One of the coolest things about coffee is that there are numerous ways to brew it.
Now, what might be challenging is finding the method that works the best for you.
And that’s why we are going to look at different types of coffee makers today. Each of them has its peculiarities, advantages, and disadvantages. So let’s find out what coffee machine would be ideal for you and your perfect cup of joe.
Types of Coffee Makers Explained
Now, all coffee maker types can be divided into two large groups: electric and manual. As the names suggest, the former implies an automatic (or semi-automatic) process, and the latter means that you have to do most of the work yourself.
Of course, each of these categories includes various types of coffee machines. So, let’s take a closer look at them and see what makes them stand out.
Automatic Drip Coffee Makers
This is one of the most popular coffee maker types for home use. Drip coffee makers are super easy to use but can brew a decent cup of coffee. The way these machines work is quite simple: they run the hot water through the coffee grounds, brewing the beverage fast. Some models use loose grounds, others may work with coffee pods.
There are many things to love about drip coffee makers. They are easy to use, affordable, and often come with some handy programmable features (like automatic timed brewing, for example) (1).
Now, when it comes to drip coffee machines, they usually brew coffee straight into a carafe. There are two kinds: glass and thermal. Glass carafes look stylish but depend on the warming plate to keep the coffee hot. If you leave the plate on for too long, your beverage might end up tasting burnt or bitter.
As for thermal carafe coffee makers, they are more popular as this type can keep your coffee warm without affecting its flavor. Thermal carafes typically use insulated steel and don’t require a hotplate. They are also more durable than glass carafes, but not always easy to clean.
Also read: How Does a Coffee Maker Work
Another kind of electric coffee makers, espresso machines can brew bold, delicious espressos and even allow users to prepare milk coffee-based beverages (like cappuccinos, for instance). These machines push the hot water through the grounds (using high pressure) and extract rich coffee.
There are two common types of espresso makers: semi-automatic and super-automatic. With a super-automatic model (also known as bean-to-cup coffee makers), all you have to do is press a button. The machine will grind the beans, tamp the grounds, and brew coffee. Using a semi-automatic espresso maker, you will need to tamp the grounds and insert the portafilter yourself.
The best thing about espresso makers is that they are capable of brewing an exquisite cup of coffee. If you want the top quality and that coffeehouse flavor, an espresso machine would be ideal for you. Just keep in mind that they usually require a bit of a learning curve and tend to be quite pricey.
When talking about the manual types of coffee makers, a French press is probably the first one that may come to mind. This simple device can help you make full-bodied coffee in mere minutes. All you have to do is add your coffee grounds, pour some water in, and put the lid on to let the coffee steep. Then, push the mesh filter down to keep the grounds on the bottom and pour your delicious beverage into a cup. Keep in mind that you need to use coarsely ground coffee and water of about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (2).
French press coffee makers are very affordable and relatively durable (unless you break the glass carafe, but those are often sold separately). A quick tip: you can also froth the milk using a French press if you want a homemade cappuccino. Just pour warm milk into the carafe and move the plunger up and down (quite fast) for around 30 seconds. This will turn your milk into thick, silky foam.
Before drip coffee makers became all the rage, percolators were common for countless households. Percolators brew hot, strong coffee by pushing the heated water through a special tube and saturating the coffee grounds repeatedly. Typically, percolators are electric, but some can be used on the stove. This type of coffee makers is ideal for those who want their coffee hot and bold. However, keep in mind that using such hot water for coffee can alter its taste. Some users complain that their percolators make coffee taste a bit burnt.
AeroPress is a manual coffee maker that can help you get a perfect shot of espresso. It is quick, easy to clean, and allows users to enjoy strong coffee. AeroPress is ideal for those times when you need a single cup of coffee, and you need it fast.
The way it works is quite simple. You need to put the AeroPress on top of your mug and then use the plunger to push the water down through the grounds and straight into your cup. The capacity of the AeroPress allows users to brew from one to three cups of coffee at once. Depending on the grounds + water ratio, you can make both espressos and Americanos. Brewing coffee with an AeroPress requires some effort (as you have to use force to press down), but most users note that it’s worth it.
Pour-Over Coffee Makers
Pour-over is considered one of the gentlest brewing methods that usually results in full-bodied, rich coffee. These coffee makers have a special conical filter holder that either sits on top of the mug or is attached to a glass carafe (like in Chemex, for example). The pour-over method is quite simple: place the paper filter into the holder, add coffee grounds, and pour water all over them (but make sure that it’s not too hot). The only downside to pour-over coffee makers is the fact that they usually take some time to brew at least one cup. On the bright side, the grounds steep long enough and the coffee turns out great.
Now, aside from manual models, there are also automatic pour-overs. Even though they aren’t as popular as simpler drip machines, some of the best automatic pour-over coffee makers brew beverages that taste much better thanks to the special water dispensation method. They cover the grounds evenly and allow for a more balanced, even saturation and a smoother taste.
Cold Brew Coffee Makers
As the name suggests, cold brew coffee makers allow users to sleep coffee grounds in cold water. These coffee makers are manual. This brewing method takes more time, but the beverage turns out to have a very distinct, smooth, sweet taste. Cold brew coffee typically doesn’t have much acidity or bitterness to it. However, cold brew coffee makers require a lot of time to make the beverage. On average, you need to steep the grounds for around 12-24 hours before you can enjoy your delicious coffee.
Another manual model is a Moka pot, or a stovetop coffee maker. This is an affordable alternative for those who prefer their coffee bold and rich. Moka pots are very durable, which is another reason why so many users choose them. Additionally, these coffee makers are super portable and suitable even for outdoor use (during camping, for example).
Now, in a Moka pot, the grounds are placed in a filter above the water. When the water starts boiling, it rises up and steeps the grounds, brewing full-bodied coffee. This method is fast and almost effortless, plus it results in a great-tasting cup of joe.
How to Pick What Works for YouNow when you know that you have multiple brewing options and devices to pick from (3), you may start wondering: How do I choose the best one? The answer is simple: pick what meets your requirements. Do you want your coffee fast and with almost no effort at all? Then consider an automatic drip coffee maker. Do you want real espressos and coffee-based milk beverages? Then an espresso machine would suffice. Do you like your coffee simple and bold? Try one of the manual coffee makers, like a French press or a Moka pot. Now, there are some other factors you may want to consider when trying to make the final choice:
- Capacity. If your whole family loves coffee, you may want to check larger drip coffee makers or pour-overs (some of which have the capacity of up to 14 cups). If you are a solo coffee drinker, an AeroPress or a pour-over would be ideal. You can also try a single-serve pod coffee machine or even an espresso maker if you want to brew one cup at a time.
- Maintenance. Some coffee makers come with dishwasher-safe parts, and that’s a huge bonus. Keep in mind that more advanced espresso machines can be challenging to clean, just like a smaller AeroPress or percolators with multiple parts.
- Budget. How much are you willing to spend on your new coffee machine? Manual models are the cheapest ones, drip coffee makers are somewhere in the middle, and espresso machines tend to be the most expensive.
- Durability. Finally, pay attention to the warranty. Often, an extended warranty means that the manufacturer used higher-quality materials. Such coffee makers tend to be more reliable in use.
- Kelvin Titus (n.d.). Discover the Many Advantages of Drip Coffee Makers. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.org/522082/discover-the-many-advantages-drip-coffee-makers
- Myo Quinn (May 17, 2020). How to Use a French Press Coffee Maker. Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/appliances/coffee-maker-reviews/a31213888/how-to-use-a-french-press/
- Cook’s Illustrated (June 21, 2016). Types of Coffee Makers. Retrieved from https://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/292-types-of-coffee-makers#unnecessarycoffeegear
My name is Yurii Brown. I am a passionate coffee geek and, concurrently, a certified coffee specialist.
I’ve been learning about coffee for a long time, testing various devices and practicing in home coffee brewing. I like to share my experience and insights with fellow coffee lovers so that my readers could enjoy the real taste of quality-brewed beverages.