Drinking coffee, yes, but make it? There are many ways of preparing coffee, and while all are variations around having water (usually hot) snatching flavors out of grounded coffee beans, they can be as simple as boiling water and coffee together for a Turkish Coffee, to as advanced as high pressured steam machines for your espresso.
We here review the most typical coffee machines. Understanding these different types will help you choose the best fitting one for your needs. For example, for my regular Americano at work, I use a pour over machine, while I drink an espresso from an electric espresso machine for breakfast and after lunch.
Old style like my grand parents where doing, you put a filter holder on top of a pot, and you manually pour the boiling water, a bit at a time, not too much or the ground flies and water goes through too quickly, not too slow or it’s just plain boring.
A rule of thumb to make a good pour-over coffee is to know the ration of the coffee you like to drink. A ratio of 1:15 is a good base to start with, meaning using 15g of coffee and pouring 225g of water. Adjust as you like depending on your taste, or the time of the day.
Another thing is to choose your coffee filter. While they are similar, in practice some difference make a slightly different coffee, and amateurs will have their fav brand.
Drip Coffee Maker
The drip coffee maker is a kind of pour over, but automated. It is the standard American home kettle, or the one you see in some restaurants. It heats the water and drips it slowly, so you don’t have to do it your self. The rate is low enough that it won’t overflow, but you don’t have to spend 10 minutes above it.
A nice feature is that usually the bottom plate is heated, maintaining the coffee at an optimal temperature, so that you can drink a few glasses of Americano over several hours without re-heating every time.
My best trick: putting it on an timer plug set for 7:00 AM. By the time I’m awake and ready to have breakfast, hot coffee is ready. That means preparing the water and the coffee ground the evening before, where it has time to lose a little of its aroma; but the morning convenience of a ready coffee is priceless.
In a percolator, coffee stands on a tray. The water below is boiled and the steam goes through the ground. It then condensates back into the water. It is a weird system in that the water get a stronger and stronger coffee content, and the previously made coffee is continuously re-boiled. That makes it difficult to properly choose how strong you want your coffee. If you let it too long, it will also become quite bitter.
While the name percolator is common, the machine itself not so. You may try one as an experiment. It can make very strong coffee if you run it long, for a long work night.
In Moka pots water is boiled and the steam goes up through the ground coffee that is resting on a small perforated cup. Steam then goes up a small pipe and condenses in a pot resting on top. The coffee cannot falls through the holes which are too small. Since the coffee flavors are extracted by the hot steam, slightly hotter than boiling water itself, the aromas are stronger and more pure, no coffee dust goes through. What you get is a strong and intense coffee, no foam like in espresso.
French Press is not some popular body building exercise; don’t go to the gym and ask to be shown. It is a glass kettle with a piston. In a French Press, the coffee is brewed by adding the boiling hot water to the pot, putting the lid back with the piston at the top, and letting it brew for as long as one likes. After about 5 minutes, the piston is slowly pressed for the coffee to be filtered. The piston is attached to a rim and a filter and so the coffee ground residue is pushed to the bottom. Once the ground is all at the bottom, the coffee won’t brew anymore, and it is served, not too quickly not to can some particles to come up on the sides of the kettle and make it to the cup.
The speed at which the coffee is filtered will determine also how efficient the filtering is. Enlightened amateurs of French Press all have their preferred speed at which to prepare the coffee. Going slowly will give a clean sharp taste, while pressing more quickly will cause more ground to be in the final coffee, a bit going through the small holes, a bit escaping on the side, giving a more earthy coffee. Consensus is, not too quick for large particle not to come up; not to slow : because if you take too long then during that time the coffee keeps brewing.
Home Espresso Machine
To make a real espresso at home, you need some more advanced equipment, as pressurised water goes through the ground and produces the nice brown foam. Depending on the quality, espresso machines will push the water thanks to a piston, a pump, or steam. Originally the water was heated to a steam jet, however it doesn’t allow the higher pressures necessary for the best espresso. Cheap coffee machines still use this technique. Despite being quite bad environmentally, the Nespresso machines became popular for using a pump, allowing to make home espresso with a very nice foam.
One thing to look at on your espresso machine specs sheet it the pressure obtained. For example, my home espresso machine provides 15 bars, which is over the minimum of 9 bars for a proper espresso. Professional machines as used in cafes are most resistant, and provide much higher pressure, potentially making 4-6 espresso at a time, but you can find similar quality in home machines.
Cold Brew is maybe the most unusual type of brew. It is made by simply soaking the ground coffee overnight. Made popular by Starbucks, in what is, according to some amateurs, the only proper coffee they make, it is very peculiar in its taste since some of the flavors compound soluble at high temperature but not at a low one won’t migrate to the coffee. When the ground is not too thin, you also end up with a subtle drink with low bitterness.
After “brewing” or soaking overnight, filtrate the coffee through a cheesecloth without adding much pressure. Starbucks uses a gravity pump. You can also make the brew in a French Press and manually press it out, or add a small weight on top of the piston for a perfectly timed filtering. You can try different weights, around 300g should do the trick.
Of course, a chilled cold brew is a must in summer, and I wouldn’t advise to heat the brew. But you can also drink it at room temperature. I find the best is to store it in the fridge and drink it at that temperature.
Bonus: Boiling Coffee and Water Together
Boiling coffee ground and water together can count as a coffee technique, however, is a simple pan a valid coffee machine? Indeed the small pot used heated in a sand bath to make Turkish coffee is a special accessory that won’t be used for anything else.
Let me know in the comments what you think this last one. I’m sure some of you have also made a student of fortune coffee in a pan before!