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With so many choices of coffee makers out there, it is easy to get confused about which one to buy. Well I am here to help you learn the difference between coffee makers, and how to use them. The first thing you want to think about when choosing a maker, is what type of coffee and roast you like. Different makers are best used for different types of coffee. Some are meant to extract those thick and rich flavors of a dark roast, and others are meant to bring out the brighter flavors of a lighter roast. Whichever you prefer, I am positive you will find the right coffee maker for you.
Now we all know of the traditional automatic drip coffee maker and the k-cup coffee maker, those are pretty self explanatory and I won’t waste your time with details on how to use them. Instead I am going to breakdown the more complex coffee makers that take more time and dedication to master the coffee brewing process of each.
This coffee maker was created to pressure brew your coffee using only your muscles. It is easy to use and needs no electricity. It is also small and compact making it ideal to take camping, on vacation, or anywhere you’d like to get your perfect morning cup.
The AeroPress is known for brewing quality coffee that has less acidity and less bitterness. This is due to the water temperature being lower, at 175-185°F (79-85°C), than that of a normal brew at 176-198°F (80-92°C). It is also due to the grounds being pushed through the filter at a lesser time than a normal coffee maker.
Note: the acidity is what creates the bitterness we know from darker roast coffees. So the less time through the filter and lower temperature, the less acidity that gets through, which in turn creates a smoother, richer coffee taste.
How to use the AeroPress
This creative device has two cylinders, one large and one small. The smaller one has a rubber edge around the bottom and fits tightly into the larger cylinder. When brewing your coffee, you want to first put your paper micro filter (usually comes with the maker when bought) on the inside of the cap and screw the larger cylinder onto it, then add your grounds.
Make sure to give it a little shake to level out the grounds or the water will go through too fast. When the water is at your desired temperature, pour it on top of the grounds and stir it for about 10 seconds. Steeping/stirring time will depend on how fine or how coarse your grounds are and how strong you like your coffee. The finer the grind and longer the steep, the stronger the coffee will be (also more acidity).
Make sure you set the Aero Press on top of your cup, using a sturdy cup that won’t be likely to tip over while pressing on the plunger.
Note: If you’re making only one cup of coffee use one scoop, add water to the 1-1 1/2 level mark on the cylinder Use more for more cups. The AeroPress is designed to make 1-3 cups of coffee.
Now that you have your water mixed with your grounds, you can start to push the plunger (the smaller cylinder) through. You will want to do this at a slow rate. If you push too fast the grounds will compact at the bottom and the brew time will become longer, making your coffee more bitter.
The whole point of the AeroPress is to brew your coffee at a shorter time with a finer grind, creating a sweeter and richer taste.
Pour and enjoy!
The French Press
This stylish coffee maker has an old-fashion look to it in my opinion. Instead of a sleek cylinder like the AeroPress, the French Press is designed like a carafe, and almost identical in brewing technique. The French Press though, uses a coarser ground coffee rather than the finer grind. It is also steeped longer in order to extract the oils, which in turn creates those rich, thick, and creamy flavors of a dark roast.
How to use the French Press:
To brew your coffee, you first need to put your grounds into the carafe and then add your hot water. You want to heat the water to a temperature of 199-205°F (93-96°C), and let the grounds steep for about 2-4 minutes. This will give it enough time to extract those oils that give your coffee its flavor.
Unlike the AeroPress, the French Press coffee maker uses either a nylon mesh filter or a fine stainless steel filter. It also requires less force to push the water through the filter, since the grounds are coarser and allowed to sit in the water. A finer grind would need more force on the plunger to push the brewed coffee through. They could also seep through the sides of the filter, or through the filter itself, leaving the coffee tasting bitter.
Once your coffee is steeped to your liking, you can push the plunger down to separate your brewed coffee from the grounds, and then pour your cup. French Press users normally prefer their coffee stronger so this is a good coffee maker if that fits your liking.
Pour and enjoy!
If you like espresso, you will love this fancy device. The Moka Pot is designed to use steam pressure to push your brewed coffee up and through a metal, funnel shaped filter, and into the top chamber of the pot. This results in a very close espresso like coffee, and will even have some crema on the top. This device can be used over a flame or an electric stove top, making it ideal to take camping or anywhere else you might want to enjoy a nice espresso.
How to use the Moka Pot:
The Moka Pot is usually made up of aluminum or stainless steel and has three parts to it. The top chamber, the bottom chamber, and the funnel shaped filter that goes in the middle on the inside. You will want to unscrew the pot at the middle section and take out the funnel filter. Fill the bottom chamber with water, making sure it covers the pressure valve on the side of the pot. Then you put the funnel filter back in and fill it with your coffee grounds (about 2 tbsp. per 2 cups). Now you can screw on the top chamber and set the pot on its heat source (using medium to high heat).
The Moka Pot comes in many different sizes, from one cup to twelve cups. When brewing, only use the amount of grounds needed for that particular pot. If you try to use more or fewer grounds with a certain size pot, the resulting coffee will be either too weak or too bitter. You will also want to use a coarser grind of coffee than that of an espresso grind. If your grounds are too small they could seep through the holes in the filter and into your brew, making it bitter.
Since this device has a weighted valve which can regulate the pressure that will build up inside, it can be compared to a pressure cooker. When the water below is heated, the pressure pushes it up the funnel and through the coffee grounds, then up and into the top chamber. The high pressure and temperature is what creates the thick coffee brew and layer of crema on top.
The brewing process should only take around 4 1/2 minutes. You will know when your coffee is done brewing by the gurgling sound it will make, almost like the whistling of a tea pot. As soon as you hear this you should immediately take your Moka Pot off of the heat source.
Pour and enjoy!
The Chemex coffee maker is a modern version of the pour-over method. It allows you to control the brew by boiling your water and pouring it over your grounds. This maker is a cool little gadget that somewhat resembles a flask (or beaker) from a laboratory, usually made of glass. It has a cone shaped bottom and a cone shaped top, with a wooden brace that is tied around the middle by a leather strap (makes for easy handling when hot).
The Chemex uses large round filters that are much thicker than a normal drip coffee maker filter, usually one size fits all. These filters are made of bonded paper which remove most of the impurities that other brewing methods do not, creating a cleaner, lighter coffee without all the bitterness.
You will want to use a coarser ground coffee for this brew method as the filters are thicker, and a finer grind will compact and slow the process tremendously. The coarser grounds make for a quicker brew and cleaner taste.
How to use the Chemex:
The Chemex coffee maker may seem difficult to use at first, but once you do it a few times it will become second nature so don’t worry. I have broken down some steps to help you in the brewing process.
- First and foremost, boil your water to a temperature of 195-205°F (93-96°C). Make sure to start with fresh, cold water that has never been heated before. Use 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water per one cup of coffee. Filtered water is preferred for most brewing methods, as it has fewer impurities in it that could affect the taste of your coffee.
- Take your rounded filter and fold it into 4 quadrants. In half once, and in half again, making somewhat of a half moon. Once it is folded, open it up making sure to have one folded side on one side, and three folded sides on the other. It will look like a cone and this gets placed in the top portion of the maker, putting the three sided portion against the spout of the Chemex.
If you like to use a scale to measure your grounds, by all means do so. If you choose to measure by scooping that’s perfectly fine also. Make sure to use one rounded tablespoon (7g) of coffee per every 5 fl oz of water.
- When you are ready to start brewing your coffee, you want to first wet down your filter and warm the Chemex. Take separate hot water, rather than what you boiled, and pour it into the Chemex making sure to get the whole filter soaked. This will take away some paper taste from the filter itself. Then swirl the water around in the bottom of the flask to warm the glass. This will help brew your coffee at the right temperature. You can discard this water when done.
- Now you can put your grounds into the filter.
- Take about 1/2 cup of your boiling water and pour it onto the grounds using a circular motion. You want to make sure you completely saturate all the grounds, and let sit for about 30 seconds. This will release any carbon dioxide and allow the water to filter properly through the grounds.
- Now you can start pouring the rest of your water, making sure not to fill higher than 1/4 inch from the top of the flask. Consistently pouring in a circular motion (or back and forth) to ensure you get an even brew. Let that sit for about 45 seconds until you pour again. Pour more water in and let sit for about 4 minutes. This is where the brew really starts.
- Once all the water has been filtered through you can discard the filter and grounds.
Note: Remember to watch the speed of the brew. If the water filters too fast, you may have too coarse a grind and won’t get the desired flavor and your coffee will be weak. If the water filters too slowly or barely at all, you may have too fine a grind and the grounds will compact at the bottom making it almost impossible to brew.
Pour and enjoy!
The Percolator coffee maker looks like your normal tea pot except it is taller and thinner. Usually made up of stainless steel, there are three different options to choose from. You can have the stove top model, the electric plug-in model, or the campers’ model. They all work the same way, but some may use filters, and some may only have a perforated basket, which works as a filter.
Unlike other methods of brewing, the Percolator filters the water through the grounds over and over again until the desired strength is acquired. This is why it is of utmost importance to pay attention while you are brewing your coffee so you don’t over-extract and end up with a bitter tasting cup of joe.
It also uses a coarser grind of coffee so the water can filter through easily, and grab all those flavors and aromas we love so much. A finer grind would promote over-extraction of the oils and create a bitter tasting coffee, along with the chance of grounds seeping through the perforated basket and into your brew.
How to use a Percolator:
To start out, you want to add the amount of water you need per how many cups of coffee you want to make. Usually about 1 rounded tbsp. (7g) of coffee grounds per every 5 fl. oz. of water. Make sure you do not fill the water higher than the basket of grounds.
At this point, you can assemble the rest of the Percolator by inserting the stem and the basket. Fill it with your desired amount of coffee grounds, and put the lid on.
Note: Most Percolators have a see through top so you can watch the brew in process if you’d like.
You are officially ready for the heat! As the water boils, it will create bubbles which in turn will push the water up the stem and into the top portion of the pot. The water will then filter down through the coffee grounds and into the bottom portion of the pot. This process is repeated over and over again until your desired strength is achieved.
Once your water reaches boiling point, it will take about 7 minutes until the brew is done. If you have a timer then I would suggest using one to make sure you do not over brew your coffee. If the coffee is over brewed it will over-extract the grounds, leaving the end result, a bitter cup of coffee.
Note: While your coffee is brewing you will hear a spurting sound, this is from the “perking” action going on inside the maker. This is where the Percolator coffee maker gets its name.
Pour and enjoy!
This concoction has got to be the coolest looking coffee maker I have ever seen! A true piece of art. Widely used in the 19th century, it was looked upon as a “show off” piece of equipment, and still is today. With its glass bowls and Bunsen burner to heat, it looks like something straight out of a science lab, yet delicate and fancy. So if you like to watch things work and see the process for yourself, then this is the coffee maker for you!
The Siphon coffee maker uses both vapor pressure and gravity to brew the coffee. When heated, the water is pushed upwards into the stem and into the top glass portion. Once the grinds are steeped to your liking, the whole piece is then removed from the heat source. As the Siphon starts to cool, the brewing process will begin and create a vacuum, sucking the coffee back down into the bottom portion, leaving you with a bright and clean cup of coffee.
You can watch this whole process happen, which is pretty cool in my book.
How to use the Siphon:
To start, you will need a Bunsen burner, this will be your heat source. You then want to add your water to the bottom portion of the maker. Usually about 16 oz. per 2 cups of coffee. If you want to speed up the brewing process you can preheat your water so it will boil faster, or you can just boil it in the Siphon itself (preferred).
You are going to want to use a medium coarse coffee grind from a lighter roast. This will enable the water to thoroughly filter through and extract all the bright flavors to taste, but leaving out all the oils and bitterness. This is a total immersion process, meaning the grounds are completely saturated in the water and steeped.
Once you add your water and put together the Siphon, you can set it on the burner and start to boil. While this is boiling, grind your coffee (20-25g per 2 cups). When the water reaches a boil you can add your grounds to the top portion of the Siphon. This is where it gets fun!
You can watch as the pressure vapor builds, the water will be pushed up and through the stem, and into the top bowl. When all the water has been pushed into the top, you will want to stir the mixture for about one minute. Making sure to thoroughly saturate all the grounds. Now you want to start the brew process and separate the coffee from the grounds.
To do this, you just remove the Siphon from the heat source. The drop in pressure is what will create the “vacuum” effect, and suck the coffee back down and into the bottom glass, leaving you with a delightfully flavorful cup of coffee.
Note: Siphon coffee makers use either a glass rod as a filter, or a small screen that fits into the middle of the two bowls made of either metal, nylon, paper, or cloth.
Pour and Enjoy!
The Drip Method (Pour Over)
Like the Chemex, with the Drip Method (pour-over), you control how fast or slow the water is poured through the coffee. Typically at a slower pace to ensure all the grounds get saturated and all the flavors are extracted properly. Also, if you pour too fast you chance mixing the lye (froth) with the coffee which will give you bad taste. The lye is where all the acidity is, and exactly what you don’t want in your coffee as this will give you a bitter tasting cup.
The Drip Method consists of a cone shaped plastic (or metal) funnel with a round base at the bottom for siting on the top of your cup, mug, or pot. The filters used in this method have no grooves leading up the sides. This allows for the coffee to be completely filtered through and extract all the oils and sediment you don’t want in your coffee.
While the process may seem extreme, the outcome is well worth it, and the more you do it the easier it will become.
How to master the Drip Method:
First you want to heat your water to a temperature between 185-194°F (85-90°C), but not boiling. Grind your coffee beans to a medium coarse ground. Set your funnel on top of your preferred holder and put the filter in (kono brand filters are recommended), then add your coffee grounds.
When your water reaches the preferred temperature, you can start to pour your water on top of the grinds. Make sure you pour in the middle using a circular motion, moving consistently. As you pour, you will notice a froth start to form on the top of the grounds. It is of utmost importance that this froth does not mix into the grounds, so make sure you pour slowly. You can continue to pour at a measured pace.
Once you reach about 3/4 full in the filter, you can now pour until the water level reaches the top of the filter, still pouring in a circular motion. Let the coffee drip until you have the desired amount of coffee you want. As soon as you have enough coffee, immediately remove the funnel from your cup.
Pour and enjoy!
Coffee Is An Art
With the different roasts of coffee, how to pick which coffee beans, the grind, the temperature, how long to brew, which maker to use, it all comes down to one thing, making coffee is an art. For those of us who just love everything a good cup of coffee entails, it is well worth the time and effort it takes to brew our morning cup. So now you have no need to wonder which maker is best for you and the coffee you love in the morning.
From dark roasts to light roasts, there is a maker for you. Just go out and get it, take the time, enjoy the reward. After all, you deserve it.
If you would like to leave any comments or have any questions about this post, please leave them in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!
For the Love of Coffee