Coffee Brewing Methods

Coffee was first grown in Arabia in the 15th century and became more common throughout the Middle East. In the 17th century, coffee appeared for the first time in Europe with the first European coffee house opening in Venice in 1683. Through time, coffee grew in popularity around the world as each area added their own take on the drink with variations on coffee beans, grinds, and brewing methods each offering unique aromas and tastes.

For the most part, coffee is made by brewing hot or cold water with ground coffee beans. This is done by using a variety of methods that have been developed throughout history including: drip/filter, French press, stove-top makers, and numerous variations of espresso machines. Each of these methods vary in complexity of the machine or process and will produce a variety of flavor. In this article, we review the different types of coffee brewing methods.

Note that there are numerous drinks that can be made with the coffee or espresso. In this article, we will only concentrate on the coffee alone. We have numerous recipes you can refer to on the website for information on different drinks.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Automatic Espresso Coffee Machine

Espresso is popular throughout the world and is the base for numerous coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. Espresso is an intense black coffee that is made when stream is forced through the ground beans at a high pressure. It’s important to note that a “true espresso” is defined as needing 8.5 bar pressure to produce the pressure necessary to produce an espresso that is intense, flavorful, and thick with a golden-brown crema on the top. Therefore, Moka pots that are also called stovetop espresso makers, are actually not considered true espresso makers since they only produce a bar pressure of about 1.5.

Brewing in an electric espresso machine is not difficult. Fully-automated machines will essentially do everything for you. You simply make sure there is enough water in the reservoir and that the bean hopper has coffee beans and then you push a button. Semi-automated espresso machines will require a little more work than the fully-automated machines. The steaming of the water will be at a perfect temperature. But, the user will need to control the grinding of the coffee, the tamping of the coffee, and the timing on the “pull” (extraction process). If you like to have control or simply like to be more involved in the process, the semi-automatic espresso makers are a great choice.

When brewing with these types of machines, you will be able to not only make an espresso, but also variation of espresso. A ristretto is an espresso that has less water and is a more intense thick coffee. A Lungo is an espresso where there is more water and not as intense as a regular espresso. These variations on espresso are controlled by the user and the tamping and amount of coffee pulled.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Manual Espresso Maker

Manual espresso makers allow the user to control every part of the espresso making process since they will warm the water and push the water through the coffee manually. They are much more difficult to work with and require consistency by the user to make a good cup of espresso.

Some manual makers will have a water container that may heat the water for you while others will require you to put water into a container that is already boiling. This would require you to get the water to the correct temperature. When pulling the espresso, the user will pull down a handle that will push the steam through the ground coffee. Therefore, the process requires practice and good technique.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Moka Pot

A Moka is an Italian stovetop espresso maker which resembles a percolator. Some will say that is it technically not an espresso make since it uses low bar pressure. To make espresso using this maker, you put the coffee into a basket and water in a separate compartment. As the water reaches a certain temperature, it will rise through the filter with the coffee. When finished, the maker will make a noise. These makers come in various sizes

The moka pot is how coffee is prepared in many Italian homes, they use "la moka" which is a 3 piece metal contraption. The bottom part holds the water, the middle part is a funnel shaped filter holding the ground coffee, and the top part receives the coffee. The top part screws tightly (air tight actually) onto the bottom part holding the filter in between. When properly filled and assembled, the moka is put on the stove, the water boils, and pressure increases in the bottom part, pushing the water through the coffee into the top reservoir. As the last of the water makes its way with vapor in the top part, it makes a rumbling noise which warns you that coffee is ready. A moka pot makes very good strong coffee.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Stovetop Espresso Maker

A stovetop espresso maker is similar to a moka. It is done on a stovetop, operates in a similar fashion, and it is fairly small in size. But, a stovetop espresso maker is designed with a valve on the side or top to control and dispense the brewed espresso. This will create a higher pressure and these often come with an attached steam wand for the milk. These makers can be difficult to use.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Vacuum coffee

A vacuum coffee maker brews coffee by using two chambers. The bottom chamber initially holds the water. The maker is placed on a stovetop and the coffee maker is heated to a point where the steam of the water will be forced into the upper chamber where it will flow into the ground coffee. A small amount of water is left behind in the lower bowl which continues to makes steam and continue the brewing process for a couple of more minutes. The person then removes the maker from the heat. At this point, a vacuum forms in the bowl and causes the liquid to flow down through the filter. This produces a very nice cup of coffee.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Drip (filtered) Coffee

Probably the easiest and most popular method of making coffee in North America is with the drip or filtered method. These types of makers are fairly inexpensive and are fast. They have a chamber for water and another where a filter is placed and coffee is put inside. Once the water and coffee are setup, you simply flip a switch to being the brewing process. During this process, water is heated and passes up and through the coffee and filter and ending up in a carafe or pot.

Coffee Brewing Methods

French press

A simple and inexpensive method to make coffee is by using a French press. These are also known as a press pot, coffee plunger, or cafetière. A French press does not contain many parts. Basically, you have a glass container and a plunger with a wire mesh. To make coffee, you remove the plunger so that there is only the glass container. You fill the container with boiling water and then add the appropriate amount of coffee into the water. You can use any type of coffee beans, but they should a coarser grind so that it can be removed by the filter. After the ground coffee is added, you mix it with the water and let it sit for about 4 minutes. After the time has expired, you push the plunger down which will separate the grounds and hold them at the bottom of the glass container. You then pour the coffee from the glass container. The French press is very popular since it is very easy to use, compact in size, and inexpensive.

Coffee Brewing Methods

Coffee percolator

A percolator works on the same principles of many other coffee makers. A percolator is a pot with a small chamber at the bottom. Water is poured into this bottom compartment. A tube goes from the water chamber into another compartment at the top which contains ground coffee. This is all similar to a moka pot, vacuum coffee maker, or even a drip coffee maker in the sense that hot water will flow up, go through a coffee/filter compartment and then down. The difference with a percolator is that the brewing process will continue over and over where the brewed coffee will flow back into the same compartment where the water was put. Then it will be heated to the point it flows up and through the ground coffee compartment again. This process is repeated unit the desired strength of the coffee is reached. The machine will make a “perking” sound at this point and signal that the coffee is ready.

Turkish coffee

Traditional Turkish coffee is made is an old and very simple method. Using a ibrik, cezve, or a small saucepan, you heat water and sugar in the pot or pan. Remove from heat just before it gets to a boil. You then add coffee and cardamom to the water/sugar mixture. The pot is returned to the heat source. When the coffee begins to foam and become very thick and muddy, you remove from the heat. The key to Turkish coffee is to use a very fine ground coffee since no filter is used. There are special grinders for grinding Middle Eastern coffee. The entire process should take no more than 7 minutes. A Kopi Tubruk is an Indonesian-style coffee that is a strong and thick coffee similar to a Turkish coffee. It is made using a similar method where the coffee is boiled in a pot.

Oliang (Thai Iced Coffee)

Popular in Thailand, an Oliang Powder is a blend of coffee and ingredients such as corn, soy beans, and sesame seeds. It is traditionally brewed by using a “tung tom kah fe”. This is a metal ring with a handle and a cloth bag attached. The coffee is put into the cloth bag and hot water is poured through the bag into a cloth similar to a drip coffee. After the water is poured, the bag is placed into the liquid and is left to steep like a tea.

Cold brew

Cold brew, or cold press, is coffee grounds steeped in water at cold or room temperature for an extended period. Coarse-ground beans are soaked in water for 12 hours or more. The water is typically kept at room temperature, but chilled water can also be used. After the time period, the grounds are filtered out of the water using a paper coffee filter or other method. The result is a coffee concentrate that is often diluted with water or milk, and can be served hot, over ice, or blended with ice and other ingredients such as chocolate. Cold-brewed coffee naturally seems sweeter due to its lower acidity.