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Coffee Brewing Methods: 18 Ways to Make Coffee

If you love your coffee, you probably have a pretty good idea of how you like to drink it – maybe black, maybe as a latte, maybe an iced coffee. But when someone asks you how you like your coffee brewed, well, that’s another question. Read on to learn 18 coffee brewing methods.

We’re all familiar with a café-made espresso, the French press, and the classic drip machine, but there’s so much more to explore. We’ll take you through the different ways to make coffee and how each one is unique.

A guide to extraction methods

There are so many factors that determine how your cup of coffee tastes. You already know how important it is to choose the right beans, grind only when you’re ready to brew, and use top-quality drinking water.

But just as important as the ingredients is the way you extract the coffee from the beans. Different types of coffee drinks require different methods. The various coffee brewing methods dictate how long your grounds spend in contact with the water, the temperature used, and how much pressure is involved.

Understanding extraction will allow you to better control your coffee profile and tweaking variables can expose new flavors to explore.

Perfect Daily Grind

Each coffee brewing method has its pros and cons, and each will bring a unique quality to the taste of your brew.

various coffee brewing methods

Just a note: we haven’t covered instant coffee here as the coffee has already been extracted before it reaches you!

So, what are the factors?

  1. Pressure – Pressure is used to force hot water through the grounds. It can be manual or mechanical. Due to the short time that the water is in contact with the grounds, the grind needs to be finer to allow full extraction.
  2. Immersion – This method is also known as steeping. It involves soaking the grounds in hot or cold water until the desired strength has been achieved. A coarser grind is usually used to prevent over-extraction. You then filter out the grounds before drinking.
  3. Filtration – This is similar to pressure brewing, but the only pressure involved is gravity. It’s also known as the drip method. The paper or metal filter slows the water flow for a longer extraction time and removes the grounds from the coffee. Some methods may involve passing the water through the coffee multiple times.
  4. Boiling – With boiling or decoction, the grounds are heated with water and either served immediately or left for several minutes to extract further. Unlike other coffee brewing methods, you don’t remove the grounds from the brew but instead, leave them to settle in the pot or cup.

1. Coffee brewing using pressure

The rise of café-style drinks like cappuccinos has made espresso one of the most widespread coffee brewing methods. But espresso’s not the only one that uses pressure. This pressure can be achieved manually or by machine. The result is that you get a strong brew from a short extraction time.

Coffee makers that use pressure like the espresso machine, moka pot, aeropress, and single serve machines

Espresso machine

Of all the pressure brewing methods, an espresso machine is the best known. A pump creates pressure within the machine, forcing it through the coffee grounds at 9 bars to make a rich, concentrated coffee. This is the basic premise, but there are countless types of espresso makers. Semi-automatic machines will need you to learn how to grind, dose, and tamp your beans to pull the perfect espresso. Differently, full automatics will do everything, even steam your milk. While there are portable espresso makers, most of these will need a bit of space in your kitchen.

  • Grind: Fine – a little finer than table salt
  • Brewing time: 25-30 seconds to extract, but the machine will need 5-30 minutes to heat up first.
  • Skill required: A bean-to-cup machine only requires pressing a button. But the less automated the machine, the more barista skills you’ll need to have.
  • What to expect: You know the drill! A perfectly extracted shot of espresso will be strong and rich, perfectly balanced for acidity, bitterness, and sweetness. All topped with a layer of crema.

BEST SUITED FOR: Espresso drinkers of all skill levels and lovers of espresso-based drinks like lattes. It’s the only method that will produce true espresso.

Moka pot

You might have heard of Moka pot referred to as the “stovetop espresso maker”. Strictly speaking, it’s not true espresso, but it will still be rich and concentrated. The pressure here is created as the water heats in the bottom chamber, forced up through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber. Moka pot coffee can tend to be bitter if overheated. But you can avoid it by starting with hot water rather than cold – meaning your pot spends less time on the stove (1).

  • Grind: Medium-fine – like table salt. Finer grinds can clog the filter.
  • Brewing time: Around 5 minutes. But if you’re using hot water, you’ll need to allow for boiling time.
  • Skill required: Very little. It’s just a matter of filling it up and putting it on the stove, but you may want to play around with grind size and ratios to get your ideal brew.
  • What to expect: If you’re hoping for a true espresso, you will be disappointed. Still, you will get a concentrated, satisfying coffee that’s also a great base if you want to make a latte.

BEST SUITED FOR: Those looking for that bold espresso-style, but don’t have the budget or the patience for an espresso machine. 

AeroPress

This unassuming coffee maker is a recent invention, but one that’s become a surprise hit with baristas and home users alike. The “standard” Aeropress brewing method uses manually generated pressure via the rubber plunger. However, Aeropress is far more versatile than you might imagine.

It can brew coffee in ways that no other brewer can, which makes it perfect for the coffee connoisseur who likes to tinker and explore.

Javapresse

There’s an inverted method that works more like immersion brewing, plus methods for espresso-style or brewing in bulk. But by fiddling with the grind, ratio, times, and temperatures, the number of different recipes easily tops 50 (2). 

  • Grind: Fine to medium-fine, depending on the brewing method.
  • Brewing time: 1-4 minutes, plus time to boil the kettle
  • Skill required: Getting your first cup is child’s play, but there’s also room to flex your brewing skills with different methods.
  • What to expect: A very clean yet flavorful brew.

BEST SUITED FOR: Getting great quality coffee with very little fuss or time. It’s also a favorite bit of kit for travelers. 

Single-serve pod machine

The single-serve pod machine (such as Nespresso) was created to replicate the café experience for home users. The idea was not to need any barista skills to use it. Like with an espresso machine, a pump is used to create water pressure, only in this case, it is forced through a pre-packaged capsule of coffee grounds. It’s an entirely automated process and creates a pretty good approximation of an espresso. With the addition of a good milk frother, you can get a range of café style drinks.

Note: While Keurig machines use capsules, they don’t extract with pressure. They’re more like drip machines.

  • Grind: Pre-packaged pods. But if you opt for the reusable capsules, try a fine grind as for espresso (3).
  • Brewing time: 17-25 seconds, plus warmup time of 3-30 seconds.
  • Skill required: None at all. Press the button, and away you go.
  • What to expect: It’s short and strong – and might even have the crema – but you’ll find it lacks the richness of a true espresso.

BEST SUITED FOR: Anyone who wants a consistent espresso-style coffee in a matter of seconds, with no cleanup.

2. Coffee brewing using immersion

Immersion or steeping is probably the least hands-on method of brewing coffee. There is a skill to getting the grind size, ratio, and brew time right. Once you’ve nailed that, there’s nothing for you to do after adding your hot (or cold) water. A longer extraction time is needed for immersion, which can be tricky.

Over-extraction is the greatest danger with this method, so don’t forget about your brew.
Immersion coffee brewing methods like the French Press, Soft brew, Siphon, cold brew and coffee bags

French press

Sometimes known as the cafetiere or press pot, the French press is as simple as it gets when it comes to immersion. Hot water is added to the grounds and they are left to steep. At the desired strength, you depress the mesh filter to separate the coffee and grounds for drinking. The lack of a paper filter means that you retain the coffee’s natural oils. Despite the plunging effect, there is no pressure involved when using the French Press. 

  • Grind: Coarse – like sea salt
  • Brewing time: 5 minutes
  • Skill required: You’ll need to know a little about extraction to get the right balance of strength and flavor, but operating the coffee maker itself is as simple as it gets.
  • What to expect: A full-flavored brew with a rich mouthfeel, but look out for sediment.

BEST SUITED FOR: Those who appreciate the richness that comes from the natural oils found in coffee. It’s also one of the best methods for brewing coffee in bulk.

SoftBrew

This coffee maker is pretty similar to the French press, but we’ve added it separately here as there are a few key differences. It looks like a teapot but has a filter basket on the inside. Add the grounds to the basket, followed by the hot water, then leave to sit. The removable basket makes it much easier to clean than a French press, and the finer filter allows you to use a wide range of grind sizes.

  • Grind: Medium to coarse, but it works with finer grinds too.
  • Brewing time: 4-8 minutes
  • Skill required: None. It’s designed to be simpler than other coffee brewing methods.
  • What to expect: A brew that’s cleaner than French press, but richer than pour-over.

BEST SUITED FOR: French press fans who want a faster clean-up and a fuss-free brewing process.

Siphon

The siphon or vacuum coffee maker combines elements of both immersion and pressure brewing. There’s no electricity involved – you heat the water over an open flame, forcing it into the brewing chamber. Here the grounds are left to immerse in the water for around 1 minute 30 fully. At the end of the brewing, vacuum pressure will draw the coffee down through a filter, using light pressure to extract the last of the coffee from the grounds.

  • Grind: Medium – like sand
  • Brewing time: 3 minutes, plus heating time
  • Skill required: It’s just as complicated as it looks.
  • What to expect: Clean and complex. It won’t be strong, but it will be full of flavor.

BEST SUITED FOR: Coffee nerds that are looking for a new challenge.

Cold brew

Making cold brew coffee involves adding grounds to cold water and letting it sit until the desired strength is achieved. As there’s no heat to aid the extraction, it has a brewing time considerably longer than any other method. A mason jar works perfectly well, but if you want to make cold brew regularly, there are immersion cold brew coffee makers with built-in filters. This method tends to bring out chocolate or nutty notes.

  • Grind: Extra coarse – like ground peppercorns
  • Brewing time: 14-18 hours at room temp, longer in the fridge
  • Skill required: Patience.
  • What to expect: A rich and very smooth brew, with lower acidity than other methods.

BEST SUITED FOR: Anyone who likes their coffee cold and clean flavored.

Coffee bags

If you’ve never seen a coffee bag, it’s easy to imagine. It’s precisely like a teabag but filled with coffee grounds. Simply add hot water and leave to steep, pulling the bag out when your brew reaches the desired strength. In theory, it’s no different from any other steeping method. Still, the fact that you’re not using freshly ground coffee, choosing your beans, or choosing the amount of grounds, means you won’t be getting a great brew here.

  • Grind: n/a – bags are prefilled
  • Brewing time: 3-4 minutes
  • Skill required: None. If you can make a cup of tea, you have this in the bag.
  • What to expect: Nothing special, but much better than instant.

BEST SUITED FOR: Emergencies. 

3. Coffee brewing using filtration

Brewing by filtration or drip is interesting because this method includes the lowbrow drip maker and percolator, as well as the pour-over coffee adored by café snobs everywhere. The manual filtration methods can be some of the best for bringing out the intricate flavors of single-origin beans (4). Plastic does feature in a lot of these, so always look for a coffee maker that’s BPA-free.

Brewing using filtration- drip machine, percolator, chemex, pour over, a Clever dripper, a Vietnamese phin, and a cold dripper

Drip coffee maker

The drip coffee maker works just like a manual pour-over, but the machine does the heating and pouring. It might seem like a slight difference, but the lack of control over many variables often means you won’t get the quality of coffee you can expect from the manual version (5). For a better brew, look for one that’s SCAA-certified, or with a thermal carafe, which keeps your coffee warm without overheating it.

  • Grind: Medium – like sand
  • Brewing time: 3-10 minutes
  • Skill required: You can’t go wrong.
  • What to expect: The classic American cup of joe. Medium-bodied and smooth, but without complexity.

BEST SUITED FOR: Bulk coffee brewing – it’s why they’re such a hit in offices.

Electric or stovetop percolator

The stovetop percolator might be easily confused with the Moka pot. But the percolator works by drip rather than pressure. In both electric and stovetop models, you heat the water until boiling before being forced to the top of the coffee maker, where it falls over the grounds. The process is repeated until the coffee is strong enough, which unfortunately means your coffee is boiled over and over.

  • Grind: Coarse – like sea salt
  • Brewing time: 5-8 minutes
  • Skill required: None required for the electric version, but the stovetop percolator can be fiddly to assemble and easy to over-extract.
  • What to expect: Very strong, but with no refined flavors and a tendency to taste burnt.

BEST SUITED FOR: Anyone who needs their first cup of the day to slap them awake.

Pour-over

This is what you can consider the generic pour-over method. It includes some specific coffeemakers you might know, like the Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. These consist of a cone contraption filled with a filter, which you sit over your cup. The shape of the individual coffee maker determines how slowly the water drips through and determines the unique flavor profile. The fact that you can control almost every variable makes these so popular with coffee lovers. If you want to get in on the fun, you should at least invest in a scale, but preferably a gooseneck kettle too.

  • Grind: Medium-fine – like table salt. You may need to adjust depending on the brand
  • Brewing time: 3-4 minutes
  • Skill required: More than other coffee brewing methods. Even the way you pour the water will affect the final flavor.
  • What to expect: A clean cup of coffee that highlights the natural flavors of the bean.

BEST SUITED FOR: Anyone who wants to get hands-on with the brewing experience, and enjoys the ritual of coffee making.

Chemex

Think of third-wave coffee and the Chemex comes to mind. Despite being invented decades earlier (6), the large, sculptural glass and wood coffee maker has become the poster child for hipster coffee. Technically, it is just another pour-over coffee maker, but apart from the looks, a few things make it stand out. Unlike other brewers, this is a filter and carafe all in one. The scale of both the cone and the carafe means that you can brew larger quantities at a time. In terms of brewing, Chemex uses its brand of significantly thicker filters. This has the result of producing a much cleaner brew. 

  • Grind: Medium-coarse – like rough sand
  • Brewing time: 3-4 minutes
  • Skill required: It’ll take time to learn how each variable contributes to your brew.
  • What to expect: Full-bodied like French press, but clean like a pour-over.

BEST SUITED FOR: Coffee aficionados who want to brew more than one cup at a time.

Clever Dripper

This might look like just another way of making pour-over coffee. Yet, this understated contraption sits somewhere between immersion and filtration. The Clever Dripper has a design like a regular pour-over, with a cone and a paper filter, but the difference here is the valve at the bottom of the cone. The valve is closed to allow the coffee to go through a full immersion brewing. It’s then released to filter through the paper.

  • Grind: Medium-coarse – like rough sand
  • Brewing time: 3-4 minutes
  • Skill required: It’s designed to be simple, but getting precise with your ratios and timing will make all the difference.
  • What to expect: Rich and full-bodied, like French press coffee, but without the accompanying sediment.

BEST SUITED FOR: Those who are torn between their love of immersion and pour-over brews.

Vietnamese Phin

If you love Vietnamese iced coffee, you’re going to want to invest in a phin. It’s a small single-serve coffee maker consisting of a metal brewing chamber, a filter, and a lid. Making Vietnamese coffee is more foolproof than other pour-over methods. There’s no technique – you simply add your coffee and water, put on the lid, and leave it to drip over your cup. For the traditional taste, get your hands on Vietnamese coffee beans, which are usually Robusta.

  • Grind: Coarse – like sea salt
  • Brewing time: 4-5 minutes
  • Skill required: This is up there with the simplest.
  • What to expect: A concentrated brew with a rich mouthfeel. If you use the traditional Robusta beans, expect higher acidity and more caffeine.

BEST SUITED FOR: Fans of Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s also the best way to make a single cup of coffee without using a paper filter.

Cold drip brew

We’ve already covered the basic cold brew method above, but it’s also possible to brew without heat using a drip method. As this method lacks both heat and the prolonged contact of immersion, you’ll need a particular cold brew coffee maker. This often consists of a tower of three beakers – the top with cold water, the middle with the grounds, and the bottom for the collected coffee. The setup allows for exact control over the drip rate and, therefore, extraction. Grind size matters a lot for this method, so you’ll need to equip yourself with a good burr grinder.

  • Grind: Medium-coarse – like rough sand
  • Brewing time: 14-20 hours
  • Skill required: None, as long as you get the grind right.
  • What to expect: A rich brew that showcases all the flavors of the beans, with very low acidity.

BEST SUITED FOR: Specialty coffee shops or coffee nerds with a lot of bench space.

4. Coffee brewing by boiling

We’re always adamant that you shouldn’t use boiling water to make your coffee. But some of the oldest methods of brewing involve what’s known as a decoction. 

Coffee made by boiling will always pack a punch, but you can see here there are both rough and refined ways of doing it.
Brewing by boiling

Cowboy coffee

Out on the trail, they didn’t have coffee makers. But what they did have was a pot and a fire. This method evolved from necessity but still has its fans even today. Bring your water to a boil, stir in the coffee and immediately remove from the heat. Cover the coffee to steep, and by the time it’s ready, the grounds should have settled. Most people simply pour the coffee carefully off the top, but you can use a ladle too. It’s very basic, but getting the right grind and ratio will make for a better brew.

  • Grind: Extra coarse – like ground peppercorns
  • Brewing time: 6-8 minutes
  • Skill required: It’s as easy as boiling a pot of water.
  • What to expect: At its best, a bold and flavorful brew. At its worst, bitter and full of grounds. 

BEST SUITED FOR: Early mornings at the campsite, or any time you don’t have access to a coffee maker.

Turkish coffee

The steps for making Turkish coffee might seem similar to the cowboy method, but it’s a much more refined way to drink your coffee. Powder-fine grounds are added to an ibrik or cezve along with cold water and sugar. The mixture is then heated to just below boiling point, then removed from the heat – then the process is repeated. The coffee is poured without filtering, and the grounds are left to settle in the cups before drinking.

  • Grind: Extra fine. You may need a Turkish coffee grinder to achieve this.
  • Brewing time: 3-4 minutes
  • Skill required: It’s not complicated but does require you to pay attention.
  • What to expect: A very strong, thick brew usually laden with sugar.

BEST SUITED FOR: Sipping slowly with a glass of water and accompanied by Turkish delight.

Final thoughts

The best thing about our favorite beverage is that there are so many ways to make and enjoy it. Once you’re familiar with the unique qualities of each extraction method, you can drill down deeper to find the exact method or coffee maker that’s right for you. And hopefully, after reading this, you might have a few new things you’d like to try.

What’s your favorite brewing method?

References
  1. Adams, J. (2015, July 14). Moka Pot Brew Guide. Alternative Brewing. Retrieved from https://alternativebrewing.com.au/blogs/brew-tips/moka-pot-tips.
  2. The Art of Aeropress: Make 10 Kinds of Coffee Like Pro Baristas. (2018, August 8). Retrieved from https://handground.com/grind/66-recipes-for-amazing-aeropress-coffee.
  3. Brew method: How to make a strong coffee with reusable capsules. Crema Joe. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cremajoe.com.au/blogs/news/make-a-strong-coffee-with-reusable-capsules.
  4. Our Best Coffees For Your Home Brewer. Pegasus Coffee Company. (2021, February 15). Retrieved from https://pegasuscoffee.com/our-best-coffees-for-your-home-brewer/.
  5. Pollock, C. (2019, November 21). The Difference Between Pour-Over and Drip Brew Coffee. Barnies Coffee & Tea Co. Retrieved from https://www.barniescoffee.com/blogs/blog/the-difference-between-pour-over-and-drip-brew-coffee.
  6. A Brief History of Dr. Chemex: Stumptown Coffee Roasters Blog. Stumptown Coffee Roasters. (2017, March 7). Retrieved from https://www.stumptowncoffee.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-dr-chemex.

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