Making coffee is a morning ritual I take a lot of pleasure in. Partly because I’m a creature of habit and enjoy the routine but also because I love the smell, process, and of course the taste. Most of us are accustomed to using the auto-drip coffee makers for their ease and ability to set it on a timer. To me, automatic coffee makers take the fun out of brewing coffee. Plus auto-drips (a least most of them) tend to burn the coffee and generally brew a less robust cup.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I spent some time working as a barista and lived in Italy for a semester and if that won’t do it, nothing will. That aside, with a little extra effort and the right tools, you can have excellent coffee at home every day. As with any task, having the proper tool is vital to getting a good result. So I thought I would do an overview of coffee makers that brew a great cup.
Personally, my favorite way to brew coffee is with a french press. With the french press you pour the coffee and hot water into the the glass cylinder, stir it up and put the lid/plunger on top. After four minutes you gently push the mesh plunger down, which forces the grounds to the bottom. This method retains all the oils in the coffee which gives it a deep flavor.
The moka pot, also known as the stovetop espresso maker (even though it doesn’t actually brew espresso) is another great method. This kind of coffee maker is more popular in Europe than it is here in the US. It makes a relatively small amount of coffee that is concentrated and rich in flavor. For this method, you put pre-warmed water in the bottom section. The coffee grounds go in a basket in the middle of the maker and the whole thing is placed on the stove. As the water is heating, it pushes up through the grounds into the top section.
Another brewer that makes espresso strength coffee is the AeroPress. The first time I had coffee made with an AeroPress, I was immediately impressed. The coffee is smooth and less acidic than normal coffee but has a really strong flavor. The AeroPress hasn’t been around for a long time; it was invented only 6 years ago. It is basically a large syringe. A small filter is put in the bottom, then the coffee and water are added. It only steeps for 10 seconds before you plunge it and force the coffee through the filter into your cup.
The Vacuum Pot is a much more delicate way to brew coffee but some people swear by it. The method is a bit complicated and the equipment is fragile but it makes excellent coffee. The vacuum pot is two glass orbs with the coffee in the top and the water in the bottom. As the water heats up, it is forced up into the coffee. You remove the pot from the heat source after all of the water is pushed into the top. The resulting vacuum that is created pulls the liquid back down into the bottom leaving the grounds behind. Once all the coffee has been pulled back into the bottom, remove the top with the grounds and pour your coffee!
The pour over method is arguably the simplest way to brew a fresh cup of coffee. It’s cheap too. Most plastic cones, such as the Melitta cones cost under five dollars (of course you can spend much more than that if you are inclined). You simply place the plastic cone on top of your cup. You place a filter in the cone and add your coffee. You pour the water in two steps. In the initial pour you pour just enough water to saturate the grounds. After about 15 seconds, begin pouring the rest of the water, pouring it in a spiral motion to evenly saturate the grounds.
For more detailed instructions, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has a great step-by-step guide to brewing coffee. A few final tips for brewing: always use fresh water and freshly roasted coffee, always grind your coffee to fit your brewing method, and don’t forget to pre-warm your mug!