Coffee

A Guide to Different Coffee Brewing Methods

29/09/2020

Mastering the art of coffee-making is an essential skill to learn for all coffee lovers.  After spending months at home during the lockdown period (as we all did), feeding my caffeine addiction through several cups a day, I have learnt how to brew coffee as well as a professional barista. I use a range of coffee brewing methods, from espresso machines to drippers. Today I am sharing my favourite methods to help you brew coffee like a pro!

Filter coffee brewed in a Chemex coffeemaker at Kafé Esaias AB in Stockholm

Manual coffee brewing with a Chemex coffeemaker

There is no doubt that coffee is one of the most-loved beverages in the world. Did you know that over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day globally? As a self-confessed coffee-lover who drinks at least three coffees a day, I am not surprised by this number. While many people around the world clearly agree that coffee is a fantastic drink, something we can’t all agree on is which method is best to prepare your daily cup of coffee.

A poster with illustration of different coffee brewing methods at Colonna & Small's coffee shop in Bath, England

An illustration of different coffee brew methods at Colonna & Small’s in Bath

It’s often the case that we make coffee in a certain way out of habit, using the same brewing method every day simply because it has become part of our routine. Why not switch it up? There are many ways to brew coffee: from the more traditional manual brewing methods to the fanciest, high-tech coffee machines. Each of these methods produces different, yet delicious coffee drinks.

Which brewing method one is the best? The answer to this question depends on you and your taste in coffee. To help you find the best brewing method for your home, I’ve made a list of the most popular ones on the market and shared pros and cons.

A coffee cupping session with different brewing methods: French press, AeroPress, Chemex, Kalita, V60

Some of the best brew methods include French press, AeroPress, Chemex, Kalita, V60 (photo by René Porter)

A Guide to Different Coffee Brewing Methods

1. Espresso Machine

An espresso machine works by pushing pressurised water through finely-ground coffee beans to create a shot of espresso. An espresso shot can be enjoyed alone or used as the base for other drinks like macchiato, cortado, cappuccino, flat white or latte.

A cortado coffee at Orsonero café in Milan

A cortado is a small-sized coffee drink that contains a single espresso and 2oz of steamed milk

Home espresso machines are usually good for offering a quick coffee fix, with most at-home coffee makers able to make a brew in a matter of minutes. They are typically automatic, making them easy to operate. I’m sure that all coffee fanatics would love their very own espresso machine at home!

Unfortunately, the cost and size of these appliances is off-putting for many. Espresso machines have the biggest price range out of brewing options: some of them are very cheap but the high-end models run into the hundreds of pounds or more. Since the quality of the espresso you’ll get depends on the quality (and price) of your machine, this is not the best brewing method for those on a low budget.

Another con of espresso machines is that they are generally bulky and heavy, hence less good for those who like to travel, or have a smaller kitchen, as they take up worktop space and cannot be moved very easily.

Sage appliances Bambino Plus espresso machine

Home espresso machines are great for a quick coffee fix, but high end models can be very expensive

2. AeroPress

The AeroPress offers a much simpler option for coffee lovers. As a manual brewer, it can be taken on-the-go, meaning your camping trips and hikes can still be fuelled by coffee. Its compact size also makes it a small kitchen-friendly option.

AeroPress coffee brewing machine on sale in a coffee shop in Milan, Italy

An AeroPress coffee maker on sale in a coffee shop in Milan

The AeroPress is one of the fastest coffee brewers out there too! it makes a fresh cup in less than 30 seconds by using air pressure to rapidly brew the coffee. The results are incredible, presenting a really smooth and rich cup of coffee, with low acidity.

One of the things I love about the AeroPress is that it’s a more eco-friendly coffee maker, with the only waste produced being the coffee puck, and the biodegradable paper filter which can be reused multiple times.

One downside to the AeroPress, though, is the amount of coffee you can brew with it at once. The AeroPress was really designed to brew a single cup of coffee, although you can easily make four with it at once, by brewing a bigger concentrated shot and diluting it. However, if you are looking to make coffee for several people, the process can get a bit tedious!

Water being poured into an AeroPress

The AeroPress is one of the fastest coffee brewers out there (photo by Goran Ivos)

3. French Press

The French Press (or cafetière) is a classic bit of home-brewing kit. Most coffee lovers will have tried one of these at some point.

The pro of cafetières is that they are sold pretty much anywhere in the world, are generally affordable, and very easy to use. Nonetheless, I recommend following a French Press brewing guide for best results. The flavour of the coffee from a French Press is wonderful!

The French Press is ideal for making larger amounts of coffee at once, so it is a great choice for larger families or those who like to entertain friends in their homes. Particularly if you love drinking large cups of filter coffee, a cafetière might be the perfect machine for you.

However, there are a few downsides to using this machine. Compared to other manual brewing methods, for example, the French Press is a bit slow. It can take a bit longer to brew with one of these as the coffee needs to steep for a while. Another downside is that there can be some coffee ground sediment at the bottom of your cup, which probably isn’t what you’re after from a flavour and texture point of view.

A French Press or cafetière is a popular coffee brewing method

The French Press (or cafetière) is a classic bit of home-brewing kit (photo by Sonny Ravesteijn)

4. Moka Pot

A moka pot (also known as stove-top or simply Bialetti, from the name of its famous manufacturer) can give you an espresso-like coffee without the need for a huge, expensive machine. There is a reason why this machine is the most loved by Italians, and not only!

This metal coffee pot works by pouring water in the bottom chamber, which is then heated on the stove for a few minutes; the steam from it causes pressure to push water up through the coffee grounds in the chamber above. The resulting espresso is intense and sharp with a beautiful crema on the top.

Many people love Moka pots because they are inexpensive, small, portable and brew coffee quite quickly. However, not getting the brewing method absolutely spot-on with this device can leave you with a pretty gross brew! It works better with Italian-style, dark roasted, Arabica or Robusta coffee blends. If what you’re after is a more refined beverage, there are better brewing methods you can use.

Espresso coffee brewing in a traditional moka pot machine

Italians love Moka pots because they are inexpensive, portable and brew coffee quickly! (photo by Shotlist)

5. Chemex

Chemex brewers look like a bit of science kit – and you’d be right to think that, as a chemistry flask is what the design is based off!

The Chemex is a manual drip / pour over brewer, with coffee being filtered through a cone filter and dripping through to the glass flask beneath. Similar pour over devices are the Hario V60 and the Kalita Wave, though the Chemex is undoubtedly the most beautiful of them all!

Pouring water from a Hario kettle into a Chemex to brew coffee

A Chemex coffeemaker and Hario Buono kettle

Coffee can be brewed with a Chemex in about 3.5 to 4.5 minutes, making it a fairly fast option. It certainly takes a bit of practice and a lot of precision to get the brewing right, but the payoff is worth it.

One of pros of Chemex is how much coffee it can make: a standard sized one makes 4 cups, but you can even get some versions that brew 10 cups of coffee! So, if you have a large family of coffee drinkers or are sharing a home with a few friends, then this could be the best option.

Filter coffee brewed on the Chemex at Kent Kaffe in Copenhagen

A standard sized Chemex makes 4 cups of coffee

The con of brewing coffee with a Chemex is that the whole process is a bit overkill. If you’re just after one simple cup of coffee to start the day, then there are definitely better and quicker machines on the market. If you tend to just make one cup at a time, then you’d be better off with an AeroPress.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it useful! Do you have a favourite method of brewing your coffee? Share how you like to make your morning cuppa in the comments below.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.

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