Coffee Investigator
Collecting information on coffee and the different machines used to grind and brew coffee

**Coffee Makers and Brewers

When we hear the term "coffee maker" most of us think of the drip style coffee maker. The drip maker has slowly replaced the percolator over the past 20 years. Now the drip maker is being replaced by the single serve coffee machine in some households because some people only want one cup of coffee at a time. Now here is something interesting, the French Press is making a comeback after being first used over 200 years ago. Of course, the choices vary with the region in which people live also.

There are the very popular filter machines, French press and stovetop espresso coffee makers. There are glass carafe coffee makers, thermal carafe coffee makers, some industrial sizes with two pots that brew at the same time. If you are into espresso did you know that there are three different types of espresso makers to choose from? Steam, pump or piston. How about the coffee maker that makes you one individual cup of coffee?

One type of coffee maker may be frowned upon in certain parts of the world, while being quite acceptable in another location. Some types of coffee makers are quite antiquated by todayís standards, but are still being used by those who prefer the coffee produced.

We are going to discuss the different coffee makers above plus some others that are in use.

1.     Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

The most common method of brewing coffee in the US with which most people are familiar is the automatic drip coffee maker. Hot water is heated almost to a boiling temperature, and slowly poured over the ground coffee, which is placed in a filter, and allowed to drip out the bottom into a coffee pot. Most electronic models allow you to preset the brewing event on a timer so you can conveniently wake up to a brewed cup of coffee in the morning.

The automatic drip coffee makers share the same drawbacks as the manual drip method (see above). In addition, while the convenience of an automatic programmable coffee maker is appealing, they donít always brew at the optimum temperature. Grinding the beans the night before and placing in the coffee maker exposes them to the air for at least eight hours, which will cause some loss of flavor. Remember, to produce the best cup of coffee, it is preferable to grind the beans just prior to brewing your coffee.

Once the coffee is brewed, most automatic coffee makers have a heating element to keep the coffee warm, however, this will rapidly deteriorate the coffee if it sits for any length of time. It is best to use an air pot or thermos to keep the freshly brewed coffee hot if you donít plan to drink it right away.

2.     French Press

The French press or press pot method of brewing coffee is another form of coffee infusion. This method involves placing a more coarsely ground coffee in a glass carafe (or ceramic carafe). Then water at the desired temperature (195F to 205F is optimum) is poured over the grounds and allowed to steep. When brewing is complete, a tightly fitting plunger device with a mesh filter is pushed down, pressing the grounds to the bottom of the beaker, leaving the coffee liquor on top.

This method gives you complete control over the coffee brewing and extraction process. You can control the temperature of the water far better than the automatic drip machines, and you can also control how long the water stays in contact with the ground coffee while it steeps.

The mesh filter is more porous than the paper and cone filters, which allows more of the flavorful coffee oils and dissolved (and some un-dissolved) solids to pass through and infuse into the liquor. The more porous filter does require a coarser grind, which also requires a longer steep time, generally 3 to 6 minutes is best. Even with the fine burr grinder (necessary to produce the coarser grind), some finer grinds are unavoidable which make their way through the plunger/filter and wind up in the cup.

This method is very popular in Europe and is catching on in the US more recently. While the French press may require more effort, for many who favor a richer, more full-bodied flavor, this is the preferred method of brewing coffee.

3.  Percolator

There are two types of percolator style coffee makers, the stove top model and the electric percolator. Both percolators work in the same fashion, which is circulating boiling water over the coffee grounds and through a metal filter repeatedly. Some argue that this makes a good cup of coffee while others say this style coffee maker makes the worst coffee imaginable. The naysayers exclaim the percolator produces a bitter tasting coffee no matter what brand or grind of coffee you use.

4.  Espresso Machine

Today the espresso coffee and cappuccino coffee that were once available only in restaurant or a modern coffee shop can be easily made and enjoyed at the comfort of home with the help of a coffee making machine.

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Brewing a great cup of coffee depends on a number of things such as the quality of the coffee bean, the quality of the water being used, the type of brewing being done, and the grind of the coffee. Now quality of bean and water is something you can easily take care. Just use good quality beans and pure water. However the relationship between the grind of the coffee and the type of brewing being done is more detailed and could use a little explanation. Now we all know that we make coffee by passing hot water over crushed coffee beans. However for it to really work well we need to understand just how long the water should be passing over the beans. The purpose of this article is to help you understand how to match your coffee's grind to the type of brewing you are doing in order to make the best coffee possible.

Generally speaking, the 'soaking' time relates directly to how coarse the coffee is ground. This means that smaller coffee grinds need less contact with the water, and coarser grinds need longer contact. Espresso coffee is only exposed to water for 20-40 seconds and as a result is made using extremely fine grind coffee. A French press coffee maker can take as much as 4 minutes and uses an extremely coarse grind. If coffee is left contacting water for too long for its grind size, unwanted extracts emerge and make the coffee taste bitter. Of course if the grind is too large and the water passes very quickly (like using French press grind in an espresso maker), very little of the caffeine and flavors extracted and will have poor flavor.

Of course filters play an important role in managing the balance between over and under brewing your coffee. Not only do they keep the grind out of your cup, but they also control how fast the water passes over the grinds. Paper filters are the most common, but many people are also using metal varieties. Paper filters are quite good. However they can absorb some of the coffee flavors, and some people claim they can taste the paper in the final coffee. Metal filters are normally made from stainless steel or gold plated mesh. They have very fine weave and filter out the coffee grinds very well. They also do not alter the taste of the coffee at all. Metal filters are also more environmentally friendly than the paper alternative.

Whichever you choose, be sure to buy decent quality. Cheap filters often clog or not allow the coffee to brew properly. A decent quality metal filter will last years and save money in the end.

Brewing a cup of coffee is not that hard. Brewing a great cup takes a little more understanding, but isn't any harder. Start with fresh beans and good clean water and then match your brewing style to the proper grind and then mess around with the exact proportions and pretty soon your be brewing killer coffee every time.


French Press
If you want a good cup a coffee, you will need to add some oil. Coffee oil is very flavorful and improves the taste of coffee, but it is lost during the normal filtered brewing process. Coffee made with a French press doesn't pass through a filter so you donít lose those natural aromatic coffee oils. Most coffee loverís agree that a French press makes a superior cup of coffee.

A French press (sometimes called a coffee press) is usually a glass cylinder with a plumber like device inside. You place your coffee grinds inside and pour hot water into it. The water should not be boiling or you will scald your grinds, which will affect the taste. 200 degree water is the optimum temperature for a fine cup of coffee. If youíre using a kettle to heat your water, remove it from the heat before if starts whistling. Either that or you can let the water boil but let it sit for a few minutes before pouring it into your coffee press. Remember to leave at least an inch of space when filling up the French press.

Coffee beans that are ground too finely will clog the filter. You will probably be okay with automatic drip coffee grinds but the best way to enjoy French press coffee is to grind the beans yourself. Try to grind the beans to a size a little bigger than automatic drip coffee grinds. This may take some practice to get comfortable with your coffee grinder but itís worth it. And remember that once you grind your coffee beans they should be used immediately or kept in an air tight container to keep them from getting stale.

Let the coffee steep in the water for about 4 minutes. Now itís time for the press part of the French press. Place the French press on a no slip surface and slowly and smoothly press the plunger down. Press too hard or too quickly and in a worst case scenario, you could have boiling hot water shoot out all over you. This step is how the coffee grinds are forced to the bottom of the container and youíre left with delicious fresh brewed coffee in the top chamber. You are now ready to pour and serve.

The French press has undergone a makeover in recent years. Manufacturers have added French presses to travel mugs and thermoses. As long as you have hot water you can make a fresh brewed cup of coffee anywhere. And most of these travel mugs and thermoses are insulated so that your coffee will stay warm longer.

With coffee becoming such an important part of most peopleís days, isn't it time that we pampered ourselves with a better tasting brew. The French press is an easy and flavorful way to make a cup of coffee. So if youíre tired of the brown water that comes out of coffee vending machines in your office, then the French press is perfect for you.

Article finished and submitted to enine 2/12/11

Coffeemakers & Coffee Grind

The type of Coffeemaker you like and use is a matter of taste, time and how much money you want to spend.  Each type of coffee maker will use different types of filters and different amounts of coffee and size of the grind. Most drip machines will use a medium grind. A drip maker will take about 4 to 5 minutes to make a full pot of coffee which is usually 10 to 12 cups of coffee.  On the other hand a percolator takes about 15 minutes. Filter drip machines need a much finer grind than percolators. May I ad that percolators are not used very much anymore. They were really popular back in the 50's thru the 70's.  Below is a list of common coffee makers that are easy to find along with the size grind you will want to use for each type.

French Press Coffeemakers

The French Press is the coffee maker of choice among your gourmet coffee drinkers. The French press is also called a plunge filter and provides the purest coffee flavor of any of the coffee makers on the market. This method steeps hot water mixed with coffee for 3 to 5 minutes and then presses the grounds to the bottom of the pot with a plunger thus the name plunge filter. The end result is a very good pot of coffee with a great aroma. The oil from the coffee beans is usually seen floating on top of the coffee (this is a good thing because of the added flavor) because a paper filter is not used. The beans are courtly ground for the French Press.

Automatic Drip Coffeemakers

Drip coffee makers are  the most common styles of coffee makers you will find in homes across America at the present time here in 2011. Automatic drip coffee makers have been around since the 1970's and are the easiest to use and some of the most efficient at making a cup of coffee. It usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes to brew a 12 cup pot of coffee. These coffee makers require a medium grind  with the ground coffee being placed in a filter basket or a semi-cone shaped paper filter. Some coffee makers use steel filters, others use paper filters. Steel filters will allow more oils to pass, making coffee that is headier and has more body. Paper filters create cleaner, lighter coffee and little or no oil is present in the coffee.

Hand Drip Coffeemakers

The process is simple. First you grind your coffee a bit finer (medium fine) than a press pot and fill the gold mesh filter with the grounds to the level you like for the strength you want. The more coffee grounds the stronger the brew. Heat the water to 195 to 205 degrees in a kettle and pour over the coffee grinds. At first, pour enough for the bloom to form and soak all the coffee. Stir, then pour the rest. The pouring process should take about 3 to 4 minutes.


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