5 Coffee Brewing Methods and the Pros and Cons of Each

coffee maker and boiler machineCoffee brewing is no joke. There are some serious techniques involved in making the perfect cup of coffee, with tons of different brewing methods for achieving the right amount of flavor, strength, and other factors that any individual coffee drinker might find important. The only way to find what’s best for you is to try them all!

In this guide, we’ll go over some of the most popular coffee brewing methods, give you a brief run-down on how to prepare a cup with each one, and go over some pros and cons that make that method unique. Learn more about coffee brewing and all the different factors involved in this coffee crash course.

1. Coffee Maker

Coffee makers. Straightforward, easy to use, and with minimal clean-up! Whether your machine is at home or in your work’s break room, most people have had coffee this way. It’s a pretty standard brewing method.

For this method, you can either grind your own coffee beans or use a pre-ground roast. Most likely, if you’re relying on the ease and convenience of a coffee maker, you’re using something pre-ground, which is why coffee makers don’t produce the most ideal cup, but that’s okay. You have to make do with what you have.

To work a coffee maker, just pop open the lid on top and add water into the designated compartment, make sure the coffee pot is securely in place, measure out some grounds (about 1 tablespoon per 5 ounces of water, 2 tablespoons if you want your coffee strong), and put them into the filter.

Some coffee makers have a reusable filter that you’ll have to clean out every time, others use disposable filters. After that’s all setup, turn the machine on and you’re good to go in a few minutes. Who doesn’t love that coffee maker brewing sound? (Okay, tired office workers in the morning probably don’t.)

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Convenient

Cons

  • Doesn’t make the best cup of coffee

While coffee makers aren’t the most ideal choice for a coffee aficionado, you can find plenty of coffee maker secrets in this course.

2. French Press

The French press or press pot is a popular alternative to the coffee maker. It’s a bit more involved, but it produces a much better cup of coffee than an automated machine can. Of course, that depends highly on your choice of coffee ground as well, and there is a bit more technique involved in order to get it right.

To get it as perfect as it can be, you want to either grind the beans yourself or purchase a medium to coarse coffee grind of coffee. Either way, you don’t want super fine grounds, because that will seep into the coffee much more than it already does using this method, making for a muddy cup of coffee with little coffee ground particles floating around in the cup. Some people like it, I’d say most people don’t!

You also want to give your boiling water a chance to cool down for about a minute before pouring it in on top of the grounds, and only pour it about halfway to give the coffee grounds a chance to bloom. This is an important chemical process – the coffee will taste much better and less acidic once it’s had a chance to release some of the natural gases contained within.

After you’ve given the first round of water a minute to settle into the grounds, pour it to the top and press the lid down, slowly! Give it another few minutes and pour yourself out a good, strong cup of French pressed coffee.

Pros

  • Allows more control over technique
  • Stronger, more flavorful cup of coffee
  • Fun!

Cons

  • Too involved
  • Messy clean-up
  • Easy to get wrong

Read more about how to make a perfect cup of French press coffee in this guide.

3. Ceramic Dripper

One pour over coffee brewing method involves a ceramic dripper, a super handy tool that cuts clean-up solidly in half (or more) and is very simple to use. All you need is a disposable filter, the ceramic dripper, a way to boil water, and your coffee mug.

Again, this method is best served with freshly ground coffee beans, as are all coffee brewing methods, though the choice is still yours. Boil your water, let it cool for a moment as you either grind the coffee beans or measure out your grounds, and pour the grounds into the disposable filter. This filter should be placed and opened inside the ceramic dripper.

It’s recommended that you use an unbleached filter. Some brands of white disposable filters use chlorine bleach that can sometimes affect the flavor of your coffee. If you’re not prone to notice and don’t care about health-related factors, this isn’t a mandatory step.

Pour your coffee grounds into the open filter and set the ceramic dripper on top of the coffee mug or other container you want to collect your coffee in, then pour the boiling water in a slow circular motion down the sides of the filter. Make sure not to overfill the dripper – you risk overflowing the container and causing a huge mess.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Very easy clean-up
  • Decent cup of coffee

Cons

  • Potential to overflow and make a mess
  • Only makes one cup at a time, overly involved

Read a more in-depth guide to some of these coffee making techniques in this guide, and learn what kind of person each technique is best for.

4. Chemex Coffee Maker

Similar to the ceramic dripper coffee brewing method, the Chemex coffeemaker is like a perfected technology. It’s essentially the same thing – a coffee brewing tool involving the pour over method, but the level of control is much higher and the product is much better.

We’ve learned by now that most coffee brewing methods start out the same way: get your coffee grounds, pre-ground or fresh, measure them out and boil some water.

The first difference between the Chemex and the ceramic dripper, when it comes to technique, is the actual filter. You can’t use a normal disposable filter for this thing, and will instead need to purchase the specialty filters. These filters are much larger, come with extra layers of filtration, and are conical in shape. Place one into the Chemex, with the triple layered side on the side of the spout.

Once the water is boiled, don’t throw in the coffee grounds just yet. Pour the boiling water into the Chemex, pick it up by its wooden handle and swoosh it around inside to heat up the glass. You also want to make sure you wet as much of the filter as possible. Then, dump the water and pour in those coffee grounds.

Make a small divot in the middle of the coffee grounds and pour some water into it. Wait for the coffee grounds to bloom – give it about 30 seconds – then pour the water slowly around the edges of the filter, trying to wet as much of the coffee grounds as possible. Wait for the drip brew to finish, and refill as necessary.

Pros

  • Creates a flavorful, non-bitter, non-acidic cup of coffee due to strong filtration method
  • Beautifully designed
  • Makes multiple cups of coffee, depending on size

Cons

  • Breakable
  • Expensive
  • Difficult to clean

5. Keurig Coffee Maker

The Keurig is an elegant (see also: expensive) machine that is like one huge step up from your ordinary coffee maker. Once you get the machine plugged in and the water filled up, it’s probably the easiest on this list to use. Just pop out the water container, fill it up, flip the on switch and wait until the light turns on letting you know that the water is ready. It will vary from model to model, but this is essentially the process.

After, lift the small handle in the front (usually labeled with its brand name, Keurig) and pop in one of the disposable K-Cups that sometimes come with it, but which you’ll usually need to buy separately. Push the handle back down, and place your coffee container on the platform and select the size of the cup you want to brew. No worries about overflowing- there’s a nice drain at the bottom just in case that happens.

You’ll hear the coffee brewing sound and know when the cup is ready. If you get good K-Cups or if you buy the reusable filter and fill it with your own coffee grounds, this machine is really convenient. The biggest concern is with the reusable K-Cups, obviously, which are very expensive and also create a lot of waste in the environment, if that’s a concern to you. Personally, I’d recommend getting the reusable filter if you can.

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Very easy to use
  • Very easy clean-up

Cons

  • Expensive (both the machine and the K-Cups)
  • Creates a lot of waste (disposable K-Cups)

Why not take a break from all this coffee stuff and check out this guide to different kinds of tea? Both tea and coffee are good for you in moderation. Learn more healthy practices for life in this course.