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When it comes to making good coffee, how you brew it is second only to buying coffee in terms of importance. We will cover six different ways that you can brew coffee, and suggestions on how to make sure you are brewing coffee for the best results. Check out the most common methods of brewing great coffee:
- Pod Brewing (North American - most popular are Keurig and Tassimo)
- Drip Brewing (North American)
- Press Pot (or French Press, Bodum Press, or Coffee Plunger)
- Pourover Coffee (or Chemex or Melitta)
- Espresso Coffee (Italian)
- Turkish (or Greek) Coffee
Made popular by Keurig and Tassimo, these are the machines that make one cup at a time from a pod of vacuum-sealed coffee. These have exploded in popularity in the last few years because to sum it up, it's the most convenient way to make a decent cup of coffee. Companies like Starbucks have followed suit with their own pod coffee makers, and pod products.Advantages
- Variety. The coffee pods are generally sold in multi-packs so you can have a much greater variety of coffee on hand.
- Convenience. There is no easier way to make a decent cup of coffee. You make sure there is water in the chamber, you pop in a pod, and you press Start.
- Waste. Each cup of coffee requires a pod to hold it since you're only making single serving at a time. Many of the containers are going to bio-degradable as a result of consumer concern.
- Quality of coffee. There is no discounting the convenience mentioned above. If you don't want to take some of the extra steps required to make really great coffee, then this is a good method. Remember that it is pre-ground coffee that's been vacuum sealed, rather than ground by you in your kitchen, right before brewing it from whole fresh beans.
- Cost per cup. It will cost you less this way than to buy your coffee from a cafe or chain location, but it will cost you more to make coffee this way than in any other way you can make it at home. Remember that you're paying for that pod packaging.
Drip Brew Coffee
Most popular in North America, the drip brew method quite simply heats the water to an optimal temperature, and then drips it onto a filter holding ground coffee. The hot water drops onto the coffee in a single stream or narrow spray, absorbs solids from the coffee which dissolve into the brewed coffee that then drips into a pot.Advantages
- Consistency. The automated nature of drip coffee ensures you get a good, consistent cup every time.
- Volume. The drip brewer lets you make a lot of coffee at once. A pod coffee maker makes one cup at a time. The more common press pot and pourover methods make 2-3 cups at a time. A drip brewer can make up to six, or more.
- Leaves coffee in the coffee. You read right. The stream or narrow spray of hot water will touch all of the coffee in the filter, but it won't extract as much as if you were using a press pot or pourover. You'll get a stronger cup with those latter two methods - stronger, as in extracting more solids from the coffee itself. Taking advantage of more coffee.
Press Pot Coffee
Similar to how tea is steeped, the press pot involves submerging all of the coffee in hot water, and letting it brew together in the one container for four minutes. At the end of those four minutes, the plunger is pushed down to force all of the ground coffee to the bottom. What remains above the plunger is delicious brewed coffee.Advantages
- Simple. You heat water and pour it over coffee. While not as easy as flipping a switch, it's the next best thing.
- Optimal coffee flavor. You truly take advantage of everything that coffee has to offer, with this method. Since you also stir the coffee part way through the brewing cycle, you extract much flavor from the coffee.
- Overextraction. If you don't use a coarse grind of coffee, or let it brew for more than four minutes, you will "overextract" solids from the coffee, leaving you with coffee so strong (too strong), that it's sludge.
- Sendiment. Even if you don't overextract, you will end up with sendiment at the bottom of your cup that is unappealing to some. A swish of the cup before your last sip will dissolve this sentiment into your coffee, but that last sip will be strong and a little thicker body.
This brewing method represents the evolution of drip brewing. While the drip brewer was a tremendous improvement on the old percolator (which burned your coffee), a manual pour of hot water on coffee is a great improvement on the drip brewer. While a drip brewer can only pour a single stream of hot water into the center of the ground coffee, the manual pourover method allows for better extraction of coffee. In other words, for a little work, you get more out of the coffee.Advantages
- Optimal coffee flavor. You also take advantage of everything that coffee has to offer, with this method. Where the drip brewer is as successfully as you can automate that method of brewing coffee, this is manual, so it means you do what an automatic drip brewer can't, and get the most out of your coffee for it.
- A little bit of work. You will spend four minutes working to make this coffee. There is no switch or steeping process that you can walk away from - the pourover is a very deliberate way of making coffee that takes your attention. But if you love coffee, this is not a disadvantage, it's part of the fun.
Known as the "Italian" method of brewing coffee, espresso is a great shot of coffee on its own and the essense of cappuccinos and lattes. The coffee barista is a graduate in how to properly work an espresso machine. All of your specialty coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, come from an espresso base. You can't make those specialty drinks without it.Advantages
- Essence of coffee. Coffee is oily by nature, yet we use water to brew it even though oil and water separate from each other. The espresso process heats the water to steam, and then forces it through the coffee, capturing an essence of coffee that doesn't separate from water as in other brewing methods.
- Variety of drinks. From the espresso base, the sky is the limit to what you can make. Not only can you make simple lattes and cappuccinos but all of the crazy flavored varieties that you see in cafes from the different syrups that they have.
- Capital investment. From $20 to $100, you're set up with any of the methods described above. A good espresso machine will cost you a little more than that, at least a good one will.
Perhaps the oldest, and for many, the strongest method of brewing coffee, this method steeps the coffee like tea for a strength you taste in the cup. It also leaves the ground coffee at the bottom, which you're supposed to leave. Don't make the same mistake I did the first time I had one, and take that last sip. It's nasty!