Choosing a method of brewing coffee that suits your tastes will depend on your own personal preference. While the most common coffee brewing method is probably the automatic drip coffee maker, there are several other methods that may surprise you with an even better tasting cup of coffee.
For the dedicated connoisseur, using the French press method of brewing coffee is worth the extra effort in order to enjoy an exceptional cup of coffee. For others, an automatic drip coffee maker produces a satisfying cup of coffee, and the convenience and ease-of-use outweighs the other methods.
Whichever method you prefer for brewing coffee, there are a few basics that are always important. Good quality water and the freshest, best quality beans are essential for brewing great coffee. Here are some additional tips and recommendations for brewing the best possible cup of coffee. Brewing Coffee Tips
In this very common method of brewing coffee, hot water is heated almost to a boiling temperature (195F to 205F is ideal), usually in a separate pot over the stove. The hot water is slowly poured over the ground coffee, which is placed in a filter, and allowed to drip out the bottom into a coffee pot. One of the advantages of the manual filter drip method is that you can better control the temperature of the water during the brewing process, something that is difficult to achieve with the automatic coffee makers.
The filter drip method can produce a very satisfactory cup of coffee, but there are several drawbacks to be aware of. The paper filter tends to absorb some of the coffee flavor, and can impart other unpleasant tasting side effects to the coffee if the paper is bleached. If you are going to use a paper filter, try to find a good quality, unbleached paper. A gold-plated reusable permanent coffee filter is a good alternative to using a paper filter, but be sure to rinse and clean the reusable filter carefully after each use.
Another flaw with drip brewing is the water does not stay in contact very long with the ground coffee. This reduced extraction time limits the amount of flavor imparted to the brewed liquid. A Chemex brewer is an excellent and inexpensive filter drip device if you prefer this method of manual drip brewing.
Automatic Drip Coffee Maker
The most common method of brewing coffee in the US with which most people are familiar is the automatic drip coffee maker. Hot water is heated almost to a boiling temperature, and slowly poured over the ground coffee, which is placed in a filter, and allowed to drip out the bottom into a coffee pot. Most electronic models allow you to preset the brewing event on a timer so you can conveniently wake up to a brewed cup of coffee in the morning.
The automatic drip coffee makers share the same drawbacks as the manual drip method (see above). In addition, while the convenience of an automatic programmable coffee maker is appealing, they don’t always brew at the optimum temperature. Grinding the beans the night before and placing in the coffee maker exposes them to the air for at least eight hours, which will cause some loss of flavor. Remember, to produce the best cup of coffee, it is preferable to grind the beans just prior to brewing your coffee.
Once the coffee is brewed, most automatic coffee makers have a heating element to keep the coffee warm, however, this will rapidly deteriorate the coffee if it sits for any length of time. It is best to use an air pot or thermos to keep the freshly brewed coffee hot if you don’t plan to drink it right away.
“Middle Eastern”, Turkish” or “Greek” Coffee
Usually referred to by Americans as “Turkish” coffee, this is the most popular method of brewing coffee throughout the Middle East. This coffee brewing method is a form of infusion that involves grinding the coffee into a very fine powder and boiling in water. The coffee is not filtered from the coffee liquor which results in a thicker, muddy brew, rich and strong in flavor. Traditionally, the coffee is brewed with large amounts of sugar, but can be enjoyed without the sugar as well.
The French press or press pot method of brewing coffee is another form of coffee infusion. This method involves placing a more coarsely ground coffee in a glass carafe (or ceramic carafe). Then water at the desired temperature (195F to 205F is optimum) is poured over the grounds and allowed to steep. When brewing is complete, a tightly fitting plunger device with a mesh filter is pushed down, pressing the grounds to the bottom of the beaker, leaving the coffee liquor on top.
This method gives you complete control over the coffee brewing and extraction process. You can control the temperature of the water far better than the automatic drip machines, and you can also control how long the water stays in contact with the ground coffee while it steeps.
The mesh filter is more porous than the paper and cone filters, which allows more of the flavorful coffee oils and dissolved (and some un-dissolved) solids to pass through and infuse into the liquor. The more porous filter does require a coarser grind, which also requires a longer steep time, generally 3 to 6 minutes is best. Even with the finest burr grinder (necessary to produce the coarser grind), some finer grinds are unavoidable which make their way through the plunger/filter and wind up in the cup.
This method is very popular in Europe and is catching on in the US more recently. While the French press may require more effort, for many who favor a richer, more full-bodied flavor, this is the preferred method of brewing coffee.
Tips on how to use a French Press to brew a great cup of coffee.
Vacuum Pot/Balanced Siphon
The vacuum process is another infusion method of brewing coffee that traces its history back to the mid 1800s. It uses an elegant looking device that is also entertaining to watch. The device consists of two glass globes that fit together with an air-tight seal. A filter to separate the grounds from the liquor is situated between the two globes.
The ground coffee is placed in the upper globe and enough water to brew the coffee is placed in the lower globe. The water in the lower globe is brought to a boil. The resulting pressure forces the water up through a connecting tube to the upper globe containing the ground coffee.
The heat source is then removed allowing the lower globe to cool down. This decreases the pressure in the lower globe, which causes a vacuum or siphon to draw the coffee down through the filter into the lower globe.
While very entertaining to watch, and often considered an elegant and fashionable experience at the finest restaurants (a version of the device that uses sterno as the heating source can be brought to the table for a dramatic viewing experience), the vacuum brewing method has some drawbacks. The coffee is extracted by water at the boiling temperature around 212F. Ideally, coffee should be extracted using water between 195F and 205F for the optimum release of flavor. In addition, there is less control over the extraction time or how long the ground coffee is in contact with the water.
The vacuum method is gaining popularity and while some swear by this method, it may require a fair amount of practice to perfect the technique.
In the US, this was the popular method of brewing coffee in the 1950s. It has fallen out of favor, primarily due the less than optimum aspects of the percolator method that tend to yield an inferior cup of coffee.
The procedure involves the continuous brewing of coffee grounds using boiling water, which becomes boiling coffee liquor. The coffee brew is then re-circulated (percolated) back over the already over-extracted coffee grounds. Brewing with boiling water is not optimal. The optimal water temperature for extracting the most flavor from the ground coffee beans is between 195F and 205F (water boils at 212F). This typically produces a thin, bitter tasting, muddy cup of coffee.