Coffee Showdown: The Best Ways to Brew We break down the pros and cons of our favorite brewing methods
It’s more than just the taste, the aroma, or even the caffeine buzz we coffee lovers crave — it’s the satisfaction of indulging in one of life’s simple pleasures. And if you’re like us, you appreciate that there is a finite number of cups that will pass a man’s lips in his lifetime. That’s why we go the extra mile to make each cup as enjoyable as possible.
Curious about different brewing methods? Looking to step up your coffee game? Pour yourself a cup o’ joe and dig in.
The pour over method is the most involved way to brew coffee in the morning — so if you’re always running late, it may not be for you. Disciples of the Church of Pour Over grind their own beans by hand, methodically pour their temperature controlled water over the grounds in artful circles, and generally revel in the ritual.Can’t say we blame them though, a well-made pour over results an outstanding cup of coffee.
Can’t say we blame them though, a well-made pour over results an outstanding cup of coffee.
You’ll Need: fine coffee grounds, pour over filter, pour over coffee dripper
The Flavor: Complex, semi-bitter, highly aromatic
The Method: Place a paper filter in your dripper. Add finely ground beans at a ratio of 2 tablespoons per cup of water and make a small indent in the center. Slowly pour water over the beans in a circular manner, stopping before the water reaches the top. Let the dripper drain completely. Once drained, repeat the process a second time. The second pour is where the magic happens so if you’ve got a small mug, make sure you don’t overload your mug with too much water on the first pour.
Try experimenting with different water temperatures (between 195 to 205℉) to unlock subtle differences in your roast of choice.
Word to the Wise: One drawback of pour over is that it only makes one cup at a time. So if you’re serving more than two, you might want to consider alternative brewing methods. And don’t forget to stock up on pour over filters — if you run out, you won’t be able to get your caffeine fix.
For a method that’s less maintenance than pour over but still makes you look like a pro, consider the French press. It’s basically a glass jar in which you steep coffee grinds with a wire mesh plunger that traps the grinds when you pour. Unlike any of the other methods on this list, you can bring a French press right to the breakfast table while it brews.
This system is environmentally friendly because it doesn’t use a paper filter. Plus, it makes 2 to 4 cups of coffee at a time — which is great news if you’re entertaining guests.
You’ll Need: coarse coffee grounds, a French press
The Flavor: Full bodied, mildly bitter, aromatic
Method: Add your grinds at a ratio of 3 tablespoons per cup of water to your French press. Fill the vessel with hot water. Let your grinds steep for 4 minutes. Give your grinds a quick (optional) stir, push down the plunger, and pour.
Try adding half the water and waiting 30 seconds before filling your French press the rest of the way, many experts believe this results in an even more flavorful cup.
Word to the Wise: If your grind is too fine, it will slip past the mesh and make your coffee unpleasantly gritty. Another easy way to ruin your coffee is over-brewing. Any longer than 15 minutes can result in muddy, over-extracted sludge.
Percolator (Moka Pot)
The percolator method results in a cup of coffee that is almost espresso-like in character. It uses a three chamber system in which boiling water at the bottom travels up through the coffee grounds in the middle — giving it science lab flair. If you like your coffee dark with notes of caramel, you’ll love the percolator.
Like the French press, the percolator doesn’t use paper filters.
You’ll Need: finely ground coffee, percolator pot
Flavor: Strong, bitter, toasty aromatics
Method: Pour water into the base. Add grounds (approx. one tablespoon of grounds per cup) to the basket, making sure the basket rests just above the water level. Turn on your heat source and let the coffee brew until the water percolates up to the top chamber.
Word to the Wise: Keep a close eye on your percolator when brewing — if you don’t remove it from the heat as soon as it’s done, you can turn this already bitter method into an even more bitter disaster.
If you’re looking for the hottest thing in brewing, say hello to the Aeropress. In blind taste tests, it has been shown to outperform other methods in terms of producing consistently flavorful, well-rounded coffee. It’s also durable, inexpensive, great for travel, and easy to clean.
You’ll Need: coffee grounds, Aeropress, Aeropress filter
The Flavor: Smooth, clean, aromatic, incredibly consistent
Method: Measure and grind your coffee — about 2 ½ tablespoons per cup. Add a new filter into your Aeropress. Position your Aeropress above your mug. Pour in a small amount of hot water to prime the filter. Discard that water and add your grinds. Fill with hot water, place the plunger in, and plunge away.
Word to the Wise: It’s important to note that the Aeropress requires special filters that can’t always be found at your local grocery store. Also, similar to the pour over method, it only makes one cup at a time. Plus, to put it bluntly, it’s ugly.
You’re probably familiar with this method, and while it doesn’t make the most exciting cup of coffee, it certainly gets the job done quickly, easily and in large quantities.
You’ll Need: coffee maker, fine to medium coffee grounds, drip coffee filter
The Flavor: Strong, sharp, moderately bitter
Method: Though coffee machines differ, to make a cup of conventional drip you’ll basically add a filter, add your grounds, press a button, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and voila! A full pot of coffee. The hardest part is making sure your machine is plugged in.
Word to the Wise: One reason drip coffee machines have such a bad rap is the use of over-roasted, stale, or just plain low-quality coffee grinds. If you’re looking for a better cup, we recommend upping the quality of your beans.
Cold brew requires minimal effort, but maximum time — so you’ll need to plan ahead. However, if you’re patient enough for this method you’ll be rewarded with a taste that’s sweeter, smoother, and less acidic than anything brewed with hot water. You’ll also be getting more caffeine than most brews due to the long steep.
With cold brew, you can easily make enough coffee in one go for your entire week — and once brewed it can last for up to two weeks.
You’ll Need: coarse coffee grounds, container, filter, patience
The Flavor: ultra smooth, slightly sweet, weak aromatics
Method: Fill a jar, french press or similar receptacle with coarsely ground beans and cold water — about ¾ cup of beans for every 4 cups water. The bigger the vessel, the more cold brew you can make so feel free to go big. Let it steep for 12-24 hours. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove the silt. Enjoy your rocket fuel.
Word to the Wise: Don’t skimp on the steep time, it’s essential for maximum flavor extraction.
We know what you’re thinking but bear with us — instant coffee can be quite delicious. And if you’re constantly on the go, enjoying the great outdoors or just need an emergency caffeine supply, you may want to consider throwing a few of these into your bag.
You’ll Need: hot or cold water, instant coffee
The Flavor: Taste varies wildly depending on the brand you buy — from the worst burnt sludge to delicious sophisticated brews.
Right now, our favorite is Sudden Coffee. It comes in a small tube that’s easily portable, compostable and has a taste that may convert the most obnoxious coffee snob you know.
Method: Instant coffee lives up to its name. Just pour in the grounds, add hot or cold water, and stir to combine. Instant gratification.
Word to the Wise: Beware of belligerent skeptics — sometimes it’s less hassle to keep your instant coffee consumption on the DL. Sharing is over-rated anyway, right?
Brew Like You Mean It
It should go without saying — taste is subjective. But if your only source of coffee is the Keurig machine at work or your local McDonalds, you owe it to yourself to get out there and try one the methods we’ve prescribed. It’s never been easier to get an inexpensive French press and some quality roasted beans sent right to your door.
Did we leave out your favorite method of brewing? Let us know in the comments.