The world of specialty coffee can be a bit daunting if you’re new to the many nuances and vocabulary of craft coffee in the 21st century. Arguably, one of the more difficult parts (but also one of the more enjoyable) is finding the coffee maker that meets your needs.
Your options are wide open, but our Coffee Makers 101 series will cover five common coffee makers that are a great starting point for a richer, fuller cup of specialty coffee every day. We’ll cover ease of use, effects on the taste and body of the coffee, and talk about the gear you’ll need for each method.
No one method is better than the other. Each one has its own benefits, but ultimately, it's about finding the right coffee maker for your lifestyle and taste preferences.
The Drip Brewer
Brew time: 6 - 10 minutes
Water-to-Grounds Ratio: 2 tbsp. of grounds per 6 ounces of water.
Flavors: Because drip brewers use paper filters in addition to a plastic or metal tray for the filter, regardless of the roast profile, both flavor and body will only be highlighted so much.
Pros: Set it and forget it, affordable, low maintenance, minimal cleaning.
Cons: Despite coffee quality, drip machines aren’t very customizable, mold builds up in the filter and pot if left too long, burnt taste if not turned off in time.
Ahhhhh, the infamous Mr. Coffee we’ve all seen at the office or at our grandparent’s house. The standard coffee pot has come a long way and many machines now have automated features like brew timers and automatic on/off functions, but these machines still hold their place in coffee culture.
If you’re not as much of a taste guru and coffee is more about the morning ritual than flavor, a drip brewer is right up your alley. Just like the French Press, drip brewers are straightforward to use and won’t give you much of a headache.
Put your filter in, add the grounds, add water, and you’re set. These machines simply heat the water, pump it over the coffee, and keep it warm as long as the machine is on. And whatever you don’t drink in the morning, just put your pot in the fridge for iced coffee in the afternoon.
The French Press
Brew time: 4 - 6 minutes
Grounds: Medium to coarse
Water-to-Grounds Ratio: 3 tbsp. of grounds per 1 cup of water.
Flavors: Robust, full body flavors, more oils on the beans in the process allow for tasting subtle nuances.
Pros: No filters, highly customizable process, portable, affordable, full flavor.
Cons: More involved preparation, cools faster, brewing errors more noticeable in taste.
A classic method that is heralded by coffee lovers around the world. One of the simplest makers to use, all you need is the press, a coffee grinder if you start with whole beans, and boiling water. No filters, no pods, nothing else needed. The only drawback can be disposing of grounds once you’re finished.
Starting with medium-course grounds means there are generally more oils on the beans to interact with the water, giving the French Press a reputation for its full taste and high caffeine content.
Making a French Press coffee is relatively straightforward, but as you prepare it more and more, you’ll develop taste preferences and tweak the moving parts accordingly. This can include water temperature, ground size and amount, and the brewing time.
The French Press does a great job with highlighting the flavors of lighter roast coffees, like our Nepal Kathmandu Roasterie coffee.
Brew time: 3 - 5 minutes
Grounds: Fine (think table salt)
Water-to-Grounds Ratio: The Aeropress comes with its own unique spoon. Simply add one scoop of grounds and fill water up the large #4 on the side.
Flavors: Espresso-like taste, strong, and highlights origin characteristics of the coffee well.
Pros: Super portable and great for camping, easy to clean, plastic and impossible to break, short brew times, amazing flavor.
Cons: Only brews individual cups, requires special filters (though they are cheap and with Amazon, well you know…)
The Aeropress has blown up over the past five to ten years as the coffee companion for adventurers and craft coffee lovers alike. These compact press coffee makers are easy to use, easy to clean, and are indestructible.
As far as prep goes, all you’ll need to do is wet the paper filter with warm water, add your grounds, pour your water, and press. Cleaning is as simple as removing the bottom and popping out the puck of coffee grounds. Rinse, repeat, and enjoy!
The Aeropress uses fast immersion and quick filtering to make some of the best coffee around - and one of the only cons is that it doesn’t make more coffee per batch. They can be bought here for around $30 and come with a great little tote bag as well.
The Pour-Over Method
Brew time: 6 - 10 minutes
Grounds: Varies depending on preference
Water-to-Grounds Ratio: 1:17 is ideal ratio
Flavors: Highly customizable and depends on ground size. Coarse grounds will produce French Press-esque flavor, while fine grounds will get you closer to an espresso taste.
Pros: Highly customizable to taste preferences, paper filter and glass combination reduces bitterness, rich flavor removes any need for additions to your coffee.
Cons: The gear can be quite expensive, a steep learning curve and experimentation can be frustrating for beginners, tough to clean, brews small batches.
They’re classy, they’re tasty, and they’re sure to impress any of your guests if you prepare them a fresh pour-over. Your options are endless when choosing models - from the V60, Chemex, or Flat Bottom, pour-over brewers will light up your inner 5th grade science fair spirit all over again.
The process gets very sciency, very fast. From water temperature, ground size, ground amount, and filter type, pour-over coffee makers offer the greatest flexibility to experiment with what you like best. This video here shows just how “handcrafted” pour-overs are.
There are a few downsides however to this artful method. While brands like Bodum offer affordable entry-level makers, the gear can get expensive fast.
From scales to gooseneck kettles and burr grinders, the price tag can run up quickly if this becomes your favorite method. It’s also quite a lengthy process so don’t expect to make this your new morning routine...but it sure does make for a nice Saturday morning treat!
The Moka Pot
Brew time: 3 - 5 minutes
Grounds: Very fine (powdered sugar like)
Water-to-Grounds Ratio: No set ratio - Mokas are mini percolator type coffee makers, just don’t pack the grounds into the bed too tightly!
Flavors: Heavy bodied, rich taste, espresso-esque strength but a little lighter on the tongue.
Pros: Quick and easy to use, no paper filters, durable, portable, comes in different sizes, and affordable.
Cons: Single serve portions, burns easily if left unwatched, a bit complicated to perfect the water to grounds ratio.
The Moka Pot is by far one of the cooler ways to make a cup of coffee, and these cool little coffee makers have a history that goes all the way back to the early 1930’s in Italy. Though it typically gets understood as a stovetop espresso maker, Moka Pots make a unique cup of coffee.
Check out this very easy tutorial to get the basics of how these stovetop mini percolators should be prepped, but it essentially passes boiling water through pressurized steam, up through coffee grounds and into a chamber.
From a usability, durability, taste, and affordability standpoint Moka Pots get a 5 out of 5 in our book. If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and great looking coffee maker that puts out barista-level coffee on a consistent basis and strikes up good conversation, the Moka is for you!