Coffee is the ultimate treat and half the fun is brewing it yourself! Unfortunately for some, brewing coffee has a bit of mystique to it that makes its preparation intimidating.
With this handy guide, you never need to feel squeemish about preparing coffee again, regardless of the method you employ. Die hard coffee snobs will notice the fact that these directions are simple. But, these directions aren't for die hard coffee geeks, they are for the average coffee enthusiast who would simply like to know simple directions to make great coffee.
Having said that, there are a few fundamentals that apply to all methods.
No-Nonsense Directions on How to Brew Great Coffee Using 8 Different Brewing Methods
Water Quality Will Make or Break Your Great Pot of Coffee
Regardless of your brewing method, the essential ingredient to great coffee starts with great water! If you are using tap water, you are unlikely to make a great cup of coffee. We recommend using filtered tap water or bottled water to achieve the best brewing results.
Use only premium, fresh-roasted arabica bean coffee.
It's hard to make a great pot of coffee from low-quality coffee beans. Buy your coffee from micro-roasters like Blacksmith Coffee Roastery who source only the finest coffees from around the world and then roast it to it's own custom profile to achieve maximum flavor from each bean. Then, package it immediately in the highest-quality degassing bags to keep oxygen content to a minimum. Bulk bin whole bean coffee is stale before it even gets to a customer's grinder simply because it's been exposed to the environment for too long.
Grind your own beans, right before brewing.
Coffee beans are their own perfect little container and grinding your coffee immediately before brewing will result in a more flavorful cup than using preground coffee.
Use premium brewing equipment
Part of the problem many coffee enthusiasts have is thinking that the more automated, high-tech the coffee brewer is, the better the coffee will taste. Actually, the opposite is usually the case. The key to a great brewer is all about extraction, and the hands-on brewing methods are simply better at extracting coffee's subtle flavors and oils. Thus, providing you with more drinking pleasure!
Automatic Drip Brewer ***
Without a doubt, the most popular brewing method used today in the U.S. is the automatic drip brewer. Due primarily to it's convenience rather than brew quality, the ease of use afforded by an automatic drip brewer is second to none.
- Measure your beans based on a ratio of 1 to 1.5 tbsp per cup. If you're brewing a 12 cup pot, 12 tbsp are all that's going to fit in your funnel anyway. If you're brewing 4 to 6 cups stick with 1.5 tbsp per cup.
TIP: When trying a new coffee, always make the first pot strong and boil a pot of filtered water in a kettle simultaneously. Then if you find the brew tastes too strong for your preference, you can dilute it without cooling it off. Just keep track of how much water you dilute it with and you'll know how to brew it perfectly the next time around.
- Grind your beans based on your filter type. For a flat-bottom filter use a medium grind, for a cone shaped filter use a fine grind.
TIP: Grind can make a huge difference on the extraction your coffee maker produces. Simply changing the grind coarser can make a bitter coffee taste much better or a flat tasting coffee can often be helped with a finer grind.
- Filters are kind of a personal thing. We suggest you try a variety of filters such as a traditional white paper filter, an unbleached paper filter and a gold cone filter in your brewer and decide for yourself. In most automatic drip brewers, we prefer a gold filter.
- Ideally, your brewer will brew directly into a carafe like the picture to the right. If not, get a carafe to pour your fresh brewed coffee into. DO NOT store coffee on the burner in it's glass decanter. The long term direct heat will completely destroy the flavor. Unless you live in a truck stop, there is no place for nasty burnt coffee!
- Remember to regularly clean your brewer. Many flavor defects people experience in automatic drip brewers stem from the fact that the brewer rarely gets cleaned. For more info on how to clean your brewer click here.
- BITTER COFFEE WARNING: The biggest complaint we hear from drip coffee drinkers is the tendency for their coffee to taste bitter. Usually, we find the problem is the contact time the water has with the grounds is too long. Coffee should brew for no more than 5-6 minutes in a drip brewer. If your drip brew is subbar, time your brew cycle and see how long water is in contact with the grounds. If it's longer than 6 minutes, then you've found your problem. Aside from replacing the brewer, the other option you may have is to grind your coffee coarser and see if that helps reduce contact time.
- FInal point: The main reason automatic coffee brewers get a bad rap is simply because they don't heat the water hot enough to fully extract all of a coffees flavor. Most automatic drip brewers don't get above 185 degrees, and many struggle to get about 175 degrees. In fact there is only one automatic drip brewer that gets water to 200 degrees is the Dutch-made Technivorm.
French Press ****
Perhaps the simplest way to brew coffee is by using the press pot, coffee press, plunger pot or French press as it is commonly known. Regardless of what you call it, the press is an excellent way to brew a high quality cup of coffee with ease!
- Boil clean water in a water kettle.
- While water is boiling, measure your whole bean coffee to a ratio of 2 tablespoons per 6 ounces of water. Most full size presses are around 34 ounces in capacity, so you're looking at about 10 tablespoons of ground coffee.
- Grind your coffee to a coarse grind.
- Remove boiling water from heat source and fill press to preheat. Pour out hot water and add grounds.
- Add water approx. 15-30 seconds off boil.
- Once coffee blossoms, gently submerge grounds in water and set timer for 4 minutes.
- When 4 minute timer beeps, press coffee.
- Immediately pour coffee into cup and/or vac pot or carafe.
Vacuum Brewer *****
For serious coffee aficionados, there is perhaps no finer brewing method than the Siphon or Vacuum brewer as it is commonly referred. At least there is no more elegant method of brewing coffee! This is our favorite method.
Since we sell vacuum brewers from several different manufacturers, and they all have their own idisyncrasies, some items like grind, brew time, etc. vary depending on the brewer. See additional points below.
- Preheat water. In a kettle boil your high quality water. Pour hot water into the bottom decanter and set on heat source. If using a stovetop model like the Yama or Bodum, set stovetop temp to medium-medium high temp.
- While water is heating, measure and grind your coffee.
- Measure out approximately 1 to 1.5 heaping tablespoons of coffee for each cup. So, if you have the 6 cup Cona use 6 - 9 heaping tablespoons of coffee. Suggested grinds vary depending on the brewer. We've found a medium-course grind is best for the Cona, a medium grind is ideal for the Bodum Santos, and a Medium-Fine grind is ideal for the Yama's. Experiment to determine for yourself what the best grind is for your brewer. The general rule of thumb is, if the stem clogs when releasing the vacuum after removing heat source, the grind was too fine.
- Pour ground coffee into upper globe.
- Watch water in lower decanter to begin to boil. When you see little bubbles starting to form, it's time to insert the stem from your upper globe carefully but firmly attach the two together.
- For Cona and Yama - (If using a Yama butane heater turn heat to medium). Water will rise into the upper globe and the brewing process will begin. When most of the water has siphoned to the top globe, stir the grounds with a plastic spoon or stir stick, being careful not to hit the drainer rod (if using a Cona). It's important to make sure the coffee is fully saturated with water. Stirring five or six times usually does the trick. Watch your clock and at 2:00 minutes remove or cap flame. The brew will return to the lower decanter as the vacuum is reversed. Usually an audible whooshing sound is heard as the vacuum finally releases and the lower decanter is ready to pour.
For Bodum and Yama Stovetop Models - Water will rise into the upper globe and the brewing process will begin. Turn heat down to low-medium. When most of water has siphoned to the top globe, stir the grounds with a plastic spoon or stir stick and make sure all grounds have been fully submersed. Stirring five or six times usually does the trick. After stirring, immediately remove brewer from the burner and place on a cool dry surface, being extremely careful not to touch the glass or spill anything. The brew will slowly return to the lower decanter as the vacuum is reversed. Usually an audible whooshing sound is heard as the vacuum is finally released.
- Carefully remove the top globe from lower decanter and set in stand provided with brewer.
- Pour and drink your excellent coffee!
When a single cup of coffee is all that's needed. Or, when a fantastically smooth, low-acid cup of coffee is on the menu, nothing beats an Aeropress for it's ease-of-use, ease-of-cleaning, and awesome tasting brew results!
For people who find coffee irritates their stomach, people with acid problems, or those who just likely very smooth tasting coffee, Aerobie's suggested method is great!
- Heat Place a paper filter in end cap of Aeropress and it onto chamber.
- Place the chamber on your sturdy drinking mug.
- Using the spoon that came with your Aeropress, put two scoops of fine ground coffee into the chamber.
- Slowly pour 175 degree water into the chamber to the number 2 marking on chamber body.
- Stir the coffee with the the Aeropress paddle for 10 seconds.
- Wet the rubber plunger seal and gently press down until the plunger finally bottoms out on the coffee. This should take 20 to 30 seconds.
- Look at the volume of your espresso shot (as they refer to it) and pour water from your kettle to double the volume in your cup.
- Now drink and enjoy your smooth cup of Aeropressed coffee!
Upside Down Method
- Place plunger in top of chamber and turn upside down so that entire unit rests with the plunger unit on the bottom.
- Measure 20g of coffee to grind to a medium grind
- Heat water to a boil
- Just off of boil pour water in aeropress chamber to the top line. Start 30 second timer.
- Gently stir to expose all grounds to water, but don't overagitate.
- Place paper filter in end cap and pour hot water over filter to moisten. (This reduces paper taste and holds the filter in place when your put it on the cylinder.)
- Screw end cap on cylinder turn over, place on cup and press coffee until whooshing sound is heard.
- Drink and enjoy!
Pourover Drip *****
In the same vein as the vacuum brewer, pourover drip coffee is a hands-on affair, but the results are hard to beat. Once you get the hang of it, you may decide it's time to unplug the Mr. Coffee and rename yourself Dr. Coffee! There are different pourover funnel designs, but since we specialize in Hario drippers, these directions work best in the V02 Harios.
- Measure 30g of coffee to grind to a medium/fine grind.
- Heat 400 ml water to a boil.
- Place paper filter in dripper and wetten by filling with hot water.
- Place dripper and filter over decanter. Our favorite decanter is the Hario
- Pour ground coffee into filter and shake to level the coffee.
- With water off of boil now for about 30 seconds, pour small amount (30-40ml) of water onto grounds starting in center and circling around grounds being carefully not to breach the edge where paper is. Again, this is a small amount of water and is only enough to produce blooming to activate the coffee. It's a visible event and when you do it once it'll make perfect sense.
- Let grounds bloom for 30 seconds.
- Of remaining water in kettle, starting in center, slowly pour half of it in clockwise circles on grounds, getting close to the paper, but NOT pouring water directly on paper. Depending on your pour speed, you will usually take about 40 seconds to pour this half of remaining water, AND it usually will fill the funnel to close to the top. So....
- Wait approx. 15-25 seconds as coffee drips into decanter
- Pour remaining water over grounds in same fashion as step 8. Usually by the time the coffee has finished dripping only 3 to 3:30 seconds have lapsed.
- Dispose of filter and grounds.
- Pour yourself a great cup of pourover drip coffee.
Neopolitan Flip ***
This unusual method is basically a variation of the drip method. It's not very commonly used, but it's a good way to brew excellent strong coffee. The Neopolitan flip coffee pot is comprised of three pieces: The lower section is where the water goes; the filter basket is where the coffee grounds go; the serving pot is where the brewed coffee ends up; and the serving pot cap goes on top of the serving pot after the brewing process is finished. Here's how it works:
- Pour the water into the lower section of the pot. (This is the piece that doesn't have a pour spot.) Most Neopolitan filp brewers have a water fill line.
- Add fine ground coffee to the filter basket. A grind similar to a cone drip filter grind is ideal.
- Screw the serving pot together with the lower section.
- Put the entire pot on the stove with the lower section you just poured water into on the burner set to a medium-high heat.
- When the water in the lower section starts approaching a boil, take the entire pot off the stove. You'll be able to tell when you see consistent steam coming out of the vent hole. Then, while wearing oven mitts, turn the entire apparatus upside down and place on flat surface. What's happening is that the hot water is now on top and dripping through the ground coffee into the serving pot. Note that the spout is now right side up.
- After about 4 minutes the dripping will cease and you can disassemble the unit and place the cap on the serving pot. You'll be able to clean the filter basket right after you...
- Serve yourself a delicious cup of Neopolitana coffee!
Stovetop Espresso Maker ***
The stovetop espresso maker, or Moka Pot, Brikka, as it is commonly called is a great way to brew coffee. Ironically, it doesn't really make espresso. However, you can brew very rich delicious coffee following these steps. There are three main components to a stovetop espresso maker: The bottom chamber - where the water goes; the brew basket - where the coffee grounds go; and the top chamber - where your final brew will end up.
- Preheat your water. This is really important because if you heat your water in your brewer, it will end up getting overextracted, bitter and even metallic tasting. Simply use a water kettle, bring high-quality water to a boil and you're ready to..
- Pour water into bottom chamber to the fill indicator line.
- Now grind your beans to a fine grind. I like to use the same grind setting we use for cone drip coffee.
- Place your brew basket in the bottom chamber and fill with your ground coffee.
- Firmly tamp the coffee grounds down in the brew basket with espresso tamp or finger. Clean any rogue grounds off of edge or rim of brew basket. Again, fill with grounds to the top.
- Carefully screw the bottom chamber with filled brew basket in place to the top chamber.
- Place the brewer on your stove set at a medium-high heat. Leave the lid to the top chamber open visual checks.
- Watch to see the action. As the water approaches a boil it will expand and be forced up through the grounds. In many ways this is similar to the vacuum brewing method. At some point, you will hear a coughing sound and see liquid begin to flow into the top chamber. Once this flow becomes steady, you need to remove the brewer from the stove and close the lid.
- To help prevent overextraction and stop the brewing process, place the brewer on a cold towel or surface.
- When you see the flow has ceased, pour yourself a delicious cup of stovetop espresso!
Perhaps no other brewing generates as much controversy as percolating coffee. Instead of really weighing on the argument, we'll just tell you how to use a percolator. First of all, a coffee percolator has five parts. There is the coffee pot, where you put your water. There is the stem - which is a hollow metal tube that goes in the bottom of the pot. Siding onto the tube is the filter basket, which holds the ground coffee. Then, you have the filter basket lid, which is a perforated cover that goes on top of the filter basket. Lastly, you have the coffee pot lid.
There are two kinds of coffee percolators – electric and non-electric. Electric percolators include coffee urns that can make up to fifty five cups of coffee at a time. Non-electric percolators include the old fashioned camp style brewers from yesteryear.
Though we're not huge fans of this brew method, there are a few steps you can take to improve the quality of your percolated coffee.
- Wash your percolator thoroughly with soap and water.
- Put the coffee stem in place with the bowl or flat shaped in on the bottom.
- Using good water, fill the percolator to just below the line on the stem where the filter basket will rest.
- Slide the filter basket onto the stem.
- Grind your coffee to a coarse grind and measure out your coffee, using 1 tablespoon for each cup of water as a guideline. The most common question we get about percolators is how much coffee to use in the larger ones. For a 40 cup percolator, use about 2 1/2 cups of ground coffee.
- Place the filter basket lid into place inside the percolator.
- Apply your heat. If you're using an electric percolator, plug it in and turn it on. You really don't have to do anything more until the coffee is done perking. If you're using a stove top percolator, place it over medium-high heat heat the water. When you notice the coffee starting to perk, turn the heat down.
- As soon as your coffee stops perking, unplug the percolator or remove it from stovetop.
- Finally, remove the lid off the percolator and take the entire filter stem, basket and all, from the pot. Leaving it in there will cause the coffee to overextract and make it taste bitter.
- Serve and enjoy!