Making coffee is not just a morning routine task. To a large chunk of enthusiasts, how to make coffee is an art; while for others it’s pure science. This is probably due to the fact that the history of coffee is very long, with its first discovery as a miraculous bean occurring over 600 years ago. Call it a chance, but at some point a wildfire burned down a plantation and roasted its beans. The owner of the plantation tried munching on the roasted beans but noticed they were too hard – forcing him to try boiling them up to “soften” them. He tried drinking the soup created from boiling the beans, and coffee as we know it today was born.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then, with the discovery of the benefits of having the beans ground after the roasting process. It became so popular that it became one of the major trade commodities, and both the drink and plant spread worldwide; with different countries cultivating and preparing it in particular ways.
Nowadays, with our advanced technology, more efficient techniques in both farming for and preparing it have spread: so much that coffee brewing machines are widely available and affordable, not to mention the different varieties and “signature” roasts from all over the world thanks to the improved world market. Today I will be discussing how to make coffee with each type of machine, to make sure you make the most of it.
How to make coffee with a drip coffee machines
To start off, let’s talk about drip coffee machines. There are perhaps the machines we have all been more exposed to in history and throughout the various forms of media: after all, they have been featured in countless movies and shows, in those scenes shot in a drive-in or in a police station. These coffee machines are typically recognizable because of their big carafes placed in the front and the top lid where everything is loaded.
The process behind these machines is quite simple. Because what gives off coffee’s aroma and flavor are the oils contained in the beans (and subsequently the grounds) when they are immersed in hot water, these machines do exactly that by dripping boiling hot water on the coffee ground powder. After the hot water sits with the grounds and absorbs the good stuff, the liquid is pushed down through the filter, which is there solely for the purpose of preventing the solid chunks to pass through (and avoid making your coffee feel “grainy”), and collected in the carafe. The machines may then feature a heater which keeps the freshly brewed coffee warm for some time.
Now, to perfectly brew a tradition cup of joe with a drip machine, there are three main ingredients to keep in mind and select, apart from the machine itself. First of all is the coffee: the finer the blend, the more surface area is exposed to the water, thus allowing more of its essences to be dissolved in water. Secondly comes the filter – paper filters are the most commonly used because require no maintenance (as you simply dispose of them and use a new one). Brewing coffee with a paper filter provides a smooth, grain-free beverage at the cost of flavor, because the paper absorbs part of the oils that make a coffee stronger – using a metal filter will give off a stronger coffee, but it will have some of the smaller grains floating around. Thirdly comes the water temperature: the hotter the water, the faster it will be at dissolving the oils before being pushed down towards the filter.
With all the ingredients considered, preparing the machine is fairly easy: foremost you have to make sure the carafe is in place to avoid wasting anything. You then open the lid and pour in the water container the amount of water recommended by each individual machine for the number of cups you desire to make (because each machine is different, consult the manual for this step). After that, take one filter if you use paper ones, rinse it in water (separately, in the sink for example) to make sure any loose paper fibers or dust particles are removed; or insert your reusable metal or ceramic filter after cleaning it thoroughly if you use those. Next comes the part that takes some practice to perfect – the coffee. Take a spoon and place the recommended amount on the manual first (a general guideline is to use around 2 tablespoons for each cup of water). There goes your first brew.
On your successive brews, feel free to add more coffee grounds or remove if you want a stronger/weaker beverage. And keep in mind to never leave any previously coffee in the carafe while the machine heats up, as it can potentially overheat it and cause it to burn, completely ruining its flavor.
How to make coffee with a manual espresso machines
Talking about signature coffee drinks, perhaps the most common of them all is the espresso. The Italians have made an art out of making them; and learning how to make the perfect espresso takes practice but it is totally doable.
The traditional way of making espresso is by using the moka pot: that little teapot-looking boiler made of a metal. It works quite differently from a drip coffee machine because the hot water, instead of going downwards, is made to go upwards. The bottom part, filled with a little bit of water (ideally in level just below the little steam hole) is covered by a re-usable funnel shaped metal filter which is then filled with your preferred coffee grounds. Getting the perfect amount is where the trick is at: you want the filter to be completely full and partially pressed to brew an awesome cup of coffee; but pressing too much coffee grounds in it can result in water not being able to pass and burning the whole batch. Coffee ground size also plays a vital role in this: a fine mixture will require less pressing, while its rougher grainy counterpart will come out better if pressed more. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. I’ve had my own troubles too when I tried it out the first several rounds. Anyway, once the coffee grounds are placed, you can twist the top on and place it on your burner or cooker. Because moka pots are relatively small (most make 2-4 little cups) it doesn’t take long to brew; but keep in mind that the slower the fire, the better the taste, the stronger the aroma, and the more dense the crema (the thin layer of coffee which looks foamy).
While a couple of decades ago, manual espresso machines were only used in bars (how traditional Italian coffee houses were, and still are, called) because of their bulky size, there are now smaller versions which are widely available for home use. The basic principle is still the same: as the water boils it creates pressure which pushes the water upwards and into the coffee filter, giving it lots of time and heat to concentrate the whole load of coffee grounds into a little shot of espresso. The benefits of using these machines is that the water doesn’t have to be loaded each time, as there is a larger compartment available for it: all you have to do is occasionally take it out, clean it (Italians say that they never use soap as it can affect the taste of the coffee and only rinse it thoroughly with warm water – but whether you want to use soap is your call), and load it up with water again. When you want to brew, you twist the arm to set it loose and place your coffee grounds – directly from the package or, for an even better coffee, after grinding the beans yourself. Here, it’s your decision once again on how much you press it, just like with the traditional moka pot. Most machines nowadays have various options, such as a single shot or double shot (which can be drank by 1 person in 1 cup, or two people in two cups if the machine allows it) – press the desired option, and enjoy your espresso. Maintenance with these machines is pretty minimal: apart from the controversial water tank, the twisty arm’s filter can be easily removed and washed after every several uses, and the drip tray needs only to be wiped whenever a little drop ends up coming down too late. Dont forget to check out our page about the best milk frother available, to truly enjoy your espresso experience, especially if you’re looking for a great cappuccino or latte.
How to make coffee with an automatic espresso machines
If a fully automatic machine is more to your liking, especially to prevent the messy spilling of coffee grounds on the counter and measuring the perfect amount to use every single time, there are a few things you have to know beforehand. First of all, know that the process behind the coffee making remains the same, it’s all just automated and requires no human help (apart from filling it with water and coffee). Secondly, while making coffee the machine takes care of everything, you will have to be in charge of cleaning each component up as a dirty machine will produce a rancid tasting brew and a foul odor even when not in use; not to mention that a dirty machine will last you less.
Having said that, preparing the machine is simple, regardless of the model you may have. Most likely you will have one of those machines which only need roasted coffee beans: these only require you to pour the beans in the container, and make sure that water is still present in the compartment. You press the button, after fiddling with the control panel to adjust your espresso’s strength (and other options on some machines), and voila’. Your little mug will be filled in minutes – the machine taking care of grinding the beans, measuring the right amount of both water and fresh grounds, heating the water to the perfect temperature, and pouring it in your cup when it’s done brewing.
As for the cleaning, the task can be tedious, but fortunately it isn’t an everyday occurrence. Daily maintenance includes wiping the exterior with a moist cloth or perhaps using a spray cleaner where harder stains are present. The interior parts are what get really dirty after use, and need to be cleaned every week or after about 25 shots. This because freshly ground beans contain the most amount of the oils and essences that make up the coffee’s aroma and flavor, and when these oils are fresh they tend to stick on to all kinds of surfaces: especially the inner metal parts of your machine. Modern machines now have easy-to-remove compartments for easy cleaning, which facilitates the removal of the various parts (and the once-harder process of putting everything back together afterwards). First and foremost, turn off your machine and unplug it, to cool it down and avoid injuries. After removing each part, I recommend soaking them in warm water and vinegar for an hour or so before washing and scrubbing them with a backflush detergent (like Cafiza or PuroCaf). Then rinse everything thoroughly (you don’t want soap ruining the taste of the coffee) and then wipe each part dry with a towel so most hard-water impurities are reduced; carefully then place everything in its right place.
How to make coffee with a coffee press
The coffee press has different names all over the world, but it most commonly referred to simply as the French press – because of its origins, presumably. It is a very simple and effective way to make coffee, and doesn’t even require electricity or a fire per se’, as it’s used as a special mug to mix coffee and boiling water, and to later filter out the grounds.
Using one of these manual machines is quite simple but requires some preparation beforehand. Most importantly is the coffee to be used: the French press requires a rougher blend than other machines. This is because its integrated filter has bigger holes, meaning that a fine blend of grounds will pass though the filter and make the coffee undrinkable. There are several French-press-specific grounds which can be purchased and those are advised; for a better flavor though, I encourage you to grind your own beans right before brewing. Another thing to prepare before you can brew your coffee is the water; water needs to be boiled separately in either a boiler or kettle. I’ll underline that the water needs to be boiling.
To start brewing, you will first pour the coffee grounds in the beaker, with the filter removed. Then pour the boiling water in (the best way to do this is to pour a little water at first, just enough to cover the grounds and waiting a few seconds until it foams up and then pouring the rest of it). Ideally, an ounce of coffee should accompany 3 cups of water – but it all depends whether you want a stronger or weaker mix. You then stir everything with a spoon for several seconds, and then place the filter into place. The next step is to wait 3-4 minutes and then pumping the filter down (with the top handle) a few times to squash the beans and extract the most out of them. Final step is to have the filter pushed down and while pouring the coffee in you mug.
There are only 2 negative outcomes and they both have simple solutions. One case is when you feel your coffee to have too many grains of coffee: it means your grounds were too fine and need bigger ones next time. Number two happens if you leave the coffee in the coffee press for too long (over 10-15 minutes): the coffee beans get burned, making your coffee taste too bitter (though some may actually prefer it this way).
How to make coffee with Keurig coffee machine
Regardless from which way you look at it, Keurig machines are the most user-friendly coffee machine out there. They are well known for being convenient because they do not require grinding or measuring grounds, matching the perfect coffee to water ration, and other processes. Internally, they work a lot like drip coffee machines: they heat the water up, let it sit in the grounds mixture, and then have the filter separate the liquid which then goes directly into your mug.
To use a Keurig machine you only need to fill the water compartment, and place your K-cup in the appropriate slot and press a button. K-cups are convenient because, apart from being available in hundreds of different flavors including non-caffeinated drinks like hot chocos and teas, the grounds and filters are already sealed together. Because everything is contained in the pre-made cup, there isn’t a lot of deep cleaning to be done either: you just have to wipe the exterior clean occasionally. The inside parts can be wiped clean once every week or two, particularly the cup loadings slot and the beaked part which pours the beverage in your mug. Some newer machines even have an automatic cleaning function which flushes the whole system with hot water to rinse the dirt away.
If you feel the need to refrain from using the K-cups, maybe for their higher price or because you can’t find the right flavor, you can always purchase a separate filter which enables you to use your own grounds of choice. To do this, simply place the filter in the slot and then pour your coffee on top of it, like you would with any drip coffee machine; close the lid, press the button, and enjoy you coffee. This requires a bit more cleaning, especially if you put too much grounds and it overflows) and disposing of the filter (if the paper ones are used) though.