If an American or Canadian offers you a “coffee,” the chances are high that they’re referring to Drip Coffee. This is by far the most common method of brewing coffee in North America, both at home and in restaurants.
Drip Coffee Defined
Part of the appeal of drip coffee is its simplicity. Basically, you put a disposable paper filter inside a brewing basket or cone, fill it with ground coffee, and add hot water. The coffee drips through the filter into the cup or carafe below, and you toss the filter and grounds into the compost or garbage. No mess. Auto-drip coffee makers have been around since the early 1970s, making the process even simpler and adding features like timers so you can wake up to freshly-made coffee.
The Best Auto-Drip Coffee
Coffee connoisseurs are not big fans of auto-drip coffee: the brewing temperature is often too low, and the paper filter removes some of the essential oils that gives coffee its flavor. However, with some attention to detail you can get your auto-drip coffee maker to make really good coffee.
Start with selecting good beans. They should be freshly roasted and ground just before brewing (or as close as you can get). A medium grind is best for basket filters, while for cone filters a medium/fine is better. Don’t use an overly light roast, as the flavor can get lost with this brewing method.
If your coffee maker doesn’t brew at a hot enough temperature (you’ll know by the taste and temperature of the coffee when you drink it), you can preheat the water and the machine. Run as much water as you’ll need through the machine without any coffee in the filter, and then pour it back into the reservoir and make your coffee as usual.
Don’t leave the pot on the heating element. If you want to keep a pot of coffee hot for a long time, it’s better to use a thermos carafe. Many coffee makers even brew directly into a thermos carafe.
The Pour Over Method
If you use a pour over coffee maker, many of these same guidelines apply. Some trial and error may be needed to get the grind exactly right. For the optimal water temperature, boil your water and wait 30 seconds before you pour. Then pour just enough to wet the ground coffee and wait another 30 seconds for the carbon dioxide in the coffee to dissipate. Pour the rest of the water steadily and evenly over the coffee and wait for the drip to finish.
Whichever drip method you use, you also have the option of buying a reusable filter made of stainless steel mesh. These let the flavorful oils to pass through, and they allow you to cross paper filters off your grocery list for good. They’re a little bit more work to clean, however.
Whether you prefer the simplicity of pour over or the convenience of auto-drip, getting the right beans and grind, and paying attention to details like water temperature can greatly improve your morning coffee.