There’s no shortage of options for creating an amazing cup of coffee at home. From the tried-and-true automatic drip coffee machine to a range of advanced brewing technologies, coffee enthusiasts have more options than ever to transform their favorite coffee into an exceptional beverage. So many, in fact, that the options can be overwhelming.
John Giuliano, a coffee enthusiast and blogger at Brewing Coffee Manually, says the most important factor to consider when choosing a brewing method is how you like your coffee. For instance, if you like a cup of coffee with a fuller body and a little more grit, steer toward the French press or a metal filter cone. If you like a cleaner cup, a paper filter option might be superior.
He suggests experimenting with coffee brewed with different equipment, either at home or at your favorite coffee shop. “Go to coffee shops and try coffee brewed with different methods, or invest in some basic brewers and try them out for yourself,” Giuliano says.
Convenience and flavor are also factors to consider when choosing a brewing method. For example, the pour-over method offers a smoother flavor than most automatic machines, but making pour-over coffee for five people every morning is going to be tedious for even the most dedicated coffee enthusiast. Other techniques offer delicate and refined flavors but require a more complicated brewing process and expensive equipment.
“I like most brew methods and I think the more that you use them the more comfortable you get with your personal preferences,” Giuliano says. “Once you have dialed in a brewing method, you are more likely to use it daily because you know what to expect.”
Whatever route you choose, remember that a complicated or pricey brewing process doesn’t necessarily translate into better coffee. “The idea that proper brewing equipment must be expensive is a fallacy,” says Nate Smith, a coffee expert and blogger at CoffeeNate.com. “I've had terrible coffee from brewers that cost thousands of dollars. On the other hand, I've sipped incredible coffee that was brewed in a $20 press pot.”
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the right brewing method for your coffee.
If you’re looking for a great way to produce a more intense, rich cup than what comes out of your automatic drip coffee maker, the French press is an excellent first step.
Pros: A French press creates a full-bodied coffee experience that can be easily tweaked by adjusting the grind texture and brewing time.
Cons: French press carafes are generally small, which makes them inefficient for making coffee for more than two or three people. Coffee brewed in a French press often has sediment at the bottom of the cup and some brews can be overpowering for some drinkers.
Pour-over coffee is among the most basic of brewing methods, requiring only ground coffee, a filter and a filter holder. Filter holders range from basic plastic cones available from most supermarkets to custom-made glass, wood or ceramic mechanisms like the Hario V60 dripper.
Pros: Simple to clean up and relatively easy to adjust for acidity and body, this method produces a smooth and satisfying cup of coffee.
Cons: Designed to only brew one cup at a time, it’s not the most efficient way to make large batches of coffee. A gooseneck kettle generally is needed to avoid making a mess when brewing.
Pros: Single-serve containers offer super convenient, quick and consistent brewing through appliances like the Keurig K-Cup.
Cons: Generally not as cost-efficient as many other brewing methods, and creates more waste. Single-pod coffee makers are among the most expensive.
The AeroPress brewing method creates full-flavored but smooth coffee in under two minutes.
Pros: The small and portable AeroPress shortens brew time to just a few minutes, which can eliminate the bitterness created by slower methods. Coffee is micro-filtered for a grit-free beverage, unlike a French press. The result is a clean and intense cup.
Cons: Requires specialized filters and only makes a small batch with each pressing.
The Chemex Coffeemaker, made from non-porous glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, is like a giant pour-over mechanism and is designed to brew coffee without imparting any flavors of its own.
Pros: Unlike a typical pour-over filter holder, the Chemex produces up to eight cups of coffee in a single brew. It’s more effective at filtering out oils and sediment than a French press.
Cons: Smith says that while the Chemex can “provide an exceptional cup of coffee,” it and the AeroPress may require more experimentation than the average coffee consumer is willing to go through. “If you choose one of these brewers, watch some tutorial videos,” he advises. “At the same time, remember that coffee brewing and quality are very much subjective. While videos and instructions give you a starting point, don't be afraid to tweak the recipes.”
Cold-brew coffee is course ground coffee that is soaked in room temperature water for 12 or more hours. This method creates a strong and smooth coffee concentrate with a considerable caffeine buzz.
Pros: Creates a very smooth-tasting beverage and solves the problem of watered-down iced coffee.
Cons: Cold brewing at home takes time. Strong caffeine levels may not be appropriate for all coffee drinkers.