine (Traditional and typical)
Espresso is essentially a pressure brewed coffee and probably the most common one that comes to mind. Not all pressure brewed coffees are espresso, however! The three most common ways to pressure brew coffee is by using either an espresso machine, a Moka pot or an Aeropress brewer.
The espresso machine has been around since the turn of the century. Basically, despite all the glitz and glam that many espresso machines come with, they all still pretty much do the same things. Pressurized water is pushed through a chamber where finely ground coffee beans sit, then through a filter, which basically creates what we know as a shot of espresso. This can be done by hand, the old-fashioned way with a lever espresso machine, the kind that is pretty much labour intensive because it’s pumped by hand. Another option is to choose the more common automatic kind. No effort required, just some extra cash to avoid the effort of hand pumping.
Espresso is definitely a quick and delicious coffee fix. It only takes a few minutes to turn your beans into a tasty hot brew. It’s essential to start out with a fine consistent grind, however. If the grind is too coarse, it won’t clump, and if it’s also fine, then it will clump way more than needed.
Things to remember: An espresso should be strong and sharp but never bitter. This being said, if you prefer your coffee subtler, espresso may not be your best choice. Another aspect that is worth considering is the clean-up time -espresso machines are notoriously difficult to clean as well as big, bulky, and therefore take up a lot of room.
Moka Pot (Espresso-ish)
Okay, so the Moka pot is essentially the same thing as an espresso machine but way cheaper and requires a little more manual effort. It still creates a pressurized brew, but it is a stove pot espresso maker. Water in the bottom chamber boils up, and the steam causes pressure, which ultimately pushes the water up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber. Same concept just with a little more effort.
The result is similar but not exactly the same as in with an automatic espresso machine. It pretty much makes a bittersweet and strong brew and can caffeinate a much larger crowd, whereas the espresso machine is a one at a time type deal.
The Moka pot works quickly because as soon as the water boils, you’re making espresso. However, choosing the right type of grounds often requires a little more trial and error. If your coffee ends up being too weak for your liking, then the grounds used were probably too coarse and vice versa.
Again, it’s not quite an espresso but so close that an unskilled eye or palette probably couldn’t tell the difference anyway. The end result will be strong and definitely of lower quality, but it’s cheap, portable, and quick to use.
The Aeropress (The perfect espresso lives HERE)
Okay, so the Aeropress is probably the holy grail of espresso pressurized coffee making. The Aeropress comes in three pieces, and it makes a quick delicious brew. What’s fun about this method is that you don’t have to spend too much time deciding on the type of grounds to buy. Pretty much anything works, and so you can customize your coffee to your liking. Basically, anything goes with an Aeropress. A total of about sixty seconds and you have a great smooth, rich brew ready to be enjoyed.
The Aeropress is also portable, which is fun; however, this is not a group coffee experience. The Aeropress can only make about two cups at a time. This machine also needs filters which can be seen as wasteful.
Moving on to the second category of Brewing versus Steeping methods:
Brewing is the most long-standing method of making coffee. It’s the old coffee maker in the office kitchen, at your grandmother’s house, and at the fast-food coffee joint on the corner. No fancy barista making skills necessary here! Simple coffee grinds, hot water, and pour. And that’s exactly what brewed coffee is -in actual fact it is steeping, as these methods are surprisingly one and the same. Steeping, just like when using a teabag, is the basic immersion of the coffee grinds in water. Once you have separated the grinds from the hot water, your coffee is made. And depending on how long you have left it there, you will either have a strong or a weak brew.
Therefore, it is the taste of your coffee that will differ based on how long it has been steeped or immersed. Under steeped and it’s too weak and over-steeped and it’s too strong.
The French Press (A classic choice)
This brewing method involves that pretty little, often made of glass, transparent cylinder type item that has been around for generations. It’s synonymous with Paris and a croissant on the side. Easy to use, relatively cheap, and it magically creates a coffee that tastes like pretty much nothing else on the market. The most important thing to remember is that without the right grind, it will not have the taste you’ve been expecting. It must be a coarse grind so that it’s strong enough to withstand the steeping. Ten minutes with the right grind and a little bit of your undivided attention will give you a unique brew filled with flavour.
Just be sure to avoid the last few drops in your cup, as it is normal for some of the sediment to be present. You can make several cups with a French Press, but this is a brewing method best left at home as those pretty little glass cups are most definitely not portable. Some skill is required in order to get it just right, but like anything though, this is a skill that can be learned. You certainly don’t need to be a rocket scientist to operate a French Press.
SoftBrew (No fuss, no muss just coffee)
As compared to other forms of brewed coffee, the soft brew is relatively new to the coffee scene-only being on the market just under twenty years or so. It’s basically similar to a French Press but just easier to use. There’s a stainless-steel cylinder type container that you fill with coffee grinds. The next step is to immerse them in the teapot type kettle of hot water. Approximately four to eight minutes of steeping, and you’re done!
The holes in the cylinder range through a multitude of sizes, so really any type of grinds work well. This is the no muss, no mess version of a specialty coffee but without the fanfare. As well, like many others in this list- it has ceramic parts, and it’s easily broken and not conducive to travel.
The Vacuum/Siphon Pot (Brewing combo at its finest)
This brewing method is although often referred to as simply just a siphon pot, and it’s a pretty unique way to brew a cup of coffee. It’s actually a combination of brewing methods. Immersion and siphoning to create a really cool of coffee. Although it doesn’t take long, only about ten minutes or so, cleaning the pot and so getting the technique down pat are the most challenging parts of the process.
If done correctly, it’s probably the cleanest-tasting brew around. This is because your coffee is only touching the glass and not metal like in so many other methods. It’s worth noting that this style is really for the detailed oriented person. If you just need a cup of joe, you’re probably going to find siphoning slow and frustrating.
The Coffee Bag (Uh…NO.)
Okay, so this is the one and done brewing method if you can really call it that. A pre-filled bag sealed and ready to go. The problem is that this type of coffee is, not surprisingly, of a very low quality. It’s the kind of thing that you find in low to medium rate hotel chains. Decent if it’s the last cup of coffee on earth during a zombie apocalypse, but beyond that, it’s not something that you truly want to ingest every day. Or even every other day. It is cheap and portable, however, highly wasteful.
Our last category is the Filtration or Drip Method of brewing of cup of coffee.
Here’s where we get on-trend. Right now, filtration or drip coffee is pretty hot in the coffee community. There is pour-over, cold brew, drip, etc… all current, trendy ways to brew. However, you must keep in mind that most people will start this process by grinding their own beans-because that’s just how all the cool kids do it.
Basically, this type of brewed coffee is very straightforward; just pour hot boiling water over freshly ground beans that are sitting in some type of filter. Water passes through the grounds, and the result is a clean, clear light-bodied tasting brew.
The Electric Percolator (Meh…)
So, in case you didn’t know, the brew in a percolator is boiled multiple times over and is basically brown mud of a coffee. It’s what served in low-end diners around the globe. The smell of freshly brewed is the same, but the taste is most definitely not. There’s really not much to say about this type of coffee. Everyone has had one at some point, but it’s definitely nothing to write home about or even worthy enough to waste space on in this article.
Manual Pour Over Coffee Makers vs. Machine Pour Over Coffee Makers
This is a broad category in brewed coffee, and this is where the trends are right now.
Read on to learn more!
The Chemex (If you like your coffee beautiful)
Now, this is the art deco of coffee makers! It looks like a cross between a flower vase and an art installation. And for a good reason. But it’s more than just a pretty face. This is a drip process coffee maker, but unlike the other methods, the Chemex can make enough brewed coffee for a large group. This makes it a great choice at a party both for functionality and beauty.
Again, like many of the previous methods, a little playing around is necessary in order to hit the right mixture. In terms of grinds, it’s medium to slightly coarse that works best. This method definitely needs practice, though. Without the proper skill, you will end up with and under or over extracted brew. But a little practice is worth it to impress your friends!
The Bee House Dripper (New to the scene? Start here!)
This is a Japanese pour-over coffee dripper that is easy to use and comes in a ceramic pot, often in many different colours. This is an excellent option for beginner coffee makers who want to step into the world of coffee brewing. The ceramic holds the heat longer than plastic, and it uses simple, straightforward filters. A decent brewed coffee for sure!
The Clever Dripper (The name says it all!)
This one is a cross between steeping and a pour-over brewer. It comes with a valve that stops your brew from draining into the cup until you activate it. After adding hot water and grounds to your filter, after steeping for your desired time, place it on top of your cup, which in turn activates the valve and drains the brew into your mug. This gives you incredible control over your brew, making it fully customizable.
The Hario V60 Dripper (A quick drip!)
This one is a simple, portable, and light way for brewing coffee. The Hario v60 comes with a special, uniquely designed, dripping cone system. This essentially means that there’s a large hole at the bottom which is funneled by spiraled ribbing on the side. You’ll need a special paper filter, but once it’s in, just throw in your grounds, and you’re ready to go. After about five minutes, you’ll have a rich flavoured brew without any bitterness. Definitely a quick and affordable method for a great cup of coffee.
The Kalita Wave Dripper (Sounds fancy but pretty simple)
This method is the complete opposite of the Hario V60. Again, this is a simple core dripping system, but with a flatbed instead, the Hario’s cone-shaped one, which makes less room for error. The Kalita Wave dripper needs a fine grind so that it can produce a rich, clean flavoured coffee. The taste is similar to pour over drip coffees.
The Vietnamese Drip Filter (Similar to the French Press)
Here we have a single cup dripper that can make hot coffee or an iced coffee. It needs a grind that is a bit finer than the one you’d use in a French press. No paper filters required here, which means that it allows for the oils to drip right into the coffee. This method is similar to the French press. Definitely a single-serve brew method, though, due to its small size.
The Melitta Ready Set Joe Dripper (A.K.A the campers dream)
If you love to go camping and you love a good coffee, then stop right here! This method of brewing coffee has a dripping plastic cone that enables you to brew coffee quickly and easily anywhere anytime. Made of plastic, this is not a style that will impress your neighbors but more of a luxury when in the woods type of deal. Definitely a better choice than an instant coffee any day!
The Cold Brew (Trendy lives here!)
Now here’s a fun one! Cold brewing is one of the most popular trends in brewing. Despite what it sounds like, it’s so much more than just an iced coffee. Basically, to get a cold brew, you must slowly drip cold filtered water through fresh grinds for an extended period. How long? Well, approximately ten hours or more!
This brewing method produces an incredibly strong, unique coffee with a smooth finish. No bitterness or acidity at all. Best enjoyed black, there’s simply no need for sweeteners or added milk. The pure taste of the coffee bean comes through every time. Refreshing with no aftertaste!
Another fun fact is that a cold brew stays fresh for up to two weeks. Which is a pretty good trade-off for waiting ten plus hours for it to drip!
If you like this style and want to check it out in more detail, have a look at our article on How to Make a Cold Brew Coffee
Nitrous Coffee (Edgy coffee aficionados, this is your stop)
Time to get even fancier! Nitrous coffee is a cold brew with added nitrogen. And yes, you did read that right-nitrogen is pumped through it! This changes the taste and the texture giving it a crisper, sweeter taste, and leaving it frothy like a beer. Fun facts include: it’s an extra boost of caffeine-enhanced by the nitro, the light creamy, and refreshing taste despite drinking it black and cold. Also, like a beer, it is available on tap at specialty coffee shops or available to buy in cans. It can, over course, be made at home too, but it’s definitely quite time-consuming.
As you can see, there are a ton of brewing methods on the market today! Each one has its pros and cons, but most of them do make an exceptional cup of coffee. The best takeaway from all this, though, is the knowledge that there is more than just one way to brew coffee. In fact, if you take a little time to form a solid understanding of all the brewing methods, you will end up with a much better quality of coffee in your cup.
It’s all about deciding which one works best for you, your lifestyle, and naturally the type of coffee you enjoy most. So happy brewing!