There’s no shortage of opinions when it comes to the different coffee brewing methods and which one brews the perfect cup of coffee. The good news is, there’s no right or wrong method. Each has its pluses and minuses.
Many baristas will tell you it’s possible to brew a great cup of coffee with virtually any method. However, when it comes down to it, the “best cup of coffee” is ultimately the one you enjoy.
If you’re like most coffee lovers, you probably already have a favorite brewing method. However, if you’re looking to switch things up and try something different, there are plenty of options to choose from.
To simplify things, we’ve curated all of the best coffee brewing methods below, complete with pictures, descriptions, and pros and cons. We’ve also organized the different coffee brewing methods by how they work, making it easier to find the method that suits your taste and lifestyle.
Table of Contents
The “drip method” of brewing, commonly referred to as “drip coffee” or “filtered coffee,” is one of the most popular ways to make coffee, especially in households and offices, due to its simplicity.
The basic idea is to allow hot water to pass through the coffee grounds, extracting flavors along the way and then letting the resulting brewed coffee drip into a carafe or pot below. This consistent flow of water through the coffee grounds allows for a balanced extraction, often producing a bright and clean-tasting coffee.
Within this category, there are various techniques. Each operates under the same fundamental principle but has its unique characteristics.
1. Percolator (Electric/Stovetop)
A percolator is a type of pot used for brewing coffee by continually cycling the boiling or near-boiling brew through the coffee grounds until the desired coffee strength is reached. It can be found in both an electric and stovetop version.
The percolator consists of two chambers, with the water being heated in the lower one. This creates pressure, forcing the water up a tube and through the coarse coffee grounds in the upper chamber.
The now-brewed coffee drips back to the bottom chamber, and this process repeats for anywhere between 5-10 minutes. At which point, the heat is reduced or turned off, and the coffee is served.
While it has declined in popularity, the percolator used to be one of the more popular coffee brewing methods, especially before the rise of the drip coffee maker.
One of the main critiques is that it tends to over-extract the coffee, which can lead to a more bitter taste. This is because the boiling water and repeated cycling over the grounds can pull out undesirable compounds. However, when used with care and attention to brewing time, a percolator can produce a strong and bold cup of coffee.
2. Auto-Drip Machines
One of the most common coffee brewing methods is the auto-drip machine. These machines are extremely popular in many households due to their convenience, ease of use, and consistent brewing results.
To use, you simply fill a reservoir with cold water, which an internal heating element warms to the ideal brewing temperature. Ground coffee is placed in either a paper or permanent filter within a basket or cone-shaped holder. The heated water is evenly pumped over the grounds, extracting the flavors and compounds as it passes. The brewed coffee then drips into a carafe below, often kept warm by a heating plate.
Auto-drip machines typically take 5-10 minutes to brew and work best with a medium grind size. Advanced models may also feature programmable timers and brew-strength selectors for added versatility.
The pour-over method is a manual brewing technique that emphasizes precision and patience. Its main appeal is its control over various brewing factors, such as water temperature, pouring technique, and brew time.
Making pour-over coffee entails manually pouring hot water (195°F to 205°F or 90°C to 96°C) over coffee grounds in a cone-shaped dripper. The dripper, which contains a filter, rests on your mug or carafe. As water passes through the grounds, it extracts the flavors and compounds, dripping into the container below. The pour-over process takes roughly 3-5 minutes and works best with a medium-fine grind size.
Popular pour-over devices include the Hario V60, Kalita Wave, Melitta, Bee House Dripper, and Vietnamese Phin, all of which produce slightly different coffee.
This brewing method utilizes a specially designed hourglass-shaped glass container known as a Chemex. Although it’s a type of pour-over brewing method, the Chemex has its own unique characteristics, primarily tied to its design and thicker proprietary paper filters.
Making Chemex coffee requires manually pouring hot water (195°F to 205°F or 90°C to 96°C) over medium-coarse coffee grounds in a specialized filter. This is done by pouring in a continuous circular motion to ensure even saturation of the grounds.
Like the pour-over, this method takes roughly 3-5 minutes. The thicker filter ensures a clean extraction, resulting in a smooth and sediment-free cup of coffee.
5. Clever Dripper
Although it looks like a typical pour-over device, the Clever Dripper combines the control of the pour-over with the ease of a French press. It’s essentially a pour-over cone with a stopper at the bottom, allowing you to regulate the steeping time before draining the brew through a filter.
To begin with, a paper filter is added along with medium-coarse coffee grounds. Next, hot water (195°F to 205°F or 90°C to 96°C) is poured over the grounds, ensuring even saturation. The brew is then steeped for 3-4 minutes in the bottom reservoir (or longer, depending on preference).
Once steeped, the Clever Dripper is placed directly on your mug or carafe, which automatically releases the stopper, allowing the coffee to filter through. This gives you a clean cup with a pronounced body while minimizing the risk of over-extraction that can sometimes occur with other brewing methods.
6. Drip Coffee Bags
Similar to tea bags yet slightly different, drip coffee bags contain pre-ground coffee sealed in a paper filter. To brew, the bag is opened and placed over the rim of the cup. Hot water (195°F to 205°F or 90°C to 96°C) is then evenly poured over the grounds. Once all the water has passed through the coffee grounds, the bag is removed from the cup, and the coffee is now ready to be served.
Drip coffee bags are extremely convenient and don’t require any special equipment, which makes them a great option for traveling, camping, or any situation where you don’t have access to a coffee maker. They also allow for easy cleanup as you just need to dispose of the coffee bag.
Although convenient, they typically result in a weaker flavor compared to other coffee brewing methods. Additionally, drip coffee bags can be more expensive than buying whole beans or ground coffee.
The “immersion method” of brewing refers to a process where coffee grounds are steeped in water for an extended period, allowing them to infuse the water with their flavors and compounds, similar to brewing tea. After the steeping period, the solids are separated from the liquid, yielding the final brew.
Within this category, there are several popular techniques. Each allows you to control the strength, taste, and mouthfeel by adjusting factors like brewing time, grind size, and coffee-to-water ratio.
7. French Press
Also known as a “press pot” or “plunger pot,” the French press is one of the more popular coffee brewing methods due to its affordability and ease of use. It consists of a cylindrical glass or stainless steel container and a metal or mesh plunger.
Making French press coffee requires adding medium-coarse coffee grounds (we strongly recommend ignoring the typical advice to go super coarse) to the press and pouring in hot water (195°F to 205°F or 90°C to 96°C) while ensuring even saturation. After a quick stir, the lid is closed, and the plunger is left up.
Once it has steeped for approximately 4-5 minutes, the plunger is slowly pressed down to separate the grounds from the brewed coffee. The coffee is then poured immediately to avoid over-extraction. This yields a rich and full-bodied cup of coffee.
8. Siphon Brewers
The siphon brewing method, also known as a “vacuum pot,” utilizes a combination of steeping and vacuum principles to brew coffee. While it can be complicated, its visually captivating and somewhat theatrical process makes it a favorite for coffee enthusiasts and specialty cafes.
Siphon brewers consist of two chambers: a bottom for heating water and a top for brewing. As water in the bottom chamber heats, it’s forced into the top chamber, where it mixes with the coffee grounds. After a few minutes, the heat is removed, causing a vacuum. This vacuum pulls the brewed coffee through a filter back into the bottom chamber, where it’s separated from the grounds and ready to be served.
This method requires a medium-coarse grind and typically takes 5-10 minutes to perform. Although it demands technical skill and precision, siphon brewing produces a complex, flavorful coffee with a unique aromatic profile.
9. Cold Brew
The cold brewing method is different from other coffee brewing methods in that it doesn’t involve hot water. Instead, making cold brew coffee involves steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold or room-temperature water for an extended period, usually 12 to 24 hours. The longer the steeping time, the stronger and more concentrated the coffee. At the end of the steeping period, the mixture is filtered to produce a cold brew concentrate.
Cold brew is known for its smooth and slightly sweet flavor. This is because it’s less acidic and bitter compared to coffee brewed with heat, making it easier on the stomach.
When serving, it’s typically diluted with water, milk, or a milk substitute. Additionally, the cold brew concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks without losing its freshness or flavor.
10. Nitrous Coffee
Nitrous coffee, or more commonly referred to as “nitro,” is essentially cold brew infused with nitrogen gas. This infusion gives it a rich, creamy texture and a slightly sweeter taste, as well as enhances its visual appeal (it looks like a pint of Guinness).
The initial part of the brewing process requires making the cold brew concentrate. Once brewed, it’s placed in a keg or a special nitro coffee maker and pressurized with nitrogen gas. It’s then kept under pressure to maintain the nitrogen infusion. Similar to draft beer, nitrous coffee is served from a tap.
The brewing process for nitrous coffee is much more difficult as it requires specialized equipment. Additionally, since it’s a relatively new innovation, brewing equipment can be quite costly and challenging to operate.
11. Instant Coffee
By far and away, instant coffee is the quickest and easiest of all the coffee brewing methods. It’s made from brewed coffee that has been freeze-dried or spray-dried into granules or powder.
To prepare, the granules or powder are added to hot water and then stirred until fully dissolved. Once dissolved, it’s ready to drink.
This method is a convenient option for those who don’t have the time or equipment to brew coffee using other methods. Like coffee bags, instant coffee is lightweight and portable, making it a great option for traveling or camping.
However, instant coffee’s flavor is often considered inferior to traditionally brewed coffee. Additionally, it doesn’t provide the full spectrum of health benefits of regular coffee due to its lower levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.
The “pressure method” of brewing refers to methods where water is forced through coffee grounds under high pressure to extract flavors quickly and efficiently. The result is a bold and intense brew in a shorter amount of time than other coffee brewing methods.
12. Espresso Machines
Espresso machines are a widely popular method for creating bold, concentrated coffee. The process involves adding finely ground coffee beans to a portafilter and tamping them to form a compact puck.
From there, hot water is forced through the grounds at high pressure (about 9 bars or 130 psi). This typically takes 25-30 seconds. The resulting liquid is a strong and rich espresso shot with a golden crema (foam) layer on top.
Espresso is commonly used as a foundation for other coffee beverages such as cappuccinos, lattes, and americanos, but can be served and enjoyed on its own.
Although espresso machines with automation exist, pulling a great espresso shot still requires precision and skill to control variables such as grind size, dose, tamping pressure, and brewing time.
13. Moka Pot
The moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker, is a method of brewing coffee that uses steam pressure to force hot water through the coffee grounds. Although not technically espresso, the resulting brew is comparable in strength and flavor but without the crema.
The process involves filling the bottom chamber with water and adding coffee grounds to the filter basket. As the water heats, it builds pressure, forcing it up through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber. This process takes roughly 5-10 minutes from start to finish.
Using a moka pot doesn’t require a lot of skill. However, getting the right grind is essential and involves a bit of trial and error. The coffee grounds should be finely ground, but not as fine as when using an espresso machine. A grind that’s too coarse will result in weak coffee, while one that’s too fine may clog the filter.
The AeroPress is a manual handheld coffee maker that uses air pressure to push hot water through the coffee grounds. Since its invention, the AeroPress has gained a cult following among coffee enthusiasts for its simplicity and ability to make a fantastic cup of coffee.
Although you can brew a cup of AeroPress coffee in several different ways, the traditional method involves first adding a filter to the filter cap and placing the chamber on top of a mug or carafe.
Coffee grounds and hot water are then added and steeped for a desired amount of time. Once steeped, the plunger is added and pressed slowly and steadily, forcing the water through the coffee grounds and into the mug or carafe below. The resulting coffee is strong and smooth, similar to espresso, but without the crema.
The amount of time the entire process takes can vary based on how long you let the grounds steep. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can have a cup of coffee in less than 60 seconds. And as for the recommended grind size, well, that’s up to you. All of this makes the AeroPress one of the easiest and most customizable coffee brewing methods.
15. Single-Serve Pod Machines
Single-serve pod machines, such as Keurig or Nespresso, use pre-packaged coffee pods to make a single cup of coffee at a time.
These machines work by puncturing the coffee pod and forcing hot water through it under pressure, similar to an espresso machine. The brewing time is typically under a minute, and the grind size is predetermined within the pod.
The ease of use and convenience of single-serve pod machines have made them popular among busy coffee drinkers. Some machines even allow you to adjust the brewing parameters like the size of the coffee, the temperature of the water, and the brewing time.
However, the quality of the coffee single-serve pod machines produce can vary significantly depending on the machine and the coffee pods used.
The “boiling method” of brewing is one of the oldest and simplest ways to make coffee. It involves brewing ground coffee beans directly in hot water rather than letting the water flow through the coffee grounds. These coffee brewing methods produce a distinct flavor and strong brew and are considered traditional techniques.
16. Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee is the oldest known coffee brewing method and is most often associated with the American cowboy. When it comes to brewing coffee, it’s about as straightforward and low-cost as it gets.
The process involves bringing water to a boil, adding coarse coffee grounds, letting the mixture steep, and then waiting for the grounds to settle before pouring the coffee into a cup. In total, it takes around 5-6 minutes from grinding the beans to sipping on the final brew.
This method doesn’t require any special equipment, making it ideal for outdoor settings. However, cowboy coffee isn’t the most flavorful, and because it doesn’t use a filter, it’s not uncommon to find coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup.
17. Turkish Coffee
Turkish coffee is a method of preparing coffee that’s common in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans. It’s made by finely grinding roasted coffee beans to a powder-like consistency, then combining them with cold water and sugar (optional) in a special pot called a cezve.
The mixture is slowly heated until it begins to froth. It’s then removed from the heat, and the process is repeated several times. The entire brewing process takes about 3-5 minutes for one cup, and the resulting brew is thick and rich with intense flavor.
It’s also important to note that Turkish coffee is traditionally very strong. Additionally, since the coffee grounds aren’t filtered out during the brewing process, they will settle at the bottom of the cup.
While the perfect cup of coffee ultimately depends on your personal taste and preference, there’s no shortage of coffee brewing methods to help you get there. So, whether you’re a seasoned barista or just starting your journey into the world of coffee, the good news is there’s plenty of room to experiment with different flavors and techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions
The French press is often recommended for beginners as it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require specialized equipment. However, the best method ultimately depends on your taste preferences and the equipment you have available.
Different coffee brewing methods result in different extraction rates and, therefore, different flavor profiles. For example, espresso produces a strong and concentrated coffee, while the French press results in a full-bodied and robust flavor. Pour-over methods yield a clean and aromatic cup, and cold brew creates a smooth, less acidic coffee.
While you can technically use any coffee beans for any method, some beans are better suited to specific coffee brewing methods. For example, beans with a medium roast are versatile and work well with most methods, while dark roasts are often preferred for espresso and light roasts for pour-over. Experimenting with different methods and roast types is the best way to find your perfect match.
Yes, the caffeine content in a cup of coffee can vary for different coffee brewing methods. Factors such as the size of the coffee grounds and how long they steep during the brewing process play a significant role. For example, using coarser grounds (which reduces the surface area exposed to water during the brewing process) and allowing them to steep for a shorter period of time will result in less caffeine extraction.