This guide will walk you through each and every method for brewing coffee, from normal to new-age, and (hopefully) get you excited to brew coffee in every way imaginable. So read on and get ready – we’ll help you in your pursuit of the perfect cup.
1. Espresso Machine
Today they come in various shapes and sizes, with loads of features and gimmicks. Don’t get confused by flash machines though because the basics are the same: pressurized water is pushed through a chamber/puck of finely ground coffee beans, through a filter, resulting in what we call a shot of espresso.
Are they expensive? Yes and no – you can spend as little or as much as you want. Warning: choosing one can be overwhelming. You need to decide what type of espresso machine you want – but luckily we’ve have buying guides for each. You have home based semi-automatic machines, fully automatic machines, manual lever machines, smaller, portable espresso makers or if you’re a cafe – commercial machines.
For the more artisanal inclined…or old fashioned….a lever espresso machine, that’s pumped with your hand, is a great way to brew exceptional coffee. For those who like it all done for them (“I just want a damn coffee and I don’t want to move”), super automatic espresso machines like these ones are a great option (although expensive)
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: It depends on your machine. A commercial machine may need 15-40 minutes to warm up, and a home-based machine may take only 3 minutes. Once warm, however, you’ll have your fix in 20-30 seconds.
Type of grind required: You’ll need a fine, consistent grind. Here’s a trick of the trade: (1) pinch your grind and observe what happens (it should clump in your fingertips). Too coarse and it won’t clump at all, too fine and it will clump excessively.
Resulting brew: A shot of espresso, when done right, is strong, sharp and full of flavor. You can then add hot water to turn it into an Americano or froth some milk to make a milk based coffee.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you like a milky brew (e.g. a latte) or if you’re the type that likes a quick and sharp hit of caffeine. Espresso’s are unique – no other machine can replicate a nice espresso shot.
NOT SO GREAT FOR: If you prefer a subtle tasting brew, if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a coffee maker, or don’t have space for a machine (perhaps you travel often?), an espresso machine will just be extra baggage in your life.
2. Moka Pot
Don’t have a few hundred bucks to spend on an espresso machine, but still looking for that espresso-shot-like-kick that comes from a pressurized brew? The stovetop espresso maker AKA the Moka pot is the next best thing.
The magic behind the Moka pot is in its 3 chambered brew process. Water in the bottom chamber boils, and the steam causes pressure that pushes water up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber.
Is the resulting shot the same as an espresso shot? No, not quite.
If you do it right (there is a little skill involved) you’re left with a bittersweet & super-strong concoction that will get you through the day. One bonus to the Moka pot: you can brew multiple cups of coffee (from four to 16) at once. It’s a great way to caffeinate a crowd.
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: Super fast – Once you’ve heated your water it should take no more than 5 minutes (a little longer if you use an induction stove). For that reason, it’s the go-to option for caffeine deprived people when in a morning rush.
Type of grind required: This is the tricky part. As a rule, you want it coarser than a fine, espresso like grind, and finer than a drip coffee grind. If that doesn’t help – the best way to achieve the right grind is through trial and error – start coarse, and go finer until the texture & taste of the end result is right for you.
Rule of thumb: if your brew is too weak/watery, you’ve gone too course (under-extracted). Too bitter, and you’ve gone too fine (over-extracted)
Resulting brew: Not quite an espresso shot, but close to it (if you use the right grind and the right technique). Expect a sharp and strong tasting coffee.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you’re on a budget, or want something super portable but are not a fan of the ‘clean and thin’ tasting brew from drip coffee.
NOT SO GREAT FOR YOU: If you love the taste and texture of a shot of espresso. The resulting brew is strong (even a little harsh) so if that’s not your style, keep looking.
3. French Press
The French press is the unofficial mascot of home brewed coffee; it’s been steeping coffee in households since before your grandparents were born, and it has a very loyal, cult following among the home barista community.
It’s likely thanks to multiple reasons, but our money is on the fact that its super easy to use, can be picked up for pocket change (almost) and produces a brew with a distinct taste and feel like no other method.
If you’re into the French Press use the right coffee grind as this little known but super common mistake taints French Press coffee all over the world.
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: It’s not super quick, but not super slow either. From (almost) boiling the water, to steeping and plunging, you’ll need about 10 or so minutes. While steeping, however, your French press will need your undivided attention.
Type of grind required: A course grind is the only way to go. Too fine a grind means you’ll have particles stuck in the filter and passing into the finished brew, adding to over-steeping and leaving you with a bitter mess.
Resulting brew: A unique, non-harsh aromatic coffee that’s full of flavor, particular to your beans. It will, however, be a little sediment-y, so avoid drinking the last few sips of each cup.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you love the unique brew you get from a French Press, or if you have a lot of caffeine friends to fix up (e.g. a full household)
NOT SO GREAT FOR YOU: If you’re a frequent traveler – they are made from glass (most of the time – stainless steel options are available)
4. Chemex Brewer
The primary benefit of using a Chemex over other drippers is capacity – you can easily make 3 or 4 cups in one go, rather than 1 of 2, meaning it’s a crowd pleaser when the possy is around. In fact, you can buy a 10-cup Chemex that takes 50 ounces of water. It’s an entertainer’s best friend.
Like other drippers it’s not as simple as throwing grounds in and then dousing with water; you’ll need to practice mastering the finer details regarding grind size, water temp, and coffee volume, but once you do, prepare to fall in love.
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: Coming in at 3 and a half minutes from after setting it up means it’s a fast way to get a great coffee into ya.
Type of grind required: Play around here to suit your preference, but ideally anywhere between medium to course, closer to the medium side of things
Resulting brew: Chemex filters are roughly 30% thicker than the filters used by other drippers, meaning you’ll get a richer tasting cup of coffee. Think French press, without the sediments.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you like the pour-over coffee movement, and if you want something that can also double a piece of art (it’s displayed in Art Museums). You’ll love the fact that it can brew 3-4 cups at one time.
NOT SO GREAT FOR YOU: If you only need to brew for one or two coffees in the morning, or if you like to travel with your brewer.