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pouring coffee grinds

5 Best Methods for Brewing Coffee at Home

There’s no one fits all brewing method for making coffee at home—and that’s a good thing! Read on for a 101 guide on the top five ways and choose the one that works best for you.

10 min read

Here’s an interesting personality test: What kind of coffee brewer are you? Because these days, there are enough coffee-making methods that it’s helpful to think about what you want. Do you like easy, reliable results? Where you flip a switch and move on? Do you prefer to be more involved, fine-tuning the flavor depending on grind and how the water is poured? Do you like rich, robust coffee? A smoother, lighter taste? Or perhaps a chill approach, cooling off your cup cold-brew style?

And if all of this has your head spinning, never fear. Here, we break down the different popular coffee-brewing methods and their benefits. Zero in on the style that will deliver you your dream cup.

The Coffee Cliff Notes

Choose Your Beans
How to Make Drip Coffee
How to Make Pour Over Coffee
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
How to Make French Press Coffee
How to Make Coffee in a Percolator

And now, first things first. The beans….

What Kind of Coffee Beans are Best?

Really top-notch coffees get compared to wine all the time, with regard to the nuance expressed in their flavors, the effect that terroir has on a profile, even the language we use to describe them, saying what we find “on the nose” and talking about “mouthfeel” and “acidity.”

Typically, the more complex and nuanced a coffee's description, the more variation you'll find when you present it through different styles of brew. Lower-altitude or very chocolaty/nutty coffees with less fruitiness—Brazils, for instance, or coffees from Nicaragua, Hawaii and even Indonesia— will tend to show less nuance from method to method. Instead, choose a coffee that has a range of tasting notes, something that combines sugars (caramel, toffee, molasses) with notes of stone fruit or citrus, and which also has a little something extra—tamarind, tropical fruit, floral characteristics, even a little bit of herbaceousness—to create a little depth to the profile. Colombian coffees from Huila, Cauca, or Nariño are great; Kenyans that skew toward tropical fruit or currants, too. Coffee beans, check. Now, what to do with them….

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How to Make Drip Coffee

The perks of drip coffee: When making drip coffee, the uniform distribution of evenly heated water that an automatic brewer contributes to the coffee-brewing process tends to be the most meet-me-in-the-middle of methods. You'll still taste some of the snappy fruit flavors that a complex coffee offers, but you'll likely find that the chocolate, nuts, spice, or earthiness that makes up the profile's rhythm section will offer more balance and structure to the finished product, creating a well-rounded, easy-drinking coffee that's perfect for when you honestly just need a coffee-flavored coffee right now. You'll still taste the quality of the finest beans, but their punchiness will be muted.

Drip Coffee to Water Ratio:

85–95 grams coffee to 64–72 ounces of water (1893-2129 fluid milliliters; 8–9 cups)

Drip Coffee Grind Size:

Medium-coarse grind

Recommended Brewer:

For an average household: OXO 8-Cup Coffee Maker

OXO 9-Cup Coffee Maker

For parties or big groups:

12-Cup Coffee Maker. This one can brew coffee as needed on demand or it can be set in advance, so hot coffee is ready for drinking the minute you wake up in the morning. A double-walled stainless steel carafe keeps coffee piping for hours.

Benefits:

  • Practically instant coffee.
  • Can be programmed ahead of time.

 

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How to Make Pour Over Coffee

The perks of pour over coffee: Hand-poured paper-filtered coffees are famous for their clarity of flavor, letting a coffee's real colors shine, and giving them a clean, almost rarefied mouthfeel. Pour-over coffees are the industry standard for savoring the taste of terroir, so though it takes more time to brew a great pour-over, the method is worth it.

Pour Over Coffee to Water Ratio:

30 grams coffee to 15-20 ounces of water (or 444-591 milliliters)

Pour Over Coffee Grind Size:

Medium-fine grind

Recommended Brewer:

Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank

Benefits:

  • Clean, refined flavor.
  • Allows precision with pouring water over grounds and water to coffee ratio.
  • Easy to make a single cup of coffee.

 

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How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

The perks of cold brew: The long steep time with coarse coffee and cool water will mute the beans' natural fruit flavor or "brightness," which simply means the tartness inherent in coffees from certain places in the world, such as Kenya, and some parts of Colombia. This is why cold-brew coffees are typically described as being "lower acid" coffees." (Ethiopian beans are really wonderful in this presentation, because the brew gives their floral notes a little chocolate base to layer on top of.)

Cold Brew Coffee to Water Ratio:

280 grams coffee to 40 ounces of water (or 1183 milliliters)

Cold Brew Coffee Grind Size:

Coarsest grind

Recommended Brewer:

Cold Brew Coffee Maker or Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Benefits:

 

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How to Make French Press Coffee

The perks of French Press coffee: French press pots, like cold brew, are full-immersion extraction methods, which means that the water and coffee are in full contact for the entire duration of the process. A French press, with its hot-water steep and metal-mesh filter, will allow more of the coffee's natural oils to extract and wind up in the cup, resulting in a heavier-bodied, you might even say “bolder” brew. French Press coffee tends to be somewhat muddled, flavor-wise, but in a pleasant way when it’s done right: It’s the coffee equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold morning.

French Press Coffee to Water Ratio:

25 grams of coffee to 16 ounces (or 473 milliliters)

French Press Coffee Grind Size:

Coarse grind just a hair finer than cold-brew

Recommended Brewer:

8 Cup French Press with Grounds Lifter

Benefits:

How to Make Coffee in a Percolator

The perks of percolating: Percolators sit on a stovetop and use pressurized water to brew coffee. The resulting coffee has a similar dense, strong flavor as espresso. To make: First, pour desired amount of water into base of percolator. Measure beans; a scale is the most precise way to do this and 15 to 20 grams of coffee is a good goal for a 4-cup pot. Grind coffee: Fine to medium fine is ideal. Preheat water to a boil in kettle (this is to help the water boil faster once it’s in the percolator so you don’t overcook the coffee, which can make it taste bitter). Add water to the base of the percolator, coffee grounds go in the middle section. Set percolator on stove at medium heat. As the water starts to boil, it’s pushed up into and through the grounds, and coffee ends up in the top chamber, ready to pour. You’ll know it’s done when you hear hissing and bubbling. 

Percolator Coffee to Water Ratio:

15-20 grams coffee to 32 ounces of water (or 946 milliliters)

Percolator Coffee Grind Size:

Fine to medium fine grind

Benefits:

  • Makes coffee quickly.
  • Doesn’t require a separate filter.
  • Good for smaller amounts of coffee.

 

 

Different personalities and lifestyles have different coffee needs. Now that you know the brewing possibilities, maybe one of these methods feels like exactly the right coffee fit. Or perhaps you’ll want to taste test, trying all the methods to find your favorite flavor.

Once you've dialed in your brewing method of choice, make sure to give your coffee equipment some necessary cleaning attention since it can noticeably affect the taste of your cup of joe. And here’s what to do with any leftover coffee, including coffee cocktails!

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